Blog Posts by Holly Bailey

  • Detroit's bankruptcy puts the fate of its art museum at risk

    DETROIT — Diego Rivera considered it to be his finest work.

    His majestic “Detroit Industry” mural, 27 different frescoes depicting the rise of the industrial age in the city, soars two stories high in a glass-covered courtyard at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

    Completed in 1933, Rivera’s murals were commissioned and donated to the museum by Edsel Ford, then-president of the Ford Motor Co., whose workers are depicted alongside surrealist images including an unborn baby in a plant bulb and nude goddesses representing fertility.

    That imagery — along with the Mexican artist’s outspoken communist views — immediately prompted protests when the work was unveiled, including calls from local church leaders to have the murals destroyed. But the museum stood by the masterpiece, and Rivera’s ode to Detroit has been safe — until recently.

    The Rivera mural along with the DIA’s 66,000 other works have been at the center of a political tug of war in the months since Detroit filed for bankruptcy saying

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  • Detroit in the dark: How the city's streetlights went out and the plan to get them back on

    DETROIT — Grand Boulevard used to be one of the most stately streets in the Motor City — a sweeping thoroughfare that circled what was once a thriving part of the inner city.

    The Boulevard, as it was sometimes known, was where General Motors opened its first headquarters and Berry Gordy founded Motown Records. It was also home to some of Detroit’s most beautiful neighborhoods, where the city’s early residents built massive art deco homes befitting what was once a prestigious address.

    But decades later, a drive down Grand Boulevard is a different story — especially at night. While the homes are still there — some divided into apartments and others just empty — the towering streetlights that city planners installed to light what they viewed as a major gateway in central Detroit are mostly dark. And some have been for years.

    The result is a somewhat eerie experience, where oftentimes the only illumination on the street comes from traffic lights or a glowing front porch. On some more

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  • Meet Detroit's unlikeliest home wrecker

    DETROIT — Bill Pulte’s grandfather was just 18 when he built his first home here in the summer of 1950 on the city’s east side — a five-room bungalow with a fireplace that sold for $10,000 even before it was completed.

    Within a decade, William Pulte had built his first subdivision in what was then a booming Motor City metropolis and was considered a pioneer of mass production home-building. His business, the PulteGroup, quickly expanded nationally and has since become one of the country’s top residential development companies, building nearly 1 million homes in 28 states.

    While William Pulte left his namesake company four years ago, the family name remains synonymous with building houses in Detroit. So it took many by surprise when Bill Pulte, the housing icon’s 25-year-old grandson, began pitching a plan more than a year ago to city officials that seemed counterintuitive to everything that had made his family famous.

    Instead of building homes, Pulte wanted to use his family’s

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  • Detroit: What it's like to live in the most famous bankrupt city in America

    DETROIT — Ora Williams has lived in her home in the Brightmoor section of Detroit for more than 35 years, and over those decades, she’s seen what was once a thriving middle class neighborhood sink into what many regard as the wasteland of the city.

    Crime and economic turmoil drove many residents away. Their homes, left to decay, became epicenters for murders and drug deals. The overgrown trees and brush became illegal dumping grounds for everything from old boats to dead bodies. Neighbors pleaded with city officials to do something, anything, but the government, broke and famously dysfunctional, offered little help.

    But Williams, a retired caseworker for the state Department of Human Services, refused to give up on Brightmoor — even as many around her packed their bags and looked for more stable ground. Her endurance is slowly paying off.

    Over the past two years, private foundations have come in to help Brightmoor, setting up a community action group to help revitalize and rebuild. The

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  • Photographer returns home to focus on 'heartbeat' of troubled Detroit: People

    Dave Jordano, wary of 'ruin porn,' specifically sought signs of life

    Photographer Dave Jordano was born and raised in Detroit and spent the earliest days of his career documenting the city’s astounding architecture and its thriving population during the early 1970s.

    Nearly 40 years later, decades after he had moved away, Jordano became fascinated with the images that were emerging from his hometown. Photographers were descending on the city in droves to document the burned-out homes, empty streets and abandoned factories that seemed to have overtaken Detroit.

    In 2010, Jordano decided to return to Detroit to see for himself what had happened to the city. He was stunned by what he found.

    “I was quite shocked,” Jordano recalled. “The areas I had been so familiar with … I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

    Jordano began to take pictures of places he’d documented before — as a comparison project. But after days of trekking through abandoned buildings and eying other “ruin porn,” as it is known in Detroit, he began to feel guilty about what he was doing.

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  • 'Moving Walls' calls attention to the importance of documentary photography

    When photographer Shannon Jensen traveled to South Sudan during the summer of 2012 to document the country’s ongoing refugee crisis, she struggled with how to visualize the plight of the tens of thousands of people who had been displaced.

    After all, it was not exactly a new phenomenon in a country that had been torn apart by civil strife for decades. But it was a new experience for the Sudanese refugees who were driven out of the country’s Blue Nile region that summer, and Jensen longed for a way to tell their story.

    That’s when she noticed the shoes.

    “The refugees were wearing an incredible array of worn-down, misshapen, patched-together shoes,” she recalled.

    To Jensen, the footwear seemed to “provide a silent testimony to the arduous journey” the people had made, a wearying trek that often saw them walk into refugee camps with little more than the clothes on their back and the ragged shoes on their feet. She began to photograph these shoes — hundreds of them — while interviewing the

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  • 'Mitt' documentary shows a different side of Romney

    Hours earlier, everything seemed to be going Mitt Romney’s way.

    His crowds had been growing steadily bigger, and the campaign’s internal poll numbers suggested victory was close.

    Landing at the Pittsburgh airport for the final stop of his presidential campaign on Election Day 2012, Romney and his entourage had been stunned by the sight of several thousand people who had informally gathered atop a parking garage on the other side of the airport’s security fence to scream their support for the Republican nominee.

    In near amazement, Romney walked across the tarmac to wave. The presidency, it seemed, was finally in his grasp. Back on the plane en route to his election night rally in Boston, he began to scrape together the makings of a victory speech.

    “Freedom so integral to the American experience will again propel us forward to new heights of discovery, to new horizons of opportunity and to new dimensions of prosperity,” Romney tapped out on his iPad, reading the line aloud to his family and

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  • Christie tries to turn page on traffic scandal: 'Mistakes were clearly made'

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie again took responsibility for a traffic scandal that has engulfed the start of his second term in office and threatens to undermine his potential 2016 presidential bid.

    But in his annual State of the State address, Christie sought to change the subject — insisting the scandal won’t diminish his ability to do his job as governor and that he’ll work to make sure a similar scandal doesn’t happen again.

    “Mistakes were clearly made, and as a result we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better, much better,” Christie said. “I am the governor and I am ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch — both good and bad. Without a doubt we will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure this breach of trust does not happen again."

    Christie made a brief mention of the scandal at the top of his annual address before the state Legislature, which has often laid out the governor’s policy goals for the year. But the

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  • Gates on Iraq: 'I do have hope'

    Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates bemoaned the latest surge of violence in Iraq but insisted he still has “hope” the country can turn itself around.

    “I don’t think we are back to square one,” Gates told Yahoo News Global Anchor Katie Couric “I do have hope… Don’t ask me to put odds on it, because I don’t know what those odds are. But I don’t think the Iraqis want to go back to where they were in 2006, 2007.”

    Gates’ comments came as 26 people were killed in separate bombings across Baghdad and Iraq’s Sunni-dominated Anbar province Monday. The region has been rocked by a surge in sectarian violence in recent weeks, fueled by militants emboldened by the civil war in neighboring Syria.

    Gates, who is in the midst of a publicity tour for his new memoir, “Duty,” blamed the violence in part on long simmering tensions between Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-led government and Sunni leaders who have accused al-Maliki of trying to marginalize them.

    For years, U.S. officials have pressed

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  • Gates: White House 'should go look in the mirror'

    Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates pushed back against critics who suggested he should have sat on his memoir about his years in the Obama administration, insisting his tell-all is not a “betrayal” of Obama.

    In an interview with Yahoo News Global Anchor Katie Couric, Gates insisted he did not have an “adversarial relationship” with Obama and that he has a “lot of admiration” for the president. But the former defense secretary, who also worked for President George W. Bush, did not mince words about Obama’s current and former top aides, who have slammed Gates’ account as being self-serving and driven by politics.

    “Well, for a micromanaging White House, they should go look in the mirror,” Gates told Couric. “Maybe they ought to think about how they do business. And I think it’s fair to say that the book is a lot more critical about the people around the president than it is of the president.”

    Still, Gates said Obama was ultimately responsible for setting the tone of a White House he says

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