Artrain's New Wheels
Artrain was also reinventing itself. Founded in 1971, it mounted touring art exhibits in railcars. But "as time went on, the ability to move the trains through the freight system became more and more cumbersome," says Polich, who's run the nonprofit for twenty years. After the last tour wrapped up in 2007, the group planned a capital campaign to build new "mobile museum units" in semitrailers, "but after [the financial crash in] October of 2008 any idea of doing a major capital campaign was just not practical." Seeing no future for the train, "we sold four of the cars to Disney," says Polich. The final car went last January, to a scenic railway in North Carolina.
Artrain now shares its staff and NEW Center space with the county Arts Alliance and works on a variety of mobile art projects. Polich saw CriticCar fitting right in. "She said, 'Let's go out and have a drink,'" Conlin recalls. "It was like a therapy session."
Conlin kept working as a freelance journalist-in 2012, the Times published her memoir of moving back home with the headline, "'The Waltons' Meets 'Modern Family.'" Meanwhile, she says, Polich took on the administrative chores of getting the CriticCar project off the ground.
"I just don't know what I would have done without her," says Conlin. "All I had to do was go to Detroit, be on the street with the people, getting my message out, which is to get these voices of these people in Detroit out."