Free City is a large-scale public art festival that temporarily reclaims the former Flint-Chevy manufacturing site along the Flint River for public use. The festival features dozens of music, dance, and theater performances, and art installations – all free and open to the public – to reconnect residents to the Chevy Commons site and its future potential. A critical mass of temporary activities turns the abandoned industrial property into an active public space, highlighting the ongoing transformation of Flint.
In August 2017, the fifth annual Free City festival will address themes of ecology and technology, inviting collaborations between artists, designers, scientists, ecologists, and engineers that explore environmental remediation, interactive installations, citizen science, organizing tools, wearable technology, DIY robotics, and other emerging fields at the intersection of art, ecology, and technology. Free City 2017 will be the last year of the event at the Chevy Commons prior to its final phase of landscaping, which will transform this former manufacturing site into a shared public space for the entire city. Flint Public Art Project is proud to have supported the City of Flint‘s efforts to reimagine this EPA brownfield for the use of residents.
Since the first festival, the Chevy Commons site has attracted nearly $3 million in grants to support its transformation into a year‐round public space. The festival has been covered by Abitare, Architect’s Newspaper, Art in Odd Places, East Village Magazine, the Flint Journal, Next City, and WDET’s Craig Fahle Show. The event has attracted thousands of visitors from the region to activate the sprawling city-owned landscape at the curve of the Flint River.
Since 2013, more than 150 artists and organizations from the city, the region, and the country have participated, including more than 60 from Flint and 45 from southeast Michigan and the Great Lakes region, as well as international artists from Germany, Ireland, and Poland. The 2016 Free City festival took motion and play as its theme, inviting installations, sculptures, projections, and performances employing movement of objects and people through unexpected, unexplainable, and uncanny means. Free City 2015: Being Here focused on the experience of being and place. The 2014 festival emphasized light and sound, new media (video, electronic arts, and sensor-controlled and programmed lights), art that engaged active public participation and conversation, conceptual art, and art that played with social processes and scripted actions. The 2014 festival took place across multiple sites in Flint, including the landscape of Spencer’s Art House, the Spring Grove Silos, and Stone Street.
FRI., AUGUST 18, 2017 5 PM – MIDNIGHT
SAT., AUGUST 19, 2017 5 PM – MIDNIGHT
CHEVY COMMONS, ENTER ON STEVENSON ST. BETW. UNIVERSITY & KEARSLEY ST.
Directions to the site
Chevy Commons is located a few blocks northwest of downtown Flint between the Carriage Town neighborhood and Kettering University. From the north: From I-23 / I-75, take exit 117A to I-69 E. Take exit 136, turn right onto Grand Traverse. Turn left on Kearsley and right on Stevenson St. From the south: From I-75 N, take exit 116B to I-69 E. Take exit 136, turn right onto Grand Traverse, turn left on Kearsley St. and turn right on Stevenson St. From I-475 N, take exit 7, merge onto M-21 W toward Downtown/Court St. Continue onto Chavez Dr. Turn left onto E Kearsley St. and right on Stevenson. From the east: From I-69 E, take exit 136. Turn right onto Grand Traverse, turn left onto Kearsley St. and right onto Stevenson St. From the west: From I-69 W, take exit 136. Turn left onto Grand Traverse, continue to Kearsley St., turn left, and on Stevenson St. turn right.
About the Site
The former Flint-Chevy site was also known as Chevy-in-the-Hole because it lies in a flood plain of the Flint River, l0-20 feet lower than its surroundings. The site has major historic significance: in the mid-1930s, sit-down strikes by autoworkers there led directly to General Motors recognizing the United Auto Workers union in 1937, and were a major factor in the birth of the U.S. labor movement. In the 1960s, the Chevy site along with three other Flint industrial “campuses” employed nearly 90,000 people. However, layoffs followed throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and all but one building at the Chevy site was demolished in 2004.
Today, the Chevy site is considered a key piece to Flint’s future. The City of Flint has received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to plant more than 1,000 trees that are helping to clean up the soil. The City is also processing several tons of leaf waste and other organic matter for compost. Both activities are symbols of rebirth that are also helping to speed the site’s future re-use. Free City will reconnect residents to Chevy-in-the-Hole in the short term, as long-term remediation takes place.
About Flint Public Art Project
Flint Public Art Project organizes public events, workshops, and temporary installations to inspire residents to reimagine the city, reclaim vacant and underutilized buildings and lots, and use innovative tools to steer the city’s long-term planning. We support collaborations among local residents and organizations with leading artists, architects, planners, and community organizers from around the world, connecting the city to regional, national, and global movements to revitalize places through art and design. We are documenting and amplifying the many ways residents, businesses, and institutions are transforming the city and its public image, and broadcasting this new story to audiences throughout the world.Flint Public Art Project is produced by Amplifier Inc. with support from the Ruth Mott Foundation, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and National Endowment for the Arts, in affiliation with Red Ink Flint and Fractured Atlas. Free City was founded with support from ArtPlace, and receives support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Greater Flint Arts Council’s Festival of Parades.