Art museum to open in rough section of Detroit

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She believes the art hall will succeed because of the city’s tremendous potential, its wealth of available space and “young energy.”

Although the project is not designed to make money, Osten hopes it will be a catalyst for improvements. She wants to transport “elite art into the raw ground” and expose it to an audience that “might never in their lives travel outside of their neighborhood.”

Osten knows the international contemporary art scene well, having worked first for billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Foundations in St. Petersburg, Russia, and later in New York as a project coordinator and consultant who put together collections for corporate and private clients. She’s also a classically trained ballerina who served as the director of a ballet museum for seven years.

In May 2009, she caught glimpses of Detroit’s physical devastation on TV. Never having set foot in the city, she knew only about its heritage as an automotive capital and that it had “some trouble in the `60s.”

She rented a car and drove from New York to Detroit. What she saw made her cry and affirmed her belief that “something had to be done.”

So she and her husband moved here permanently in July of that year, buying a 2,400-square-foot home in the city’s Boston Edison neighborhood for $27,000.

“It was stripped of everything,” said Osten, who then formed Kunsthalle Detroit and set about searching for the group’s home, which was leased last winter for $60,000.

Kunsthalle Detroit gets by through private donations. It shares the same name and spirit as other kunsthalle locations around the world that Osten hopes to collaborate with in the future. It has no plans to sell any of the art it displays and intends to charge only a small entrance fee in the form of a suggested donation.

Osten has sold personal jewelry and clothing to pay off expenses. She searches Craigslist for tools that might help with the various construction projects.

While she has grand plans of buying up abandoned buildings across Detroit and setting up a system of satellite art centers, she’s focused for now on making the first space a success.

“This is just the beginning,” she said. “The change begins with one.”

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Associated Press Writer Jeff Karoub contributed to this report.

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