Capitol Park project boosts area’s arts, design image

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — – Efforts to turn Capitol Park into an art and design enclave appears to be progressing with an international artists residency program and contemporary art space finding a permanent home in the small triangle downtown.

The co-founder of Passenger, a joint effort involving the non-profit Detroit Creative Corridor and the College for Creative Studies, said the program will set up shop at 119 State. On Friday, Passenger will host a preview exhibition in “pop-up studio” in the building, but a date has not been set for when the program becomes permanent.

“We won’t begin accepting applications until we have a final construction schedule worked out,” said co-founder Brian Barr in an email.

That schedule has not been set, he said.

Capitol Park is a block-long area with a handful of buildings that’s attracting tens of millions in investment. The park is bounded by Shelby, Griswold and State. Many of the buildings have changed ownership in the two past years and are undergoing major renovations, overhauling some of them into upscale apartments and office space. Three of the buildings are part of an $85 million redevelopment plan that’s getting taxpayer subsidies.

Last year, a broad private and public coalition group called Opportunity Detroit identified Capitol Park as the “heart of a new art and design experience” that will have residential living above retail, restaurants and galleries on the street level.

It’s too soon to tell if that vision will become reality, but Passenger is a step in that direction. Passenger will be located in a six-story building at the southeast corner of State and Shelby streets. It’s one of the buildings that has a new owner and undergoing major upgrades.

Passenger was founded by artists Barr and Lauren Rice. It will be a residency program that provides national and international artists with a live/work space and monthly stipend.

“The residency program will have three national and international artists at a time for up to four months. We will occupy the building along with a couple partners to be named in the future,” Barr said.

Part of the funding for Passenger will come from building owner Rock Ventures and Bedrock Real Estate Services. The Knight Foundation also is contributing.

Capitol Park was home to the original state Capitol building when Michigan became first became a state in 1837, according to the Michigan Historical Commission. In 1847, the government seat moved to Lansing. The building was used as a public high school until destroyed by fire in 1893. The land was then converted to a park, and it has remained a public space.

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