Reach for the sky

In the alleyway behind Klinger Street in Hamtramck, a jumbled collection of twirling joy reaches toward the sky. Multitudes of pinwheels flutter atop ramshackle wooden figures, bicycle wheels, a rocketship, makeshift carousels and an explosion of color; the whole spectacle makes a psychedelic acid trip seem drab by comparison. This is Hamtramck Disneyland, and either you know it and love it, or have yet to discover its wonder.

This dreamlike playground is the vision of Dmytro Szylak, a Ukrainian immigrant and former General Motors worker, who began work on the project around 1990 after he'd retired in order to "keep busy." The installation climbs to more than 20 feet in places, and completely fills the backyard of the two houses Szylak owns; he has no background in art training.

On a bright summer day when Metro Times encountered Szylak, he was busying himself in his garden, hesitant to talk to the press because he had "much work to do. Every day I am busy," he says, shovel in hand. The diminutive man is kind but brief; his accent is thick and he offers little explanation for his sprawling wonderland other than, "I make for public." He says people have come from all over the world to see his creation; in fact, as he speaks, there's a young man from England in the back alley, furiously scribbling away on his notepad.

After slowly adding piece upon piece to the project for well over a decade, Szylak now focuses on maintenance.

"No more room," he says, turning his palms upward with a smile.

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