Detroit artist creates anti-Trump ‘tunnel to hope’

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

After the election, Detroit artist Lisa Waud, like many non-Trump voters, found herself crushed with despair.

Artist Lisa Waud wants viewers of her art to look in a mirror and ask, “What is your fierce urgency commitment for the next four years?”

“I was yelling at the radio, feeling overwhelmed, ” said the 38-year-old who defines herself as a “florist/botanical artist.”

And that’s when it struck Waud, who created last year’s much-talked-about “Flower House”: She needed to pour her grief into a project that could help people rework their own hopelessness into positive action.

And so “The Fierce Urgency of Now” was born, a temporary installation that Waud and volunteers erected Thursday in Detroit’s Roosevelt Park, in front of the Michigan Central Depot.

Volunteer Andy Arthur works Thursday with artist Lisa Waud and others to create an anti-Trump protest art piece in Roosevelt Park in the shadow of the vacant train station in Detroit.

The title comes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963:

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now,” the great orator said. “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

Waud’s “Fierce Urgency,” which will come down Sunday, is a narrow tunnel constructed with branches and sticks about six feet tall that runs for 15 feet.

“The idea is an obvious metaphor,” Waud said. “You voyage through this dark tunnel and reach hope at the end” — where you’re confronted by your own reflection in a mirror.

The message, she added, is that the future is up to each and every one of us.

A sign at the entrance enjoins visitors to commit to something constructive over the four years the Trump administration will be in office.

Waud’s hope is that people take selfies and post their vows on social media. The project has its own hashtag: #thefierceurgencyofnow.

This particular project was no small undertaking. Waud spent days foraging for dead limbs and branches in abandoned lots around Detroit and Hamtramck.

Transporting all that timber to Roosevelt Park required filling her black Ford F-150 extended-wheelbase truck to the brim four times.

Jeff Herron, a friend of Waud’s who’s the chairman of Detroit’s Slow Roll bike movement, helped with the wood-gathering and construction.

Of the project he said, “The hope is that people find their own focus — that they take that sense of generalized despair and realize we change the world one person at a time.”

Herron added, invoking a little-known line King delivered in Detroit two months before the famous gathering at the Lincoln Memorial, “Maybe that’s how we ‘carve that tunnel of hope.’”