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Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Disneyland

A wacky two-story folk-art assemblage of carved and found objects, with lights, motion, and sound now in need of financial support. 

Built by Dmytro Szylak, a retired General Motors assembly line worker, it started out as a simple hobby.

But it quickly grew to be a towering assemblage of hand-carved and found objects, two-stories tall and miraculously teetering between the two garages of the retired Ukranian auto worker. The mass of materials spins and sways in the wind and lights up at night, while traditional Ukranian folk music pours out of the attached speakers.

Interwoven into the sculpture are reindeer, American patriotic symbolism of all kinds, oddly placed dolls, bold paint colors, trilingual press clippings and banners, wind-powered oddities, repurposed lawn ornaments, a model of Mickey Mouse in a plane, mini cars on the ground, toys galore, and painted bits of wood and steel—all of which has been gloriously wired with lights and sound.

Unlike many other hermetic outsider artists, Dmytro was quite approachable and would give you a personal tour of the site for a small donation. Among the perks of the tour were seeing Dmytro turn on many of the various moving parts of the building-engulfing sculpture that aren’t usually turned on. It is a testament to Dmytro’s construction skill that the structure had survived the harsh Michigan winters so well.

Known by locals as the “Hamtramck Disneyland,” the work of art doesn’t have an official name. If there is one thing everyone agrees upon, it’s that you can’t really understand the sculpture until you see it.

Dmytro Szylak died May 2015 at the age of 92, locals said up until his death he was outside with his installation everyday. In March 2016, Hamtramck Non-profit Hatch Art bought the two houses connected to the Installation. They have since started restoration work and have several artists living in the units. They intend to make the unit where Dmytro resided into an International Artist Residency for artists to make community based art, having one of the sheds become a gallery space and the other a studio space. For more info visit here.

Update: As of June, 2016 there is an ongoing crowdfunding campaign run by Hatch Art to repair and maintain the folk art space.

Know Before You Go

Take I-75, get off at Caniff, take Joseph Campau north, then right on Commer - duck through the alley between Sobieski and Klinger Streets.