Ghana ThinkTank: Strengthening Cultural & Environmental Sustainability in Detroit

I now can see how art can be important in building a community. Art doesn’t only exist in museums to be preserved, but it can be used as a language to create awareness.”

Destination: Detroit, MI

Trip Organizers: Neftaly Lara ’19 ([email protected]) & Dalia Luque ’18 ([email protected])

The Experience

This trip provided a platform for students who are passionate about urban development, environmental sustainability, cultural sustainability, and the intersection of art, activism, and community work to participate in a new and exciting project done in collaboration with the Ghana ThinkTank, a global artist collective that seeks to reverse the power dynamics between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries. The underlying work of the trip included conducting oral history interviews with longtime residents of the neighborhood to learn about Detroit’s cultural history and the ways in which they can help promote cultural sustainability (in the face of gentrification). Further, students worked with a series of community garden projects and a water catchment system to support the sustainable efforts in the community to make the space more ecologically sustainable. Finally, participants played a role in the Ghana ThinkTank’s artistic process by working closely with artisans from Morocco on the fabrication and installation of a Moroccan Riad, which wis being assembled between the buildings at the site and will serve as a communal meeting space. In addition to the sustainability projects, students explored the arts, theatre, and community organizations in Detroit after their daily service work in the community by visiting museums and organizations based on the arts.

Participant Quotes

  • Without applying ideas in the real world, no learning is complete. I believe our work was good because we have fulfilled our main goal, which was to collect oral history interviews from the people in the area.
  • I was able to learn more about Detroit, the communities that we worked with, and to connect with my own experiences.
  • “When you actually get to see how some people are privileged because of their race, it makes you think about what has caused this and how you could change it. Before this trip, I wasn’t aware of some of the privileges I, as a white male, have had in my life. Now, I think I’m starting to realize what were some of the things I received for granted that others have not.”
  • “The trip was amazing; I got to learn so much about the race problems in Detroit and the way the issue has affected people’s lives; the way they have reorganized and started to re-develop their lives, and how the city’s landscape has been altered as the result of that.”