The backdrop for the first-year students’ projects is the very real, $300 million MDOT plan to rebuild the I-475 corridor from Bristol Road to Carpenter Road, beginning by fall 2023. In order to jumpstart these final projects and convene three groups with shared priorities and interests, we gathered for a workshop with: first-year students; design students in a studio course tasked with designing a memorial park for the St. John Street neighborhood; and several Black elders who grew up in the neighborhood before it was razed and are members of the St. John Street Historical Committee. The goal here was two-fold: to help students formulate ideas for their final projects by shaking up their thinking about traditional “solutions” and to center elders from the neighborhood as active collaborators and experts in reimagining spaces that had been taken from them.
Before crafting these news stories, we collectively generated ideas for the types of desired feelings and experiences we want this reimagined space to enable. What feelings do you want this reimagined highway in Flint to generate or enable? What types of experiences do you wish were possible in Flint that aren’t available today? What would it look like for Black life to be uplifted + thriving in Flint? What has been lost to highways that we want to reclaim? What have highways taken away from people’s quality of life that we want to make possible in this future?
We used the medium of a future news article, complete with headline, story, and header image, to express these future visions. Each group was given some components of the story—the “When,” “Who,” “Desired Feeling or Experience”—and then composed the central parts of the narrative—what happened, why and how—on their own.
Finally, groups used collage to compose header images that represent their news stories.
The following weekend, students from the design studio and residents from the St. John Street Historical Committee held a community event with artist Ash Arder’s Whoop House where they brought the future news stories they had created during our workshop. They also transformed all the articles they wrote into a printed newspaper frontpage that was distributed at the event.