Arts and Culture

Oakland Avenue Artist Coalition, Ghana ThinkTank, North End Woodward Community Organization, and Detroit Justice Center, have formed a partnership with Artist think tanks in Morocco, Indonesia and Syria to rebuild this corner through arts and culture into a riad (a central, shared courtyard, filled with art and gardens).

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Skill-shares

A series of soaring stainless steel sculptures will form the outline of the riad, or courtyard, and local artists will fill it with art. The riad will be a public space for gatherings, workshops, gardening, performances, and the display of local and international art.

Housing Justice

To prevent gentrification and displacement, Central Detroit Christian CDC will work with North End Woodward Community Organization to develop the surrounding buildings as affordable housing, guaranteed in perpetuity through the legal and financial protections of a community land trust being developed with Detroit Justice Center.

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Latest Updates

Marwa Al Sabouni

Visionary Syrian Architect

Marwa Al-Sabouni, a visionary Syrian architect/ TED Fellow/ award-winning author, has joined the American Riad project! Living amidst the civil war and bombardment in her country, Marwa has been rebuilding Syria by decolonizing architecture to create contemporary community-focused housing.

Knight Arts Challenge

Knight Arts Challenge

American Riad is thrilled to announce that we were awarded a $135,000 matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight Arts Challenge Detroit! The Knight Arts Challenge funds the best ideas for engaging and enriching Detroit through the arts.

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Art & Housing Justice

American Riad was awarded pro-bono legal support from the Detroit Justice Center (DJC) to create Michigan's first community land trust. "The community land trust model is the antithesis of gentrification. Rather than development happening to a community, the community shapes and drives development. - DJC Economic Equity attorney Eric Williams.

Learning about Riads

Morocco and Detroit

In 2017, the Moroccan think tank came to Detroit to advise us on how to convert the site into a Riad, and give classes on wood carving, resulting in the below 15ft wide Mahogany carving with bone inlay which will be installed on the front of an adjacent building. This Arabic character "Iqra" means "to read" or "to learn."

Bone inlay
Prototype vault

Fabrication Training

We also built a 20 ft high aluminum prototype 'umbrella' vault during a residency with Williams College Museum of Art. We are now working with Detroit fabricators to set up a digital fabrication training program to produce future vaults. Below, Moroccan think tank members in front of prototype.

Morocco ThinkTank
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Art Programming

Another prototype was developed during a residency at the Mitchell Center for the Arts. It was manufactured in Detroit and mounted on the back of a trailer. Local Muslim groups utilized the space as a 'Mobile Mosque,' hosting prayer, performances, art workshops, and cross-cultural dialogue. We will have similar activies in Detroit.

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American Riad and related activities

We are re-building this corner through art & culture, in a multi-year project of skillshares and public art, to create a Moroccan-style Riad (a central, shared courtyard, filled with art and gardens). So far, in addition to Detroit, this has involved related activities in New York, Houston, Massachusetts, Marrakesh, and Yogyakarta. Click the images below to learn more about some of the activities taking place!

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Vision for the courtyard

The final courtyard will use sophisticated technology to create soaring and intricately cut metal sculptures that form a Moroccan-style Riad in Detroit’s North End. The riad will be delineated by a series of 20ft-high stainless steel sculpture “umbrellas” cut with intricate patterns. Imagine arabesques colliding and merging with Detroit brick, dappled light from delicate patterns falling across a meticulously designed courtyard, filled with art by local artists. A central gathering spot for neighbors who can hold events/gatherings there.

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Phase 1 Launch!

We have completed phase 1 of the American Riad!

The American Riad project will open its doors on Sunday, September 22 at 3pm for the first time since the international artist collective Ghana ThinkTank and Oakland Avenue Artists’ Coalition began construction on a 160 square foot sculpture to transform an abandoned lot in Detroit into a Moroccan Riad. Steel arabesques join formerly abandoned buildings to create a shared courtyard for the development of a land trust, to create 8 residences and 6 businesses and protect them against gentrification through a model of long-term affordable housing and businesses.

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Summer Youth Employment Program

In the summer of 2019, Grow Detroit's Young Talent Program trained and employed 25 Detroit youth, who helped construct the American Riad, following OSHA guidelines to work in Scaffolding assembling laser cut panels of stainless steel. Oakland Avenue Artists' Coalition managed this essential youth emplopyment program.
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Poetry and Spoken Word Performance

Oakland Avenue Artist Coalition and Detroit Poetry Society
Oakland Avenue Artist Coalition and Detroit Poetry Society hosted a wonderful evening of performance, dance, and pizza baked fresh in our Detroit-brick oven!
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Water filtration workshop

Rainwater catchment and DIY filters
Over some brisk March days, Engineers from the Indonesian Think Tank ran a series of water collection and filtration workshops at the American Riad, building a 600 gallon rainwater catchment system and a 3 stage filter using locally available materials.
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Theater of the Oppressed

Over the past 2 years, we have been working with Alt Space Detroit to offer a series of "Theater of the Oppressed" workshops on site and at nearby Affirming Love Ministries Church. This program invites audience-members and passers-by into the performance as a way to discuss and problem-solve local issues.
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Mobile Mosque

with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts
In April of 2017, a portion of the American Riad travelled to Houston to become the "Mobile Mosque" as part of the Counter Current 17 festival in Houston, Texas, exploring diverse programming within the Muslim American experience. Programs included dance, art, poetry, yoga, cross-cultural dialogues and - of course - prayer. Funding for construction of this section of the Riad and all programming was part of the INTERSECTIONS initiative, made possible in part by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters; Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement Grants Program, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
(photo credit: dabPhoto creative)
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Pyrography and Islamic Art Workshop

with Samar Babar/ Palette of Style
In April of 2017, a portion of the American Riad travelled to Houston to become the "Mobile Mosque" as part of the Counter Current 17 festival in Houston, Texas, exploring diverse programming within the Muslim American experience. Programs included dance, art, poetry, yoga, cross-cultural dialogues and - of course - prayer. Funding for construction of this section of the Riad and all programming was part of the INTERSECTIONS initiative, made possible in part by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters; Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement Grants Program, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
(photo credit: dabPhoto creative)
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Residency with Williance College Museum of Art

Through a year-long residency at Williams College Museum of Art, we were able to produce the first full-scale prototype vault, a 20-foot high alumunimum structure that became the first permanent component of the American Riad in Detroit. Also through this residency, Think Tanks from Morocco and Indonesia were able to visit the United States, advising on the Architecture and offering workshops in woodworking, rainwater catchment, and DIY water filtration in Detroit.

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Indonesian and Moroccan Think Tanks

with Williams College

Think Tanks from Indonesia and Morocco joined students from Williams College to work with North End Residents on the American Riad project.

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Arabic artwork installed in the Gable

by Mehdi Ghinati

When Moroccan Think Tank member Mehdi Ghinati worked at the American Riad during a residency in Spring of 2017, he inlaid Arabic Calligraphy in Mahogany and Bone to create a beautiful piece of art we installed as the gable at the American Riad project. Iqrah means "Read, Learn, Proclaim," and is the first word in the Quran.

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Arabic artwork installed in the Gable

by Mehdi Ghinati

When Moroccan Think Tank member Mehdi Ghinati worked at the American Riad during a residency in Spring of 2017, he inlaid Arabic Calligraphy in Mahogany and Bone to create a beautiful piece of art we installed as the gable at the American Riad project. Iqrah means "Read, Learn, Proclaim," and is the first word in the Quran.

Detroit American Riad Site

The American Riad is being built in the North End of Detroit on historic Oakland Avenue. After a pause in construction due to the pandemic, we are in the midst of a community design of the courtyard. Please reach out to get involved!

Thanks to our supporters Creative Capital, Kresge, Knight Foundation, MEDC, Detroit Justice Center, the Center for Engagement at Purchase College, DTE Energy Foundation, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, NYS/UUP Joint Labor-Management Committees, and the 200+ individuals who have donated to this project!

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