Blog: Christopher Schneider

Christopher Schneider is a photographic artist who teaches at Lawrence Tech and OCC. He is also the Program Manager at the Cranbrook Summer Art Institute and a founder of the Hatch arts collective. A native Nebraskan, Chris moved to Detroit in 2001 and has never looked back.

Post No. 1

Why live in Detroit?

I was browsing through one of the junk shops at the Great Lakes Crossing mall when I found a t-shirt that read, "Friends don't let friends move to Detroit".

As someone who is relatively new to the area, I do not fully understand why there is this intense hatred of Detroit by fellow Michiganders. People have tried to explain it. They say it is the worst crime city, but I lived in Fort Lauderdale where they have an equal or greater crime rate and Floridians do not hate that city. They say it is terribly segregated, but South Florida is equally as divided by race and culture (neighboring schools will be 97% black and 95% white). They say it is an empty shell where no one wants to go. I grew up in Nebraska. The same can be said about that entire state, yet I can tell you its residents are passionately loyal to their home.

I don't buy the reasons I am given. Instead, I attribute it to something like this: when I was a child, it was popular to tell jokes about the Polish.

What did the Polack say when he walked into the bar?

It wasn't until I grew older that I questioned why the Polish had to take the brunt of our jokes—and the answer was that there was no reason. We simply, ignorantly accepted the idea that all Polish people were dumb.

When I moved to Birmingham to attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art, I was told that if I went to Detroit I would probably get shot. There was a mystique about the place, like the awe we feel watching a tiger in a pen. Nevertheless, I was lured down there from time to time. I never got shot! In fact, I found the city full of vibrancy and potential. When I graduated, I could have moved anywhere in the country. Instead, I packed my things up and moved from Birmingham to Hamtramck. It was a smart decision.

So why move to Detroit (or Hamtramck, a town nestled within the loving arms of Detroit)?

  1. The property value is low. I bought a crackhouse from the federal government and pay less in mortgage for a three-bedroom home than I did in rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
  2. The neighborhoods are neighborhoods. Families hang out on their porches, talk to those who walk by. When I am gone, my neighbors take care of my yard and water my plants. When I moved in, they welcomed me with food.
  3. The cultural mix is rich. On my street, there are at least four languages spoken. I can walk to a Polish bakery, a Yemeni grocery, or a Bengali restaurant. Local festivals and events celebrate uniqueness instead of suppress it or water it down.
  4. Opportunities are everywhere. Call me an eternal optimist, but when I drive around, I see some building and think, "Wow, that would make a great place for art studios." Or "Wow, if someone would just clean that up it would be gorgeous lofts."
  5. The entertainment is in place. Detroit has the best restaurants of any Michigan city. It also has the DIA, the stadiums, the concert halls, the galleries, the new river walk and Belle Isle. Then there is the music scene. In Hamtramck alone there are over a dozen venues playing live music—and not a single one of them will be a cover band.

That's right—I am a former Nebraskan singing the praises of Detroit.

By the way, the anti-Detroit t-shirt I found at the mall accidentally fell off the rack and was trampled on several times with very dirty shoes.