Motor City Cribs

Dec 19, 2007 at 12:00 am

Detroit painter, sculptor and illustrator Robert Sestok purchased his Cass Corridor home in 1982 for $2,000. That's right, two grand.

Before that it was abandoned. Sestok lived a few doors down from it and would stroll by daily on his way to visit a friend. The day he bought the building, which was constructed in 1896, the city of Detroit condemned it.

A quick trip to City Hall fixed that and kick-started Sestok's long process of home rehab. In 1985, the artist won an National Endowment for the Arts grant, which he used to build a barn and studio in his back yard. To see his place today you can't imagine it ever narrowly missing the wrecking ball. Maple floors — rescued from Wayne State's Old Main building — and brick walls make an ideal gallery for his paintings and smaller scale sculptures.

Out back, the barn's high ceilings provide a killer space for his large abstract paintings and monumental sculptures. A stove, which burns wood scavenged from less fortunate Detroit buildings, heats the studio. "I've burnt enough wood in this studio to build 10 studios," Sestok says.

While gentrification has hit the other side of the Lodge freeway in the form of townhouses, Sestok's neighborhood has stood strong. "It hasn't changed that much here," Sestok says. After a pause, he adds, "You're going back in a time warp coming here."

Robert Sestok's work can currently be seen at the Dell Pryor Gallery in Detroit until Christmas or go to for more information on the artist.