Inside Shine a Light’s project to light up Detroit’s dark areas

Arts / Article

By Jerrard Wheeler and Hannah Redigan, Public Ally Metro Detroit

When venturing into Highland Park, there is a sense that nature has returned to reclaim its territory. Away from the hustle and bustle of Woodward Ave., there is a gradual transition as residential streets transform into rolling fields, as found in wilderness parks. Amidst the transition exists Jakobi Ra Park.

The abandoned-field-turned community park, which was started by a mother who lost her child to a driver under the influence of alcohol, is a blossoming flower among those Highland Park fields. Amenities of the park include: raised-bed garden plots, pastel-colored picnic tables, sculptures, sidewalk art, a mural dedicated to the lost son Jakobi, and ample space for various recreational activities for children of all ages.

The Shine a Light team has spent the last few months on a mission: scouting out dark areas with blank walls within the city for the museum’s Shine a Light Project. As the name suggests, Shine a Light aims to light up dark areas of the city and enlightened the hearts of residents through story-based video projections featuring the city’s elders.

The team engaged residents, neighborhood and community organizations, and was guided to a majority of dark areas through word of mouth. The team also developed the crucial skill of seeing the possibility in everything, seeing that each familiar, blank façade presents a myriad of possibilities; each deserted wall carries the potential to become a work of art. With this perspective in mind, we explored Detroit seeing the potential in commonly disregarded places while exploring the histories and stories contained within these potential sites. One such story is that of the Jakobi Ra Park.

The park’s creator is especially excited about the prospect of adding community art to the park and Shine a Light’s potential to increase the park’s attendees. We are excited to bring light back into this mother’s life and other attracted to this place of refuge.

Jakobi Ra Park is a potential site for Shine a Light. This is just one story that the project will shine a light on as the team has finally narrowed down the list of locations that will serve as sites.

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We are excited to reveal our sites in our next post!