Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead

Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead is a permanent artwork by the late artist Mike Kelley. Located on the grounds of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, it is a full-scale replica of the home in which Kelley grew up: a single-story, ranch-style house in the Detroit suburb of Westland. Kelley, who died in Los Angeles in 2012, sought to ensure that the Mobile Homestead remain relevant to the cultural interests and concerns of its local communities. In that spirit, the home was designed with a detachable facade, allowing it to be driven to neighborhoods throughout the city, offering public services during its travels.

MOCAD’s Department of Education and Public Engagement works with local organizations and individuals to make the ground floor of the Mobile Homestead a flexible community center providing space for projects, events, gatherings, conversations, and installations that are created by, and in service of, a diverse range of people.

Rather than projecting ideas out into the world, the Mobile Homestead invites the community to contribute ideas, while visitors to the house are encouraged to suggest events, projects and exhibitions. If you’re interested in learning more or getting involved with Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead, stop by or drop us a note at: mobilehomestead@mocadetroit.org.

Current Exhibitions

Robolights Detroit
On View Now

Robolights Detroit is a spectacular new site-specific installation created for the lawn of Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead at MOCAD by artist Kenny Irwin, Jr., the mastermind behind the masterpiece known as Robolights – the wildly popular sci-fi themed art installation of epic proportions located in Palm Springs, California.

In Robolights Detroit, visitors are invited to wander along pathways inside of a dazzling carnival filled with sculptures of towering robots, dinosaurs, alien spacecraft, and fantastical creatures from the future, all painted in a wondrous array of vivid colors and wrapped up in thousands of lights. A companion exhibition featuring sci-fi themed pen and ink drawings by Irwin will take place inside of the Mobile Homestead. Both exhibitions are accompanied by a book of photographs of the original Robolights in Palm Springs by Julie Reyes Taubman, the late founding member of MOCAD.

The original Robolights was constructed by Irwin over the course of thirty-three years on the grounds of his childhood home in Palm Springs, California. Originally conceived in 1986 as a seasonal holiday light display, Irwin felt compelled to continue working on Robolights year-round and across decades. By 2018, having hosted 60,000 visitors between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, with an installation spanning four acres and including 8 million lights, it was clear that Robolights was outgrowing the residential neighborhood it had long inhabited.


Robolights Detroit at Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead is organized by Amy Corle, Curator of Education and Public Engagement.

Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead is commissioned by Artangel in association with MOCAD, LUMA Foundation, and Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, with the generous support of the Artangel International Circle. Support for Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead is provided by Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and the MOCAD Leadership Circle.


The A. Alfred Taubman Foundation is the presenting sponsor for Robolights Detroit.


Kenny Irwin, Jr. was born in Palm Springs, California in 1974 and graduated from California College of the Arts in Oakland, CA with a degree in Fine Arts in 1995. He works in multiple mediums ranging from installations to found art sculpture, drawings, ceramics, and resin sculpture. In addition to Robolights, he has created installations for the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore as well as a holiday-themed set for Conan O’Brien’s former late night show.


Robolights Detroit is an outdoor exhibition. Visitors are encouraged to dress accordingly. 

NEW MOBILE HOMESTEAD HOURS begin Friday, October 25:
Thursday + Friday: 11am-8pm
Saturday, + Sunday: 11am-5pm

Closed Monday + Tuesday + Wednesday
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day

Image: Kenny Irwin, Jr., Robolights (1987-2017). Photographs: Julia Reyes Taubman, from the publication Kenny Irwin, Jr.: The Robolights Project, Palm Springs 1986-2017.

More About Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead

Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead is a permanent art work by the late artist Mike Kelley, located on the grounds of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. It’s both a public sculpture and a private, personal architecture – based on the artist’s childhood home on Palmer Road in Westland, a neighborhood which primarily housed workers for the Big Three auto makers: Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.

In a largely disinvested city with many abandoned houses and dilapidated buildings, Mobile Homestead enacts a reversal of the ‘white flight’ that took place in Detroit following the inner city uprisings of the 1960s. It does so at a time when the city is exploring new options of renewal by assessing its singular post-industrial conditions in an attempt to articulate a new model for American cities.

The sculpture, which almost exactly replicates the vernacular architecture of working class neighborhoods in the American Midwest, brings the suburbs back into the city, and as it travels – on specific missions – the mobile home performs various kinds of community services, establishing a permanent dialogue with the community that houses it.

MOCAD’s Department of Education and Public Engagement programs the ground floor of Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead as a community space, as Kelley intended. It is home to projects, events, gatherings, conversations and displays that are created by and for a diverse public, and is intentionally unaffiliated with the Museum’s exhibitions and public programming.

The Mike Kelley Mobile Homestead is commissioned by Artangel in association with MOCAD, LUMA Foundation and Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts with the generous support of the Artangel International Circle. Support for the Mike Kelley Mobile Homestead is provided by the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts.

The Mobile Homestead was featured on WDET, learn more and hear the story here.

Keep even more up to date with Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead on Facebook and Instagram.

On Saturday, September 25, 2010, the trailer portion of Mobile Homestead, which constitutes the front of the house, made its maiden voyage from its new home in Midtown Detroit to return to the original Kelley home in the suburbs.

On its way down Michigan Avenue, one of Detroit’s main arteries and passageway to the western suburbs, the mobile home passed through some of the city’s most historic neighborhoods such as the old Irish area of Corktown; Dearborn, the home of the Ford motor company, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village (Ford’s personal collection of homes and structures associated with great Americans such as Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and Rosa Parks); Inkster; Wayne (where Kelley attended Catholic school); and finally Westland where the former Kelley family home still stands.

Mike Kelley also produced a video documentary that focuses on the people and communities who live and work along Michigan Avenue. The videos, entitledMobile Homestead Christening Ceremony and Launch, September 25, 2010; Going West on Michigan Avenue from Downtown Detroit to Westland; and Going East on Michigan Avenue from Westland to Downtown Detroit will exhibit at MOCAD, May 11 through July 31, 2013, along with documentation materials, which reveal the process of realizing this major art work.

Mobile Homestead will be fully completed in spring of 2013, when the mobile home will be attached to an altered reconstruction of the Kelley home, to function as a community space.

Mobile Homestead is artist Mike Kelley’s first public art project anywhere and the first major permanent installation of his work in his hometown. This project is also the first commission by Artangel in the United States and has been produced with support from the LUMA Foundation and in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

Mike Kelley: “Mobile Homestead covertly makes a distinction between public art and private art, between the notions that art functions for the social good, and that art addresses personal desires and concerns. Mobile Homestead does both: it is simultaneously geared toward community service and anti-social private sub-cultural activities. It has a public side and a secret side…”

Click here for an Audio interview with artist Mike Kelley and Artangel director James Lingwood.

Mike Kelley at the Mobile Homestead
Photo of artist Mike Kelley at the Mobile Homestead Christening Ceremony and Launch, September 25, 2010. Photo courtesy of PD Rearick

At the core of Mike Kelley’s vision for Mobile Homestead’s ground floor is community engagement. In its permanent location behind MOCAD, Mobile Homestead integrates into the neighborhood as a clubhouse. Rather than projecting ideas out into the world, Mobile Homestead is about inviting the community’s ideas in.

Visitors are encouraged to suggest and participate in potential events or projects to take place within Mobile Homestead. If you have an idea you want to pitch, you can email us, but the best thing to do is drop by for a visit!

Comments, suggestions, or questions? What do you want to say to us? Email mobilehomestead@mocadetroit.org

Mobile Homestead
4454 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48201
Phone 313.832.4944

Mobile Homestead  Hours
Friday – Sunday: 11AM – 5PM

All of Mobile Homestead‘s entrances and public areas are wheelchair accessible.  A wheelchair is available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Service animals are welcome at Mobile Homestead.