Thursday, November 26, 2009
Farewell To The Cupcake Girls & (Ben)
For the last three months The Cupcake Girls have been doing a residency with the 555 where they made concrete cakes and displayed them in abandoned storefronts along Chene Street. What started as a project that we were somewhat skeptical about, has been a powerful experience that has taught us a lot about making public art pieces in Detroit.
The concrete cakes and cupcakes that were topped with tinted joint-compound frosting first went into an old drycleaners shop across from a Post Office. From the start it affected many people. Folks on the street wanted to know what was going on, they helped set-up the displays on old pieces of wood and upside-down drawers. People got into the project from the start. Some of the cakes disappeared, and then were brought back. People began monitoring the display, straightening-up the cakes that got knocked over, telling people not to take them. As the artists came and went bringing new cakes and sometimes taking some for another window, they began to meet people in the neighborhood. When they would drive-up people would say “Hey it’s The Cupcake Girls. What kind of cakes do you have today?” Cupcakes started turning up at places all over town. Old ladies were pulling up in their cars and loading them in their trunks saying they were the cutest things they had ever seen. The community got involved. People got interested.
There were hard parts too. A lot of the cakes got smashed. In the old Polish bakery on Chene and Palmer the window was ransacked almost immediately. Were they mad the cakes were made out of concrete? Were they pissed off that artists had the time and resources to make concrete cakes when people along Chene Street have so little? Did it just look like too much fun not to smash a cake on the way home from school? It was difficult for the artists. It’s always hard when you spend time making something and then someone destroys it. One thing was for sure it was definitely getting attention, and causing a strong reaction.
The turning point happened in the beginning of November. The project was almost over and all the remaining cakes had been rounded-up and brought back to the 555 for the closing show. We heard sirens and then someone said a building on Chene and Palmer was on fire. Everyone immediately started walking in that direction. When they got there the unbelievable was happening. The Bakery was on fire. Someone had torched the Bakery. Was it a coincidence or a message- stay the fuck away? Who knows. Who could tell what was happening it was all just too strange. The Girls felt awful, they thought their project had caused the building to burn. Maybe it had. Our friends from the Fire Department tried to soften the blow. “It’s not your fault,” the captain told them. It wasn’t much consolation.
Last weekend, with the 555 show over and the Cupcake Girls time in Detroit coming to an end we went back to the Bakery. We brought the beat-up cakes that remained and installed them in the burned-out storefront. Everyone knew it had to be done. You can’t burn us out, were the artists, were resilient, were fighters. With all the cakes in the window the installation was complete Jane said, “It looks good.” Krysta gave here a sideways glance. There was broken glass everywhere. The entire building was charred and a smokey smell hung in the art. She thought about it a little more, “That’s fuck-up I said that.” “It looks like shit.” I told her. “But the cakes look great.”
Thanks again to the Cupcake Girls (& Ben) for inspiring us with their decication to their work, their resilience, and their ambition. Detroit was both gracious and harsh to them- as it is to most of us. It proved again to be a place where the unbelievable happens. Were there are really high highs and really low lows. Living in the D the city always has something to teach you. They will be missed. But they will be back.
Check out their adventures on their blog
Rock on- The Yes Farm
Posted by The Yes Farm at 1:16 PM