Fall Arts Issue
Expectations and revelations from the inaugural Detroit Design Week
Published: September 14, 2011
The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) has been working hard behind the scenes organizing, qualifying and quantifying Detroit's robust yet splintered design community.
Led by Matt Clayson (who was, before DC3, legal coordinator and promotion manager at the Michigan-based online promotion campaign group ePrize), the DC3 team was instrumental in helping coordinate and produce the Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference this April, which saw a few thousand artists and creatives convene in an attempt to better understand post-industrial cities — such as us, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh — in transition.
Then, in mid-July, the center announced its creative ventures program, in which 13 businesses were enrolled in an incubator and acceleration curriculum as ventures-in-residence at the DC3 campus, inside the Alfred A. Taubman building, home to much of the College for Creative Studies operations. The creative venture residents include fashion, graphic and interior designers, programmers, and an array of multimedia artists.
(When Kickstarter CEO Perry Chen — the king of crowd-sourcing — visited Detroit, he held court at the DC3.)
For its third and perhaps most ambitious act of the year, the Detroit Creative Corridor Center will produce a weeklong Design Festival, a citywide celebration featuring a series of "happenings," installations, exhibits, workshops, fashion shows, film screenings, panel discussions, performances, parties and competitions.
That week, Sept. 21-28, the DC3 will set the city abuzz with design engagements from New Center to downtown, Eastern Market to Woodbridge.
We sat down inside the highly designed confines of the DC3's headquarters with Clayson, festival director Melinda Anderson and project coordinator Jakki Kirouac to get the 411 on the DC3 and this ambitious design throwdown.
Metro Times: Why does Detroit need a Design Festival?
Matt Clayson: It's important to begin to change the dialogue about the role of design and design-arts community in Detroit and the role they play in transforming the city's economy. Detroit has a higher concentration of industrial and commercial designers in the workforce than any other region in the country. Their work is taken for granted. It's time to expose that work beyond the community of creative practitioners.
MT: Is this weeklong affair the culmination of the work DC3 has done in the past year? What was the genesis for this event?
Clayson: As part of our initial framework in creating the Detroit Creative Corridor Center we talked with many practitioners within the creative community and asked them what kind of gaps needed to be filled, and what needs were not being met in the current landscape. We found there wasn't a real organic opportunity to connect a lot of what's happened and raise that in an authentic way to noncreative audiences. Design capitals all over the world have user-generated design festivals to feature the breadth of their design community. It's a global practice with a Detroit spin.
Melinda Anderson: We'd originally only planned for 15 or 20 events, but we left it up to the designers to dictate what the event would be, and, after a series of info sessions and work sessions, we're now looking at more than 60 events. Fashion design shows, furniture exhibitions, as well as design charrettes and competitions. It's refreshing.
MT: Where in the city is this festival taking place? As far as timing and geography is concerned, what was the strategy?
Clayson: From a strategic perspective, the beauty of the festival is that it's driven by the community. There were 60-plus design projects pledged from around the city, and more than 20 venues. Melinda and project coordinator Jakki Kirouac worked hard to match the right events with the right venues. Then we began to cluster different activities on different days in different areas, from the North End to downtown.
Anderson: Timing was very calculated. Detroit Fashion Week starts at the top of the week and the festival's span also shares time with Detroit Restaurant Week. We're not taking away time or attention from these other events; we actually proposed to collaborate with them and expose our audience to one another. There was excitement and energy for the most part.
MT: On the website, I saw several city organizations got involved — who was maybe the most surprising co-collaborator?
Jakki Kirouac: Michigan State's been really great. They're relatively new to midtown but they've been great at opening some doors for us, encouraged us to book their venue on days they weren't typically open and — of course, this can't be the case with all venues — they even said they'd incur all necessary costs.
> Email Travis R. Wright