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