Over the past three decades or so, the Motor City has seen factories close and its residents steadily move into the suburbs. While it was once a showplace of a city full of wealth and activity, it has slowly deteriorated to just pockets of its former glory (see this link for a pictorial tour of the city–before and after). In between those pockets is despair and decay, but that’s slowly changing. Discovery Communications’ Planet Green network and General Motors will highlight the story of a diverse citizenry working together to overcome tremendous odds to rebuild their cherished Motor City — and create a 21st Century Detroit.
The three-part documentary, Detroit in Overdrive, premieres Thursday, August 4 starting at 8PM ET.
“It’s been an honor to partner with General Motors on this inspiring project, as there is no more steadfast supporter of the Detroit community,” said Laura Michalchyshyn, president and GM of Planet Green. “It was our goal to document and inspire new awareness of a once-thriving city being resurrected by its devoted citizens and communities. We are thrilled to offer America a close look at the struggles Detroiters have had to face — and how they are fighting back for the city they love.”
“In addition to doing everything we can to support the city of Detroit, we also need to support the efforts to communicate the City’s progress and positive stories,” said Joel Ewanick, General Motors Chief Marketing Officer. “Working with Planet Green, we are pleased to present this story about the great American spirit and the great stories behind the rebirth of this important American city.”
The series is a case study of the dynamic individuals who are tackling issues — both big and small — and working together to re-establish a community that has slowly fallen apart due to years of an ailing economy. Each hour-long episode features four stories of residents working to revitalize, and bring attention to the city, with hopes of boosting its struggling economy. Individuals and stories featured in each episode include:
Episode One: Reinventing the Motor City
Thursday, August 4 at 8PM ET
Fashion designer Joe Faris moved back to Detroit from New York City to start a garment company. His line of jeans, Motor City Denim, are designed and constructed in a retrofitted factory — TDIC — that has made protective covers for robots for the automotive industry for more than 30 years. Joe’s new denim designs incorporate seatbelts, rivets and other car inspired elements found around the factory. Five-time Grammy nominated rocker and Detroit native, Kid Rock created his own beer label, Badass Beer, to create jobs and give back to the city he loves. John Bradburn is an environmental engineer at General Motors, whose family has worked in the automotive industry for multiple generations. The Bradburns have adapted to changing times and a shifting economy. FIRST Robotics is an afterschool program created by American inventor Dean Kamen for high school students to pique their interest in robotics. A local Detroit high school, Finney High, is a prime candidate to introduce underprivileged students to the world of engineering. Meet 18 year-old-senior, Jacob Durrah, who has acquired a newfound interest in robotics and engineering through this groundbreaking program.
Episode Two: Art Saves Detroit
Thursday, August 4 at 9PM ET
Tyree Guyton, best known for the Heidelberg Project, is an artist recognized around the globe. His new installation, Street Folk addresses Detroit’s homeless problem head-on. In a sweep of inspiration, Tyree plans to pave an entire city street with 10,000 shoes collected from all over the world. In the wake of record moguls like Barry Gordy, Woodbridge Records is a start-up record label with three bands under its belt and a drive to make a mark on Detroit’s illustrious music scene. Andrew Beer, the founder of the label is at the helm of nurturing, producing, promoting and distributing the bands on the label. College for Creative Studies is one of the leading design schools in the world with a distinct focus on automobile design. Here, adjunct professor, John Manoogian, a 33-year veteran car designer for General Motors, teaches a rigorous, yet gratifying design studio class. The Sphinx Organization puts musical instruments in the hands of Latino and African American children to expose them to classical music and encourage a career in the arts. High school senior China Leitner has been playing trumpet in the Sphinx Program for years, has an upcoming audition with Wayne State University where a big scholarship is within reach, a determining factor as to whether or not China will go to college.
Episode Three: It Takes a Village
Thursday, August 4 10PM ET
Veronika Scott, a fourth year student at the College for Creative Studies, has designed a heat-capturing coat that turns into a sleeping bag. Made for the homeless, and constructed by the homeless, her product has become a multi-stage program that aims to provide housing, food and jobs. Viewers sit in on a monthly event called “Soup,” where young artists pay a small fee to come together for a simple dinner of soup and bread, and pitch projects to better their community of Hamtramck (a neighborhood completely surrounded by Detroit). The Russell Industrial Center, originally a 1925 auto body plant is a 2.2-million-square-foot, seven building complex. A community unto itself, RIC is now home to many artists, craftspeople, and small businesses. Eric Novack, operations manager, visits with Mike Dion, an artist who makes sculpture out of junk and Andy Kem, a furniture designer and digital sculptor at General Motors.
Some Detroiters are spearheading a local food movement. Edith Floyd takes matters into her own hands and starts an urban garden where abandoned and blighted houses once stood. She is one of a growing number of Detroit’s urban poor, determined to eat healthy and become self-sufficient in a city with very few food options. Kristyn Koth and Malik Muqaribu feed Detroiters in their 1956 Airstream, “The Pink Flamingo,” delivering fresh organic food to Detroiters in a unique mobile food truck.