Detroit is for Artists

Image by Kevin Bauman is available for purchase.

Detroit is ripe for artist takeover. You can buy a house there for almost nothing, you can live there for almost nothing, and everywhere you turn it’s a surreal landscape of inspiration. If you’re an artist in need of a place to create, I humbly suggest Detroit.

Have a look at these 100 Abandoned Houses before you hit the real estate listings.

Via kirtsy.

25 thoughts on “Detroit is for Artists

  1. Some of those houses have so much potential for beauty! I don’t even want to know how very little it would cost, it would probably make me vomit. (We’re attempting to buy in SF, I’m sure you’re familiar with the nightmare real estate situation here!)


  2. I agree, Detroit is wonderful for artists, or in my case, starting over grad students. And Beth, considering that some abandoned buildings can now be purchased for $1, it’s much cheaper here…weather isn’t as nice though.


  3. I just have to mention that I used to live in Syracuse, NY . . . and there are gorgeous cheap houses there, too . . . and sometimes all the myriad of plethora of cons outweigh the nice, cheap real estate.


  4. I read this article on with enthusiasm last week.
    A $100 house sounds good to me – but wait, there’s more ! Here was my favorite part:
    “In two weeks, the state will begin offering $25,000 to anyone who buys a home, as long as they pay 1 percent of the total cost and live in it. Landlords or speculators aren’t eligible.

    Part of a $263 million grant given to Michigan and other states under 2008’s Housing and Economic Recovery Act, the funds are intended to help buyers bring trashed properties up to code, according to Mary Townley, a director with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.”


  5. Although the houses may be prime for artists…I sincerely hope you have top notch security. I hate being negative as I live in a suburb of Detroit. Some of its neighborhoods are absolutely lovely. Note the “some”… there are more that may have a great house in the middle of a LESS than desirable place to live. Good luck and check out the neighborhood BEFORE jumping in.


  6. Heh, last month we stayed in a house (renovated and really nice) five feet from where the artist was standing when he took the photo of the abandoned house above. It’s in Brush Park, a rather nice area walking distance from downtown Detroit. (My partner is working on a photo project in Detroit though he focuses more on industrial buildings. I tagged along with our one-year-old.)

    It was incredible walking around Brush Park: the sidewalks are new and pristine and great for strollers and the landscape makes you feel like you’re walking around the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. But I think living there would be tough, at least for those of us with young kids. For one thing, grocery shopping is not all that easy inside Detroit and there are also hardly any schools left.


  7. Oh Detroit… Lovely city, but in need of a great deal of investment. I fell in love with Detroit during graduate school, and it is trying its hardest to revitalize.

    Caren is right that there are several neighbourhoods that are better/okay, but I second her call for a security system.


  8. Those pictures break my heart. Each one tells a story. Some housed a families, children were raised within those walls, babies were born, birthdays were celebrated, or deceased family members were mourned. Now they just sit there empty…


  9. Have you ever read Sweet Juniper? ( They moved from San Francisco to Detroit a few years ago (they actually live in the city, not the suburbs) and I’d say that blog does a decent job of showing the beauty of the city and the possibilities for people who want to move there. You should check it out.


  10. #6 Mirela,

    I visited a a while ago, and never felt threatened or unsafe. But it’s certainly an urban environment in places, so you have to be accustomed to that. I’m coming from a city where artists live in seriously shady places because it’s what they can afford. I guess safe is subjective.

    #12 Marsha,

    I know Sweet Juniper family through Melissa, actually. I think Jim and I have similar takes on Detroit.


  11. Just wanted to say thanks for showing Detroit a little love. I was born and raised there, and though I’ve been living in Boston for the past four years, I have so much affection for the beautiful, inspirational, poetic, broken landscape of the downtown. There’s a lot of good there. I’d love to be able to move back some day.


    Fabulous website with Detroit information. Scroll down for info on individual neighborhoods. I live in a Detroit suburb and have dreamed of living in/rescuing the city my entire life. I recently had a dream about moving there and both our cars were stolen in the first day. Not sure that is too far from the potential truth in most areas. It’s a rough town in need of major help. There are a few amazing bright spots though. I hope they keep growing.


  13. I love looking at those homes. There are gorgeous homes and neighborhoods, just rotting. But where would you send your kids to school and where would you grocery shop? Detroit breaks my heart.


  14. Fantastic houses, but it’s terrible what that city has become. My entire family comes from Detroit and Flint, MI, and those cities have simply been ravaged over time. Sweet Juniper has some incredible photos and stories about moving there from San Fransisco, that I think everyone should read.


  15. Jennifer, thanks for the link to Postcards from Detroit. I have lived in the Detroit area for more than 35 years. It is a great place for artists, the artist network here is very strong. I think of Brush Park an urban prairie, and it takes that kind of pioneer spirit to live there. Great post.


  16. hi guys. always nice to see some positive things written about detroit.

    grocery shopping is a concern I hear a lot and I’m doing my best to spread the message that if you only like shopping in big box stores, Detroit may not be for you, but if you like fresh produce (eastern market/neighborhood farmer’s markets), artisanal bread (avalon), amazing cheese (hirt) freshly butchered meat (gratiot central). we don’t have “one-stop shopping” but we do have some of the greatest old-school independent businesses providing their specialties, sort of like shopping in an old school European village.

    As far as safety, yes if you want a $1 house you will get a neighborhood where the houses are valued at $1. my friends mitch and gina are working their asses off to turn one such neighborhood into an amazing place, but to see the beauty and promise in not just a neighborhood but the people already in it takes a special person (mitch and gina and their fellow artists are such people).

    for those more concerned with safety, there are AMAZING deals in safe, gorgeous neighborhoods like Palmer Woods, Indian Village, Corktown, Woodbridge, Rosedale Park, Palmer Park, Boston Edison, the aforementioned Brush Park (not a prairie! not dangerous!) and of course, where else can you buy a home designed by Mies van der Rohe for $85k! Or buy a 8000 square foot stone mansion for $200,000!

    one of our neighbors is head buyer for all the local Whole Foods, and she lives in Detroit. The buyers for all top-end grocers in the suburbs and beyond come to Detroit every day at 3:00 a.m. to pick out the best produce at the massive night market and produce terminals. And I challenge you to see this and suggest Detroit has a “grocery” problem:


  17. That kind of food shopping is great for yuppies or people with time and money, but honestly not realistic for people with families and soul sucking, full time 9-5 jobs.
    The Eastern Market has always been amazing. It’s great that artists are on the (hopeful) forefront of an urban transformation. Detroit is a deeply buried gem. It’s older than New Orleans and was once a major player. It’s so difficult watching more and more of its history get wiped out every year. I hope its rebirth happens.


  18. “That kind of food shopping is great for yuppies”


    this kind of attitude drives me nuts. say something nice about shopping options in detroit, and you’re a yuppie. use the lack of big boxes as an excuse not to live in detroit, and you’re a working class hero?

    not a whole lot of soul-sucking, full time 9-5 jobs here. we have a very non-yuppie farmer’s market. we have hundreds of independent gardeners and farmers supported by a network of activists. our “yuppie” bakery is a celebrated independent business that gives back more to the community than any bix box corporation could ever imagine.

    “I hope its rebirth happens.” there are a lot of people doing more than hoping: they’re actually making it happen.


  19. I would urge many to look at the Lafayette Square neighborhood adjacent to downtown St. Louis. 25 years ago it looked like these homes, it is now vibrant. Detroit too will heal.


  20. Detroit used to be great, now it is abandoned and has a high crime/shooting rate. I live near detroit and I only venture there when necessary. Before you step up and buy one of these abandoned homes just make sure you call the local PD and ask about crime rates and stuff. There is a reason for the numerous abandoned homes, nobody wants to live there.


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