Hamtramck Disneyland is a yard art folk art located in Hamtramck, Michigan owned by a man named Dmytro Szylak. Hamtramck Disneyland was started in 1992 and came to be finished in 1999. It is built on a 30 foot backyard on top of two adjacent garages. Dmytro was born in Ukraine, and also once lived in Germany. As he immigrated over to the United States he worked for General Motors, but soon after his retirement he felt the need to find a hobby. So Dmytro began piling together different objects some old, some new, and some bought, while others were hand crafted. This towering structure stands tall above his house, and garage. Over the course of 12 years, Dmytro continued to add different pieces to his work which from how it started has grown to be a collage.
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The notion of building his artwork began when Dmytro Szylak, a Ukrainian immigrant, retired from General Motors. After working 32 years, Szylak began to search for a hobby which led to the creative idea of building Hamtramck Disneyland. To spend his spare time and with the idea of bringing something new to the city, Szylak began to convert his own backyard into a piece of art. It is a homemade construction built on top of two adjacent garages; a 30 ft. backyard filled with picture of Elvis and other pop culture stars, year-round Christmas lights, wooden soldiers armed with toy guns, American flags among many other things. In 1992, when Szylak started building his work in his backyard, he had to go through many difficulties. Neighbors and the city officials were against Szylak’s idea of constructing an artwork in his garage rooftop. Szylak has been honored by the mayor of Hamtramck and his art works have been displayed in many local art shows. In 2006 Bruce Weber shot a photo shoot with Kate Moss for Women’s Wear magazine in the site and around various other places in Detroit.
Design and Theme
The work is a collaboration of various ordinary objects put together to form a towering structure. The creator of this collage, Dmytro Szylak, used these objects to create his own interpretation of Disneyland. Decorated with various objects ranging from mechanical fan propellers, plastic horses, and a massive handmade jet aircraft. The major theme that seemed very much evident throughout the collage was a carnival theme. One would notice that Dmytro has a reoccurring design throughout the entire structure. He used plastic horses for a carousel. The primary colors he chose to use were yellow, blue and red. These three colors were on many of the structures, which would signify his heritage. Dmytro is born Ukrainian and he uses the yellow and blue colors on his project to show his pride for his home country. He also uses yellow and red for some of his propellers seeing as he once resided in Germany before immigrating to America. Dmytro also uses many handcrafted cutouts of men in uniform. The wooden cutouts of men were placed under what seemed to be missiles that were intensely decorated with Christmas lights. The men also had one eye painted in the middle of their head. On the other side of the yard, there stood a windmill in which had different cutouts of men and women who appeared to be doing manual labor such as cutting a log with a saw, and cooking.
Towards the back of the structure, which can be seen through the alley way. The structure takes a different turn with more vivid colors and paintings placed next to each other. Also there are framed newspapers of Dmytro's recognitions by various newspapers as well as a collage of pictures of him with his artwork. The back of the structure covers both garage tops. From the back the fans and propellers are promptly placed next to each other giving the structure a flying movement. On the back side there sits a sign that says “Welcome to Art Show”. It really is an art exhibition, on the back side of the structure there are many more frames, and wooden objects such as the Statue of Liberty, and soldiers. Way above all the rest of the objects are a carousel. On this side you can see the distinct connection between his American, Ukrainian, and German heritage. The collaboration of all these objects is just Dmytro's way of self-expression through a form of art. Dmytro says everything he has made with this “Disneyland” was unplanned, and it fell together on its own. He had no set plan and no blue print of how it should look, he began from the ground up.
Visiting the Site
"The amazing spectacle is located in an alley off of Klinger Street in Hamtramck, Michigan. To get there take I-75, get off at Caniff, take Joseph Campau north, then right on Commer - duck through the alley between Sobieski and Klinger Streets."
- Chou, Kimberly. "Beautiful Disaster Detroit Dually Praised and Fetishized in Shoot." The Michigan Daily. September 6, 2006. Arts 9. Retrieved from Google Books (5 of 10) on April 29, 2011.
- Walter Wasacz. "Unofficial Art." Model D Home—Detroit's Online News Magazine. 15 Aug. 2006. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. <http://www.modeldmedia.com/features/folk57.aspx>.
- Lessenberry, Jack. "Hamtramck Disneyland." Metro Times. 15 Jan. 2003. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. <http://www2.metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=4478>.