HAMTRAMCK, Mich. — It was in 1992 that Dmytro Szylak began turning his backyard at 12087 Klinger Street into an art installation. That installation became known as Hamtramck Disneyland and is now a must-see attraction for artists and tourists visiting Hamtramck. Szylak began the project as a hobby and something that he could give back to the citizens of Hamtramck. But the residents and his neighbors were not that welcoming at the beginning, blocking his work. He continued through it all and constructed a 30-foot working art installation with items such as Elvis pictures, wooden soldiers, toy guns, tricycles, and the American flag.
As time went on, the residents became more appreciative of Szylak’s work and he was even honored by the mayor of Hamtramck. In 2015, Szylak died at the age of 92 and the future of Hamtramck Disneyland was in doubt. However, in 2016 Hatch Art purchased the property for $100,000 with the help from Sterling Services. Jason Eddleston, VP of Operations at Sterling, brokered the deal as he was able to identify a second local business owner in John Grossi from Amicci’s Pizza, to help secure matching funding for the purchase for Hatch Art that Sterling Services planned on loaning to Hatch Art.
Following the purchase of Hamtramck Disneyland, Hatch Art began restoring the property. They installed new roofs on the garages to replace the old, weathered wood that has been in place for decades to secure a future gallery and workshop. Both houses on the property have been renovated and now hosts four apartments, three of which generate revenue to pay off the loans and one which is for a resident artist. They maintain the installation and add their creativity to the ever-evolving work. The current resident is Renee Willoughby and she attends Wimbledon College of Arts in London, England. Willoughby told Fox 2 Detroit, “I feel a kindred connection to Dmytro…seeing his work, and how playful and fun, and how he would change things all the time, there’s something very freeing about that, so it gave me my own encouragement to do the same thing.”
As the resident artist works on adding their creations to the installation, other work is being done to complete a restoration of its current pieces. The work that is being done on the installation includes updating the wood, metals, lights, motions, and sound. The electrical framework also needs to be brought up to outdoor safety standards. Hatch Art started Hamtramck Disneyland Volunteer Days, Saturday, and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer, to help with the number of projects they were undertaking. Those weekends have been scaled back as COVID-19 spread across the globe, but that does not stop people from helping their neighbors.
The local communities continued support of Hamtramck Disneyland runs deep as Sterling Services returned to Klinger Street this past Spring to drop off some topsoil they picked up from a resident downriver. Their support does not just stop at donating money, they continue to donate their time and resources to projects that they have helped. They view their sponsorships or donations as a long-term relationship, building a community together by investing into the community through projects like this.