The MorningSide divide | Michigan Radio

The MorningSide divide

Aug 15, 2018

I grew up in Detroit during the ‘80s, a period of recession and white flight. As industry left, our community went from being a stable middle-class neighborhood to one that was falling apart at the seams. Cultural centers disappeared and money for education and other city services evaporated.

Meanwhile, Grosse Pointe, where many former Detroiters fled, was prospering. In my early teens, I was reading at substandard levels, which drove my parents to briefly rent a duplex in Grosse Pointe so I could attend a public high school with more resources. They held onto our Detroit house, where we returned following my graduation. My experience living across disparate, equally beloved communities left me feeling bewildered and uneasy, and has inspired my art practice over the past decade.

Kate Gowman
Credit Kate Gowman

For nearly 10 years, I have been working on The Other America, a multimedia project addressing the layers of inequality I experienced across Detroit and Grosse Pointe growing up. The title is borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 speech highlighting the racial tensions between Detroit proper & its neighboring suburb Grosse Pointe.

From this, I created an interactive website featuring a series of typological photographs of housing on each side of the line as well as photographs that compare community conditions like roads, green space, and other maintained structures, and physical and metaphorical divides. The website also includes web-based educational platforms, audio and text that confront and force attention to this ongoing divide.

When I discovered the MorningSide 48224 podcast, I needed to be involved. MorningSide is my old stomping ground. I went to grade school, church, roller skated, played ball, took the bus and had my first kiss -- all in Morningside. It's the place where my Pops devoted his life to preserving the Alger Theater, one of Detroit's only lasting neighborhood theaters.

Building on The Other America,  I jumped on my childhood BMX bike to discover a day in the life on Mack Ave., the street which divides Detroit's Morningside neighborhood with the suburb of Grosse Pointe. On the ride, I photographed the communities, hung out with the locals and business owners, and my Heartthrob Chassis bandmates recorded an original song to feature in this episode. I sought to talk to people on each side to learn more about their perceptions of division and change. I searched for ideas that  could bridge these neighboring communities that rarely interact.