Down but not out.
March 4, 2013 7:46 PM   Subscribe

After Forbes magazine declared Dayton, OH, one of America's " fastest dying cities," a group of local media makers created Reinvention Stories. The interactive film/multimedia experience rolls out this month in three acts.
posted by Miko (26 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

This interactive documentary is not available on mobile devices. Please visit us on a computer to enjoy the full experience.

That's unfortunate.
posted by birdherder at 8:17 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Needs more GBV.
posted by dhammond at 8:28 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Please visit us on a computer to enjoy the full experience.

It's kind of clear why when you view it fullscreen. A mobile version would've had to be an entirely distinct project.
posted by Miko at 8:34 PM on March 4, 2013

This is good stuff. Never let it be said that Dayton can't produce a smooth video.
posted by bicyclefish at 8:48 PM on March 4, 2013

Only 5 minutes into the first video and having a moment of pride - these are my people.
posted by minervous at 8:52 PM on March 4, 2013

Forbes can fuck right the hell off. Post-rust-belt cities are awesome places to live, they are extremely walkable, have excellent little houses, and very well set up for small manufacturing. Plus they are full of midwesterners and gay marriage which makes them friendly and awesome.

"... Dayton ..."
posted by bicyclefish

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:03 PM on March 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

(I only just noticed that that Forbes article dates from 2008. So, Dayton: If not the fastest-dying city, this isn't the snappiest comeback either.)
posted by bicyclefish at 9:12 PM on March 4, 2013

Not to derail, but it's a shame these sites aren't more responsive to tablets. My iPad is pretty much my fun / research/ MeFi device now. My laptop and desktop are relegated to work, not fun anymore.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 9:31 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dayton has some neat things, including an international festival, an airforce base and fantastic museum, a sweet movie theater, a historic district, and a local swing dance scene. It's sort of asking a lot for a rust belt city to have revitalized wildly between 2008 and 2013. I think what they've done so far is pretty great.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:04 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm from Dayton, actually. It's been dying for 30+ years now.
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:37 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also related, in that we also have a closed GM plant: As Goes Janesville, the documentary that got in the middle of the Scott Walker recall campaign.

I can't say that the reinvention taking place here is any great shakes -- the film actually takes a look at the bankers and business leaders of Rock County 5.0, a group purporting to represent the area's interests, but whose co-chair took the first opportunity to lobby the governor for a labor rights rollback. On the other hand, we haven't seen anything like these population declines.
posted by dhartung at 10:38 PM on March 4, 2013

Wow, so I looked through the list. I've lived in Cleveland and Buffalo too (Buffalo seemed like the big city after living in Bradford, PA, I'll have you know.) I seem to have grown up touring the end of American prosperity.

Now I live in Portland, Oregon, and it seems like heaven despite all it's flaws. But every time I hear someone say "I wish Portland was grittier," I want to punch them in the face.
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:42 PM on March 4, 2013

Having lived in a small, dying postindustrial city my entire youth, let me just say that—as nice as local "We ain't dead!" art is, it's often unrepresentative of the life experience there. If you have independent means, great. If you collect retirement, you're fine. If you're a normal person without a guaranteed job...not so much. Crime and drugs often come with economic malaise, infrastructure begins to decay, and the rot spreads from one successful local business to another.
posted by sonic meat machine at 3:54 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

It would help if they didn't still have that poisoner creeping about.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:21 AM on March 5, 2013

Don't worry, Forbes has moved on from "fastest dying" to "most miserable," since the former apparently wasn't emotive enough.
posted by psoas at 4:32 AM on March 5, 2013

I grew up in Cleveland, lived in Akron for a while, my wife is from Detroit and we now live in Pittsburgh. Pgh is so different from the rest. The economy is swinging, by rust belt standards, and there simply aren't the huge, rotted-out sections of the city that are so obvious in Cleveland and Detroit. There are rough neighborhoods, but they're not big enough to get lost in, and we go there voluntarily because that's where the good barbecue is found. I suspect topography explains much of the difference. The core of the city is bounded by rivers and big hills, and the bridges and tunnels necessary to enter or leave (Gotham in the last Batman movie was a digitally enhanced and expanded Pittsburgh) are bottlenecks that make commuting across those bounds particularly annoying, with the result that property values inside are buoyed despite the fact that many of the buildings and much of the infrastructure are in rough shape. In flatland like Cleveland and Detroit, it's so easy to pave a wide freeway ever outward, develop the cheap surrounding farmland and discard the city center.

But every time I hear someone say "I wish Portland was grittier," I want to punch them in the face.

In a coffee shop a couple of weeks ago I heard a young grad student say to her friends, "I am so much happier here than I was in Portland."
posted by jon1270 at 4:44 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Watching the videos of the streets and it looked pretty dead alright. Empty streets, not even many cars. These sort of art projects are nice documents of decay but do nothing to rejuvenate.
posted by mary8nne at 5:32 AM on March 5, 2013

I live in Toledo and we look to Dayton as a city that is doing it right. I think that says something.
posted by charred husk at 6:39 AM on March 5, 2013

Needs more GBV.

Needs more Gary Sandy.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:57 AM on March 5, 2013

(I only just noticed that that Forbes article dates from 2008. So, Dayton: If not the fastest-dying city, this isn't the snappiest comeback either.)

Well, to be fair, I was thinking about the goals of these media projects. Is it really to recreate the city at its mass-manufacturing peak? That economy is gone. I think that largely, they aim to demonstrate to a specific community the fact that the community still is full of value, advantages, and human talent and to spark improvement on a new platform. They're essentially community action projects. And they do question and challenge the values of a Forbes - if "dying" means monolothic industries in company towns went away, would "revival" mean that comes back in some new, high-tech form? Or is maybe the entire model of "company town" a bygone one? And what could/should replace it?
posted by Miko at 8:00 AM on March 5, 2013

Cleveland and Canton made that Forbes list, but not Akron? WOW WE REALLY DODGED A BULLET THERE.

In all seriousness, though, I have to echo what Eyebrows McGee said above. It a shame how these small Rust Belt Great Lakes cities have declined, because they really are wonderful places to live. I moved back to my hometown of Akron after spending years in DC, New York and St. Louis, and I couldn't be happier. This area has an incredibly rich history, and when you get beyond the Monuments of Decay, the natural beauty of places like the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is really astounding. And, in the case of Akron, the city itself has enough decent restaurants and enough of a music scene to keep things interesting (at least for this 40 year old dad). Plus, some of the architecture (at least that which hasn't yet been demolished) is fantastic, like the 1920's craftsman home I bought with a mortgage payment substantially less than the rent on the 490 sq ft apartment I had in Manhattan.

But cities like mine have gotten the short shrift, and we're left with a declining population and tax base, sad public schools, crumbling infrastructure, a shrinking industrial base and so many other post-industrial problems. Which is a shame, because otherwise it's quite nice here.
posted by slogger at 8:06 AM on March 5, 2013

Lifelong rust belter here, lived in Dayton for 5 years, and a graduate of the BFA film program Julia Reichert (featured in the article) teaches in, so this evokes a lot of mixed feelings for me.

On the one hand, yeah, Dayton's dying, has been since before I lived there in the late 1990s. Every time I go back to visit it's more vacant, more decayed, more depressing. Conservative, segregated, and hard-nosed in a lot of ways, and no well-meaning "revitalization through art" project will ever help Dayton's wrecked economy in any real way.

On the other hand, as others have mentioned, like other Midwestern cities it's got its plusses, especially if you have a taste for gritty quirkiness and a "shabby chic" sensibility. Cheap rent in charming old houses, cool hole-in-the-wall places for drinking and eating, and a vibrant (if small) local music and arts scene. And the hipster factor, IME, is near zero-- the more the merrier, nobody kids themselves about what town they're in. I made some of my best friends in Dayton.

As for the people featured in the OP-- their hearts are in the right place. Julia is as sincere (and neurotic) as they come, and she and her partner Steve Bognar believe in what they're doing. As Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning documentary filmmakers, they have the cred and the connections to thrive in any city they'd like, but they keep on keepin' on in Dayton because they love it and feel obligated to share their talents there. So I'm grateful people are committed to projects like this one, because they make the difference between a city that's Not Dead Yet and one that's just dead.
posted by Rykey at 8:35 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

elwoodwiles: "Now I live in Portland, Oregon, and it seems like heaven despite all it's flaws. But every time I hear someone say "I wish Portland was grittier," I want to punch them in the face."

If it makes you feel better, I'm pretty sick of hearing that Pittsburgh is the "New Portland"
posted by octothorpe at 5:20 PM on March 5, 2013

I generally hate these Forbes stories - it's just link bait to boost page views (she typed while scrolling through. Buffalo isn't on the most miserable list? Hooray!)
posted by kat518 at 5:35 PM on March 5, 2013

Needs more GBV.

Shhhh... It's the teenage FBI.
posted by jonp72 at 6:18 PM on March 5, 2013

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