Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gary, Indiana

"There is just one place
That can light my face.
Gary, Indiana,
Gary Indiana,
Not Louisiana, Paris, France, New York, or Rome, but--
Gary, Indiana,
Gary, Indiana,
Gary Indiana,
My home sweet home."

Lyrics from the Music Man

Standing Alone

When I was a kid I saw the movie, Music Man, a number of times. It was one of my father's favorites. It is all about the sweet wholesomeness of a small town and how it brings out the best in a man of bad character. Since I grew up in Seattle and Los Angeles, this was my only encounter with Gary until recently.
Living in Chicago as a young adult, I came to regard Gary as a place to pass above (on the Skyway, an elevated toll road) on the way to the Indiana and Michigan Dunes, great sandy hills on Lake Michigan. No one that I knew ever went to Gary. It wasn't considered a destination.
Gary has repeatedly been called the "murder capital of the country." It has earned the title by having the most murders per capita of a city of more than 100,000 people. This number was 58/100,000 in 2005.


I would have never have considered going to Gary but my fellow urban photographers kept posting wonderful pictures of the Gary area. In my wanderings on the south side of Chicago I keep moving farther south and the next interesting stop appeared to be in Indiana. I had a child-free day and there I went.
Honestly, Gary has some lovely architecture and the first neighborhood I passed through seemed relatively prosperous and well kept. I truly loved the homes which were a mix of brick and stone, each unique and elegant.

Great Chimney

Closer to downtown Gary I saw the parts of town that generated the negative reputation. Gary seemed more desolate than the worst parts of Chicago I have visited. There were hardly any people out on this cold day, but there seemed to be almost no place for people to go to. I saw a few young men on the main street but didn't stick around to chat.

Interesting Row Houses

Gary is a city that has great architectural bones. I hope they find a way to revitalize it, to bring back jobs, safety and hope to its residents. I'm glad I'm not the mayor, though. I wouldn't know where to start.


I know it is a lot to ask, but as the new president is inaugurated today, I hope Obama remembers his "community organizer" roots and figures out a way to help those Americans who live in the direst of poverty in these pockets of violence and despair.


self taught artist said...

that is quite an adventure.
i can't help but to think that i hope the people who live there decide to change things themselves. wouldn't it be great if we all took care of ourselves so things were the way we wanted them?

Dave Yaros said...

For an indepth perspective on the "Steel City," Gary, Indiana; my hometown; in both word and pictures, check out the offerings of Dave's Den.

You will find plenty on the history, politics, economics, sociology of Gary, and of course, the mills.

zanny said...

Hey, I noticed your blog and thought maybe you might be interested or have some suggestions for people to meet in Gary Indiana... I am coming to the states in summer for a project (see below) with Keg de Souza and we looking for people to hook up with who are interested in urban spaces/gardening/activist art etc etc. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear from you contactyouarehere@gmail.com


ReMake Estate
House: “free to a good home”

You Are Here (founded by Keg de Souza and Zanny Begg) is a Sydney based art collective who will be coming to the Mid-West of America for four weeks in summer 2010 on an Australia Council for the Arts residency. We want to use our grant money during this residency to purchase one of the many foreclosed estates that we would like to give to an individual/or a community group who will be able to make use of it into the future. Our artwork is engaged with questions of how communities use space in the city (to see previous examples of our work in Australia go to: www.theregoestheneighbourhood.org) and this project would thus form part of our own artwork, but we hope also generate something of enduring use for the community when we leave. We are therefore very open about what type of house to buy and where, and also the sort of labour required to transform the house (or land on which is stands). For example the house could be transformed into a community garden growing food for local residents, a venue for discussions, a community cinema, a monument to public housing…

We don’t have a huge budget but we have energy, enthusiasm and some rudimentary building/gardening skills to bring this project alive. We are looking for a community organisation, keen individuals or a collective to partner with us in ReMake Estate. Do you know an organisation that could make use of some land or a house? We want to hear from you to discuss how we could develop this project further.