The East Town Theare
Oil on board | 120 x 180cm | 2013
Detroit’s Eastown Theatre is one of the fallen city’s most spectacular ruins. Built in 1931 in a baroque style, it’s movies entertained locals for decades until it closed in 1967. Then is was converted into a rock venue. Legendary acts such as Jefferson Aeroplane, The Who and Fleetwood Mac performed to crowds high on LSD. The venue quickly developed a reputation for being a drug haven, and broke many violations until it was finally closed in 1975. Sadly, numerous failed attempts to revive it have meant it remains abandoned, destined for demolition. The garden elements represent nature slowly taking hold of the grand man-made structure.
I was fortunate enough to visit the theatre on a recent trip to Detroit. I was a little nervous going into the sketchy part of town where the theatre sat. I immediately recognised the facade in the distance, half of which had been severely damaged by fire in 2010. It appeared mostly rubble remained of the once glorious building. No fence or wire prohibited me from walking right in the front door. Where the ceiling once was, a giant hole opened up to the sky, exposed to the ravages of nature. Yet amongst the chaos of rubble I could recognise fragments of the ornate plaster work above the stage, which appeared in the picture I based my painting from, clearly taken years earlier when more remained. Amazing. Above me a pigeon shuffled, causing a light stream of concrete dust to cascade down beside me. It felt like the ceiling could have fallen in any minute, so I took a few snaps and promptly exited. I had mixed feelings once leaving. I felt satisfied to have completed my mission safely, but still can’t believe that such a beautiful building lay completely open, not only to the ravages of nature but also for children to potentially enter and play in. This can surely only happen in Detroit, because there is no where else in the world that has been raised so high and plummeted so low in such a short period of time.