The HouseArt Project on the Brightmoor Farmway


Our aim, as a neighborhood block club organization is to help each other strengthen and support the existing assets (gardens, parks, family homes, etc.) in the neighborhood we live in. We also work to assist each other in cleaning, reclaiming and developing blighted homes and lots transforming them into attractive and purposeful sites for work, family life, sustainability and natural beauty.


One of the many challenges we face is the desecration and abandonment of structures and houses that border our homes, gardens and parks. The proximity to blighted structures can create a feeling of hopelessness as well as practical concerns surrounding security, safety risks and further burning or scrapping of the structure. The enormity of the City of Detroit’s demolition list (over 100,000+ structures to date in Detroit that need to be torn down) and the lack of funds that will enable this to happen in the foreseeable future has caused us to take matters into our own hands.

Strategy and Purpose

Over the past two years we have been boarding up many abandoned houses in our area using simple securing techniques and materials. We have found that simply boarding up a house in not as effective as adding boards with artwork on them. An additional strategy for deterring future vandalism has been to clean up and landscape the lots surrounding the structure. This work will be included as part of the art-making days. Our success with the art-boards/clean up and landscaping has spurred us onto planning The HouseArt Project. The project will be a block-focused, neighbor-to-neighbor dialogue and volunteer collaboration to board up a significant number of houses and structures in our area in 2012.

Neighborhood Involvement

Our aim is to build a cohesive plan with neighbors identifying houses and areas that need attention and immediate security. We will only implement a plan if there is a neighbor who will sponsor the project. Responsibilities for the sponsor will include: meeting with Katharina Walsh in the initial planning stages and throughout the project, communicating with neighbors on the block about the project and what will be implemented, asking fellow neighbors to volunteer, being present on the work days, providing water or other supplies if needed (needs will be negotiated on a case by case basis), planning a maintenance plan and strategy for the legacy of the project, and participating in a final evaluation of the project on completion.

The Artwork

The art used to board up the houses will be well thought through and planned by Katharina and the neighbor who is sponsoring the House Art along with additional meetings with fellow neighbors concerning design, theme and participation on the work days.

Implementation and Work Days

As mentioned before, neighborhood sponsors will be asked to attend along with any other neighbors from the block are area. Outside volunteer groups will be organized for each project where possible.

The volunteers will be set up into different crews to work on securing the house, painting, installing the boards, clearing trash and debris from the yard, cutting down junk trees, mowing grass, etc.


Using removable/non-permanent boards allows us to remove boards if a house is set for demolition. We will re-install the boards on other structures as needed.



This past Summer was full! In many ways we are still recovering from it! The past month has been a time for a bit more rest and peace before the next season arrives. While the earth is resting we are beginning to set into planning mode with lots of ideas bouncing around, plans being drawn up and people becoming mobilized. Can’t wait!

Trees in the Treedome

Nine beautiful trees were planted  in our Treedome Park in early December. A silly time to plant trees you might think but it’s been such a mild Winter that we are only now (in January) experiencing real cold and frozen ground. In the Summer, the crew and I  prepared 3 foot deep holes for the trees to live in so it was pretty easy to re-dig the holes for the trees when they arrived. With the help of four volunteers from U of M we were able to plant all of them in one morning! We planted dogwoods, cherries, and crab apples. I am excited for Spring and the bursts of color that will accompany these beauties.

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The Michigan Citizen writes…

Photo by Eric T. Campbell


Brightmoor Woodworkers – support our local youth entrepreneurs!

Check out Kyle, LaShay and Mariah leading the woodcarving workshop at the 2011 Detroit Youth Green Economy Summit!

Night Sky arrives in Brightmoor

A few months ago I came across a massive installation called the Night Sky Billboard Project and watched a video online of a group of dare-devil nutters installing giant wood panels on a billboard frame above a corner store on the Eastside.

Over the summer while working in the Treedome we had the good fortune of crossing paths with Charlie Michaels, a Detroit-based artist.
The other day Charlie offered us his starry night mural that used to hang on a billboard. My mind started ticking – this must be the same billboard project I heard about in the spring!  Spring windstorms had blown a few panels off the roof top onto the intersection below so the piece was disassembled and packed away into Charlie’s basement awaiting a new home. Graciously, Charlie offered us the use of the starry panels to board up the house next to the Treedome Park. Thank you Charlie and here’s to coincidences!

The original installation site on the corner of Mt. Elliot and Mack Ave.

The Billboard moves to Brightmoor

Art in the Treedome Park

The Johannes Treedome Park is now ready for use!        

This Autumn we will be add the finishing touches to our new park with tree plantings, path building and some surrounding fence-line clearing and trash removal.

On Sunday we held a work day with over 50 volunteers from U of M who helped plant 500 myrtle plants on the Earth Ear, cleared more ground for the Farmway path system and much more. Thank you to everyone who lent a hand!

Weather permitted us to host an Art in the Treedome Park on Sunday as well. Throughout the afternoon children from the neighborhood enjoyed painting outside and hanging their work up on our new display boards.

Summer in Brightmoor

Hello! It’s been a while but I’m back in Brightmoor and it’s all hands on deck for this Summer of many changes, challenges and improvements to this vibrant neighborhood!

This past week 27 young people from all over Brightmoor began working in our target area neighborhood (The Brightmoor Farmway). The young people are employed by Trinity CDC with generous funding from the Fischer Family. Our young people will be working for the next 6 weeks. One group, led by Mr. Scott, are working on the Farmway helping neighborhood  community and market gardens maintain and develop their work as well as working with an artist, KT from The College of Creative Studies Detroit, painting murals to be displayed throughout the neighborhood.

The second group, led by myself, is cleaning up and converting three open lots into a children’s art park. The park is part of an international project, children – earth – solidarity – treedomes, initiated by the German landscape artist Johannes Matthiessen. There are already four Treedome parks on three continents in China, Austria and two in Tansania. We are building the first North American Treedome and hopefully there will be more to come!       For more information about this exciting project and to start your own Treedome visit:

Other areas of the neighborhood have been very active as well – there is change a foot! To sneak a peek at photos of the lovely new parks and gardens that have sprung up this past Spring visit Neighbors Building Brightmoor and the Brightmoor Farmway on Facebook

There was a LOT of excellent work this week! Thank you everyone for your hard work and enthusiasm!

On the first day our work site had 3 foot tall grass and many hidden piles of dumped trash. After two days our site was mowed, clean and ready for use!

rib cage house heart

Thank you!

A big thank you to all of you who came out yesterday for the launch of Walking The Way!  What fun!

The tour is now permanently housed in the neighborhood and can be arranged to be taken at any (reasonable!) time.  Please contact Riet or myself if you or someone you know would like to take the tour.

A group will be meeting up next Sunday, December 19th, for one morning tour (11:30am) and one afternoon tour (2:30pm).  Please get in touch if you would like to join us.

Thank you once again for your participation and generous feedback. I really appreciate it!  A very special thanks to Riet & Mark Schumack and Family for their hospitality and support.   Also, special thanks to Eric Sproull for the many hours put into helping me edit material and making the audio-side of the tour a success.  Thank you!