January 29, 2020

DLECTRICITY Site #2: The Detroit Public Library Main Branch and its Woodward Lawn

When the construction of architect Cass Gilbert’s design for the Detroit Public Library Main Branch was completed in 1921, it was considered the most beautiful building in the city. As it remained one of the most marvelous places in Detroit, its surrounding area evolved into the cultural center that it is today. The DPL Main Branch, situated on Woodward Avenue, is an anchor to the cultural district as well as so much more. With 23 branches woven throughout the city—including the DPL Mobile Library—the Detroit Public Library system brings to each neighborhood a place to learn, engage, create and grow. Like all libraries, the DPL embodies democracy and the best of community.

The Main Branch, snugged between the Detroit Institute of Arts and Wayne State University, is many things. In addition to being a site for art at DLECTRICITY, it is home of the Burton Historical Collection; a provider of Book Club kits; a classroom for courses on how to use Excel or build a website; sometimes it’s a yoga studio, and often it’s a community meeting site. To parallel the vitality of the DPL main branch, DLECTRICITY has in the past invited artists to work with its façade to create jaw-dropping light installations. Groups such as Klip Collective, Mindfield and NewD Media have before used technology to bring the library’s solid walls to life. But never before have artists activated the greenspace that flanks the entrance along Woodward avenue.

The library’s lawn is populated with trees of different sizes, stretches of grass and some sidewalk as well! It offers many ways to engage its elements and create a unique landscape, whether it be light orbs hanging from branches or an interactive sculpture in the open. How this otherwise untouched terrain will be converted into a luminous nighttime wonderland is something we eagerly look forward to. Our open call presents the opportunity to find creative and feasible projects that will illuminate this site. We can’t wait to see what they will be!

View from Woodward
Klip Collective on the facade of the Detroit Public Library Main Branch
Mindfield on the facade of the Detroit Public Library Main Branch