Wednesday, February 22, 2012


One of more depressing things about living in a city such as Detroit is the amount of abandoned houses that litter the neighborhoods. Houses that are dilapidated, burnt down, derelict, and discarded by previous owners that only scar the surrounding residences and cast a continuous shadow of despair throughout the remaining population. The choices left for those lingering families are minimal. The easy thing to do is maintain the same attitude and slither down the spiral of hopelessness, or you can take the path of Gina and Mitch – who created a non-profit organization called “Power House Productions” – and do something positive about it.

These people are artists. They are also builders. But they are more importantly community activists who have a vision of dragging the tiny pocket of their neighborhood in Detroit, just north of Hamtramck, back to a level of respect it once enjoyed, and back to a place where people will want to visit, live, and be proud of the identity rather than be ashamed of it.

By choosing select locations around the streets where they live, and by employing the help of visiting artists from around the world, volunteers, money from donors and private foundations, (and they are also hoping for assistance through government grants), Power House Productions is slowly transforming houses into themed dwellings. The aim is to have an abundant variety of activities for the families in the area to enjoy; bringing people together as they play music and have concerts in the ‘Sound House’, go and skate on tracks and obstacles through the ‘Skate House’, then pick up a racquet and have a game of squash at the next. Yes, you read it correctly – a ‘Squash House’. In Detroit, five minutes from downtown.

Graem Whyte dreaming of his 'Squash House'
I went to visit the location with Gina and Mitch and also Graem Whyte (the artist taking the reins on project 'Squash House') on Klinger St. one very cold Saturday afternoon. The house was burnt to a crisp – although the floor and the walls were still pretty solid. Graem had some experience with racquetball, but his vision of the house focused more on squash – helped along no doubt by the fact another aspect of the transformation was to create a squash garden behind the structure and actually grow the vegetable. The house is exactly 21 foot wide; the same width as a full sized squash court but about 10 feet longer. It was certainly high enough which wouldn’t have been an issue anyway since the roof would have to be rebuilt. Being artists, Graem wanted to ‘jazz’ up the squash court as well. I have no idea how to ‘jazz’ up a squash court, and I’m not sure Graem had much of an inkling either, but it will be interesting to see what he comes up with.

It is a wonderful idea. To bring a neighborhood back to life through imagination and initiative, and to have squash as a part of the grand scheme is a splendid plug for the sport. I wonder how many of the people in that area would ever have heard of squash before...?

Here is short video clip of the beginnings of Squash House: Introduction . You will have to excuse the use of racquetball racquets in the clip. At least they were wearing eye-guards! The Squash House is slated to be up and running by September this year if everything goes to plan. But they do need a little assistance. If you would like to help out on this or any other project they are doing you can check out their website and facebook page and their is additionally a special facebook page for the Squash House. They are also looking for racquets and eye-guards to use for when they do open, so if anyone has any old gear they wish to get rid of, I can take it off your hands and willingly donate!

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