Fall Arts Issue
Expectations and revelations from the inaugural Detroit Design Week
Published: September 14, 2011
Clayson: As a Spartan it makes me proud to hear Michigan State was so accommodating, but geography and place is one of the coolest things about the festival because we didn't plan any of these events — we're actually calling them "happenings" — we just provided a platform and place for them to occur and connected them to resources as well as potential team members and volunteers. Really we're just ensuring the caliber of these happenings are worthy of a design festival that we hope will help Detroit's creative community self-identify.
MT: What are three or four of these "happenings" that we definitely shouldn't miss?
Anderson: One that strikes me is a group that calls itself D's Creatures. The lead on the project, William Tyrrell, works for the parade company and went to CCS; some of the other team members are teachers. They're custom building these huge creatures, and the production will culminate with an unveiling at a fashion show on a Saturday. They incorporate technology and found materials to bring it to life. That'll be at the Quark Gallery at 6166 Woodward, in the old Dalgiesh dealership. Wayne State and TechTown loaned the space, and they've had free rein of the space to build out these creatures. I also think the design battles will be really exciting. Live music, art and design will unfold and fly around before your eyes.
Kirouac: I think that rapper and DJ Nick Speed is presenting one of the most exciting happenings. He'd been attending our info sessions and we'd been thinking about the perfect venue for him to present his Nick Speed Orchestra (featuring rappers, DJs and techno artists the likes of Phat Kat, Stretch Money, Mad Mike Banks, Jon Dixon, DJ Sicari, Cecilia Sharpe, Boldy James along with a live string section). We learned that Black Star, a duo comprised of rap icons Mos Def and Talib Kweli, were going to be in town at St. Andrew's on Wednesday, the festival's kickoff. So we kind of pushed Nick Speed into the Shelter that same night. It's great to put our stars on the stage in the same building as these international stars in their genre.
Clayson: And I really like the "Mind the Gap" competition. It was one of the very first ideas to come through the door and it's proved to be one of the most ambitious proposals. It's like a parallel tract outreach effort to engage the community in coming up with creative solutions for in-between spaces. So the Detroit Design Festival put a call out, Mind the Gap answered the call, and called out from that platform for more specific engagement in the community.
MT: "In-between spaces"? What exactly are you talking about?
Clayson: In-between spaces are those often overlooked transitional spaces like alleyways, those diagonal paths you see cutting through vacant land, underutilized streets and parks. They're fascinating spaces that add context and fabric to the city. They're highly unique, but might not be appreciated. They need some attention and it looks like they're going to get just the right kind.
MT: Before the announcement of the fest, you announced a class of creatives-in-residents — these sort of artful entrepreneurs — providing an incubation hub at the Center. The festival is big news. What's next?
Clayson: Well, we're trying to find a way to use the momentum from the design festival to continue those engagement activities where, both live and online, these creative practitioners can be exposed to each other and to new markets. That's really our pipeline for how we're identifying the next level of talent that could be connected to our next project, a TechTown project, or our resident program. And it's a fair process. More so than us just tapping our respective immediate peer networks.
MT: Considering the breadth and scope of this inaugural design throwdown, what should success look like? Not for the DC3 but for the people who attend?
Clayson: Well, we'll have old-school metrics such as number of people who attend, happenings proposed and happenings that were produced. But I think the intangible, hard-to-track piece can't be measured for another two years, when we can then look at what design conversations are happening in Detroit as a socio-economic engine driving positive change. And I'm not talking about getting attention from the arts writers at The New York Times — nothing against them — but from the business writers in the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.
The Detroit Design Fest kick-off party happens from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at New Center Park, 2990 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. An afterparty with Nick Speed Orchestra is planned at the Shelter. See detroitdesignfestival.com for more info.
> Email Travis R. Wright