The Auburn Hills Project

Diane Hartig's avatar Diane Hartig

In 1962, four courageous men moved to change the history of Grand Rapids. This piece is about that historic change. At the time the practice of redlining – restricting black citizens to living in certain prescribed areas of a city – was common throughout the nation. Dr. Julius Franks, Samuel Triplett, Joseph Lee, and J.E. Adams, four professional men who were also black, challenged this practice by working to establish a neighborhood in Grand Rapids that was to be for all races. As the land they sought for this neighborhood was outside the redlined area, they ran into considerable roadblocks, both from the city government and from residents. The price was raised to almost three times what the property was worth; residents of the city protested the sale; the legality of the sale was questioned; attempts were made to use previous plans to deny purchase; white neighbors claimed their property values would go down. However, some residents were vocal supporters, among them Duncan Littlefair of Fountain Street Church, and Stanley and Nanette Schneider, a Jewish couple who wanted to be among the first to live in the neighborhood. Due to the persistence of the four men and their supporters, the property was purchased, and the Auburn Hills neighborhood had its start. Students at Northern Hills Middle School in Forest Hills were presented with the question: How might we use the visual arts to promote the legacy of the Auburn Hills neighborhood? These artworks are their response. Their work includes one group of paintings, each portraying an aspect of the development and early days of the neighborhood. Each painting was completed by either an individual or a group of students. They show both the ideas and styles of a varied group of kids, but together form a cohesive story about Auburn Hills. Additionally, two groups of students chose to respond using photographic collages depicting images and concepts related to the neighborhood and the struggles required to bring a dream to fruition.

Entry Details
  • Art form: 2-D
  • Depth: 1 inch
  • Medium: acrylic and photography
  • Width: approx. 12'
  • Year created: 2016
  • Height: approx. 7'