Jessica's neighborhood is filled with stories, ones of multicultural residents living on the same block, an invested rock 'n' roll scene and a multitude of delicious ethnic cuisine. She lives in Hamtramck and like many who have stayed or visited this city within Detroit, it's distinctly charming. "When I first moved to Hamtramck from Royal Oak, I felt like I was in a foreign city full of life and fascinating new sights and sounds," says artist Jessica Frelinghuysen. Captivated, she decided to present her interpretation of Hamtramck, the way she saw and heard it. Her year's worth of observation and recording will be presented in the exhibit, In Your Neighborhood. "It's really a re-presentation of what I've been collecting. There is a tree in the middle of the gallery made out of cast off wood from Hamtramck alleys. It's a metaphor for something growing out of many disparate parts." These many parts may reflect the multi-ethnic community that has shaped the integrated Hamtramck. She began to realize that this exceptional town was a breeding ground of raw cultural and religious education, "you can hear four, five different languages while grocery shopping. You can hear a crossover of church bells and a call to prayer."
Her process was fairly simple: thoughtfully observe her surroundings and interact with people and most importantly, just listen. Sounds easy enough, but at times people weren't always receptive. "You can't get into some religious dwellings or barbershops, they are usually intimidating for a woman, and I respected that." But the process was mostly enjoyable and she found that the heart of the city lies in the enthusiasm of residents, "When I had on my 'I heart Hamtramck' shirt, people would approach me and say 'I love this city too!' There is a lot of pride here that is very heartening to experience." Ultimately Jessica wants this project to encourage her neighbors to be conscious and appreciative, "I want them to think about where they live on a day-to-day basis as being unique." | RDW
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Monica Isaac hosts "The Outer Ends" every Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. on WDET HD2 radio. Tune in at wdet.org/listenlive/HD.php