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The Cass Corridor Tribes

Intro by Stephen Goodfellow

The Cass Corridor is a truly astounding place. Tucked in between the northern shadow if Detroit's skyline and the Wayne State University complex, any passing visitor probably would do just that - keep going. At face value the Corridor would seem to have nothing to offer but a seedy and impoverished existence, which is indeed the case for a majority of it's disfranchised population.
The Corridor's original population and industries fled to the suburbs a long time ago leaving behind a shell inhabited by the dispossessed and a lot of empty buildings.
Perhaps that is were the story would end, were it not for the fact that a lot of those empty spaces became home to fine artists, poets, musicians, and revolutionaries. 
Bigger cities have larger art communities. However, by the nature of their very size,  their art culture and the bonds between individual members tend to fractures into smaller tribal cells. 
Detroit's Cass Corridor - not so small as to be inbred, but not so massive that you cannot see its horizon line - has succeeded in becoming a large, loosely knitted cultural community and I would contend that - seen in this light - it is possibly the largest coherent cultural tribe in the United States. 
To be sure, the Corridor's cultural community breaks down into individual tribes, but unlike those of larger cities, these tribes have a strong interconnection with one another; new individuals keep appearing, their contributions  resulting in a an active cross-pollination of ideas and relationships. 
I use the word "tribe" loosely, and only for want of a better way to describe this group phenomenon; if anyone comes up with a better fitting nomenclature, I will gladly consider changing the site structure. However, a description for "tribe" in the Webster dictionary is, "a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest." - which I think is fairly accurate for the purposes of this site. 

Some of the Cass Corridorites are home grown; they were born in the area and have stuck around. However, a large bulk of the cultural community consists of individuals from around the World who have inexplicably come to ground and grown strong roots in the community.
At a casual glance, it seems preposterous that Detroit should have such an enormous creative pool. City, state or federal support for the arts for this area is laughable, and is the chief reason artists continue to be one of Detroit's biggest exports. 
So why does so much creative juice flow from here? There are no remarkable landmarks, no sprawling avenues lined with cafe's. Other than cheap rent, there is no financial incentive for artists to exist in this location, so what brought them in such numbers and why do so many stay?
I contend that it is the incredible camaraderie which is the allure of the Corridor tribes, the scope within which one is able to interact in an intense social milieu that is, to my mind, unrivaled any other place on this Earth that I have lived or visited.
No time is this more obvious than when one of the members die. It seems to me that I have never seen less than a hundred non-family mourners at the funeral, even for seemingly obscure corridor individuals.
So strong is the cultural impact of the Cass Corridor tribal structure, that many expats find themselves clustering together when they move away to larger cities. 
This is certainly true of New York where I lived for two years and ran into just about every ex-Corridorite who had moved there. San Francisco Corridorites pilgrimage to Cafe Babar, an establishment created by the Great Alvin Stilman, an expat who's impact on the Cass Corridor tribal structures reach almost mythical proportions.
Other evidence of the tensile strength of this Cass Corridor social fabric is evidenced by the "Dally in the Alley", an annual event that brings ex-Corridorians from across the continent.

So why this site? Why now? 
I think it was my friend Joe Groppuso's passing that made me realize that what has been and what is will turn to dust, and that - well, there ought to be a record of it, that's all. The advent of the web makes remarkable feats of cooperation possible, and it is my hope that this site will lend itself to that aspect of its nature. In that spirit, I declare this an open site, meaning that I will link to any site that has relevance and invite contributors. If you have any descriptions, stories, pictures, I'd like to hear from you.
I've tried to make the site as praiseworthy as possible for those who have contributed. All quotes are credited, as are pictures. Either are linked to authors email address or web site whenever possible. Individuals in photographs are named from left to right. 

As you can imagine, there are lots of people with other "takes" on the Corridor experience. A vivid example of this can be seen in the correspondence of the famous artist Gary Grimshaw, when he writes, 
"Having been born and "raised" in the greater Detroit area. As a young man I had nothing to compare The Corridor to. Myself and my friends in Lincoln Park (Rob Tyner, Kelly Martensen, Carl Schigelone amongst others) were attracted to the area because it was The Cultural Center. And man, being stuck in the downriver cookie-cutter bedroom "community" of Lincoln Park, the very idea of a Cultural Center was an irresistible magnet. The DIA, the Main Library, The Historical Museum, The Maccabees Building (home of Soupy Sales, The Lone Ranger and Ed McKenzie!)...all of these institutions, these magnificent buildings full of creative people and glorious artifacts sucked our Lincoln Park Tribe into its vortex. I was a Cass Corridor resident from 1963 to 1989, twenty-six years. I hadn't done the math until just now. Reviewing the input you have so far, all the names and places, brings back a tidal wave of memories. I hope to contribute my personal experiences over the next few months, to make connections and learn the experiences of others. I've traveled a great deal, which has made me realize the importance of Detroit and especially its cultural center, The Cass Corridor, in the grand sweep of human history."

You can read more of Gary's writings in the Lincoln Park Tribe section.