Hatch Art raises money to repair ‘Hamtramck Disneyland’

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

The nonprofit arts group that bought “Hamtramck Disneyland,” the remarkable outdoor installation that sprawls across two city lots, has until Aug. 20 to raise $50,000 to renovate and repair the 30-year-old kinetic sculpture.

If Hatch Art succeeds in meeting its target on the crowd-source platform Patronicity, it will win a $50,000 matching grant from two state agencies, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Donations are tax-deductible.

“Hamtramck Disneyland” was the creation of retired General Motors worker Dmytro Szylak, a Ukrainian immigrant who died in May, 2015, at 92. After his death, Hatch Art bought the two lots, complete with duplex houses and garages, from Szylak’s family for $100,000.

In terms of renovations, “A lot of structural work has to be done to the garages,” said Hatch President Scott Collins, who notes both roofs need to be replaced. “A lot of water damage occurred over the years, and there’s rot and framing damage.”

But much of the whirligig superstructure atop the garages — thick with fan blades, propellers and other elements that move or dance in the wind — is in relatively good shape.

“Dmytro was constantly painting and repairing,” Collins adds, “but in his last few years there wasn’t that same level of maintenance.”

Plans also call for renovating the two houses, to be used in part for an international artists’ residency program. One garage will be repurposed as studio workspace, while the other will host gallery shows and events.

This summer, Hatch will sponsor community days when the public can participate in repairs. Check Hatchart.org for announcements.

One of the things art historian Dennis Nawrocki, author of “Art in Detroit Public Places,” admires most about such vernacular installations is the obsessiveness that goes into their creation.

“The artist has just got to do it, build it, paint it, and then never stop adding more,” Nawrocki says, “as if just one more embellishment will make it perfect and complete.”

For his part, Collins thinks the idiosyncratic art project is well worth preserving as a public amenity.

“It’s such a nice surprise,” Collins says, describing how the installation suddenly looms up as you make your way down the narrow alley between Klinger and Sobieski streets, just north of Connor Avenue.

“It’s exciting for people,” he says, “and sparks their creativity. Because of Hamtramck’s density and walkability, it got discovered and turned into this public attraction.”

Nawrocki likes the monumental nature of the construction, so unexpected in a tidy neighborhood of lookalike homes.

“The artist went sky high — up onto the roof and over your head,” he says, “so you’d be awestruck with the rickety edifice and superstructure. It’s jaunty, full of life and energy.”


(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

How to help preserve

‘Hamtramck Disneyland’

To donate (until Aug. 20):

Visit Hatchart.org or Patronicity.com/savehamtramckdisneyland

Or mail a check to:

Hatch Art, 3456 Evaline St., Hamtramck, MI 48212