Hamtramck Disneyland is an outdoor, site-specific folk art installation created by artist Dmytro Szylak (1920-2015).
The original artwork by Szylak took nearly 30 years to construct and was constantly being updated and modified by the artist and homeowner until his death at 92 in 2015. The assemblage sculpture is built atop the two garages on the properties that he owned, filling the air with whimsical kinetic structures that light up and play music. The garages are painted in bright stripes and the space in between is filled with found photographs, posters, and classic Americana images mixed with those of the Europe of Szylak’s past. Dmytro Szylak grew up in Ukraine and immigrated to the U.S. with his wife, moving to the Hamtramck home in the 1950s. He began the artwork in the mid-1980s after his retirement from working for GM for 30 years.
When Dmytro Szylak passed away, his estate was in limbo and without a plan to protect or keep the art. There was an immediate outpouring of concern for the future of the site. A group of residents and artists formed a group, coming up with ideas to save this great local treasure. Through a lot of time and effort, driven by the energy and support of the community, this group was able to secure the property and is leading the effort with Hatch Art to maintain and continue the legacy of “Hamtramck Disneyland” for future generations of Hamtramck residents and tourists alike.
“Hamtramck Disneyland” has been the subject of two documentaries and is one of the top tourist attractions to Hamtramck, a city located within the boundaries of Detroit. It is one of Michigan’s most significant works of folk art, along with the Heidelberg Project and MBAD African Bead Museum, among others. Thousands of visitors a year from all over the world have made “Hamtramck Disneyland” one of their stops. In 2006, famed photographer Bruce Weber did a photo shoot with Kate Moss at this location.
The 1,945 sq.ft installation know as “Hamtramck Disneyland” is located at 12087 Klinger and it is viewable from the alleyway between Sobieski and Klinger north of Commor and south of Carpenter in Hamtramck, MI.
Support Hamtramck Disneyland!
Hatch Art took ownership of Hamtramck Disneyland in May of 2016, a year after creator Dmytro Szylak’s death. Hatch Art currently operates a small art center out of a former police station a mile south of this popular folk art installation. Hatch Art’s plan for “Hamtramck Disneyland” is to repair and maintain the installation in accordance to the original artist’s vision, preserving the core components of the artwork while proceeding with gradual updates as materials succumb to the elements. The intention is to honor Dmytro Szylak’s work by keeping the future of the installation as lively as he did in the past.
The money raised will go to supply materials and support to do this work:
• Reframe and replace the roofs of the garages that support the artwork.
• Clean up, make critical repairs and maintain properties for public access and residential use.
• Reconstruct structural elements of the artwork.
• Install security cameras and wireless network.
• Install public safety lighting.
• Retrofit the interior of the garages as a public exhibition space and an artist’s studio.
• Rewire the electrical to power the lights and mechanics of the artwork.
• Reconfigure the motorized components of the moving pieces.
• Design and coordinate a docent program for public engagement.
The properties and the art installation need a lot of work and resources to restore, improve, and share them with the community for many years to come. The garages that support the art suffer from rotten roofs and sagging structures. Much of the art is weathered, falling apart and in need of immediate attention to be saved. The lights, motion, and sound components Dmytro Szylak originally installed all need to be re-built with the electrical being brought up to outdoor safety standards. Once the artwork is stabilized and secure it will continue to be publicly viewable at any time, making it easily accessible for visitors. Hatch Art will further engage with the public through regularly scheduled visiting hours hosted by a docent to guide the viewers’ experience through the history and artistic significance of the work. Hatch Art will also program special events at the site, using one of the garages below the artwork as public exhibition space.
The two properties that house the art installation need to be renovated and updated, and an international artist residency program will be established for artists who make community engaged installation art. The rotating artists-in-residence would use one of the garages as their workshop, host open studio hours for visitors to learn about their creative process, and organize a public exhibition of their art work at the end of their stay. Hatch Art would also coordinate the artist-in-residence to be a visiting artist in public schools and area colleges wherever possible.
In addition to collecting donations, Hatch Art will be seeking volunteers to help with the restoration. We have been coordinating volunteer workdays to rebuild the garages and the wooden infrastructures of the sculptures. Additional work days will be dedicated to cleaning, repainting and protecting the surfaces of the artwork as well as general maintenance of the property and the alley leading up to the artwork. Please contact us if you are interested in helping with volunteer labor.
You can contact Hatch Art at (313) 346-5465 or e-mail us at: HamtramckDisneyland@HatchArt.org.