On this snowy Saturday morning in Toronto, I’m moving with the big press pack, up the dramatic staircase inside the Royal Ontario Museum’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. At the front, two men are carrying enormous sound booms, and they are leaning in to record the conversation between ROM director William Thorsell and the architect Daniel Libeskind, the maker of the museum’s controversial new wing who is visiting for a media morning. Behind them are the rest of us: me, a TV crew from Israel, assorted bloggers, print journalists, the folks from Fashion Television, and a film crew under the direction of Kenton Vaughan, who is making a documentary film about the building.
globeandmail.com: A 10-minute conversation with the starchitect.
Squatting on the roof of a row house with a panoramic view of the sewage plants and warehouses that surround the South Bronx, James Wells sounds like a tree-hugger.
He photographs the progress of seedlings he planted on the roof, one of his first “green roof” installations, and explains how roofs covered by soil and plants, more trees on the ground and cleaner parks are key to fighting the pollution that overwhelms the neighborhood. As he speaks, a pungent rotting smell emanates from a sewage plant.
“Imagine living under these types of conditions,” says Wells, 29. “It’s one of the reasons asthma rates are so high in the Bronx.”
Two years ago, Wells made an improbable conversion from convict to environmentalist. He was just out of prison after serving 10 years for armed robbery and couldn’t find a job that would pay enough to make the rent.
Then he found Sustainable South Bronx, and he found a calling.
Cities cultivate 2 types of green – USATODAY.com. Marisol Bello
Shards of glass arranged randomly on a wooden utility pole. A jaunty human body carved out of a dead tree, wearing a tire as a hat. Ceramic benches in a vacant lot. The face of an elf painted on the base of a streetlight. Elaborate graffiti in countless places across the city.
Art is one of the last things outsiders associate with Detroit. But drive the streets and you quickly realize the city possesses an energetic, grassroots creative class that not only spreads color, whimsy and provocation across the landscape, but also serves as an engine of redevelopment.
True, not everyone considers all of it art, especially when it comes to graffiti.
DRIVING DETROIT | PART 3 OF 5: Surprise from the streets: Art!.