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“My background is geology, but there are not that many opportunities around here as I thought,” the Calvin College graduate said. “That’s the biggest obstacle: finding something that fits where I want to go.”

Sarah Ayers, who left big-city life as an art gallery manager in New York to return to her home state, said Detroit’s emerging arts community was the lure.

“There is a creative freedom that you find here,” the 27-year-old curator said. “There isn’t an overly cohesive art movement here yet, but Detroit is just, like everything is happening and everyone is taking liberty and creating what they want without restrictions.”

Ms. Ayers, who grew up in Marcellus, near Kalamazoo on the state’s western side, lives over a bar, which offers a place to hang out and meet new friends.

Although she said she is cautious about her safety, she calls the Detroit stereotype a myth.

“We’re kind of in the process here of starting something, and I’m so happy to be surrounded by people who have this energy about them and the foresight to see something bigger. I want to encourage people to come here and see it for themselves. There is a preconceived notion that ‘Oh, I’m going to get mugged.’ But it’s just beautiful down here and worth the time to explore.”