Art X Detroit: Kresge Arts Experience makes its return to Midtown this Wednesday, April 10, through Sunday, April 14. For five days, an exciting collection of visual art installations, dance, musical and theatrical performances, and literary readings will debut throughout 15 cultural venues in the vibrant Midtown district, featuring the 38 Kresge Artist Fellows and Eminent Artists awarded in 2011 and 2012.

The biennial Art X Detroit (AXD) attracted thousands in its 2011 debut, and Detroit’s arts scene continues to generate excitement nationally and internationally. Attendees will experience new works and performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and Detroit Film Theatre, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Music Box, the College for Creative Studies and other venues in Midtown’s Cultural Center. Due to capacity at many of the venues, attendees are encouraged to arrive early to ensure access to some events.


· Opening Reception - Art X Detroit will kick off with an Opening Reception on Wednesday, April 10, 6:15 -11:00 p.m. This multi-venue celebration will include a number of live music and dance performances.

Registration is required at this event and can be done through or by calling 313.420.6000.

· Hubert Massey’s Mural Unveil - Known for his large public installations, Hubert Massey will unveil his new 30’ x 60’ mural titled, “The People’s Vision,” during a public ceremony on Thursday, April 11, at 2:30 p.m. outside of the Wayne State University Press Building at the corner of Woodward and Warren. The mural’s imagery is based on discussions that took place during community forums held by Massey as part of his artistic process. A post-unveil reception will take place at MOCAD from 3-3:45 p.m. and his preliminary drawings of the mural will be on view at MOCAD throughout April.

· DFT Film Screenings - On Friday, April 12, the DIA’s Detroit Film Theater will host a variety of film screenings. Films include Corrie Baldauf’s, “Frames for the People: A City of Halos,” Ken Meisel and Passalacqua’s “Never Alone,” “Star by Star: Naomi Long Madgett, Poet and Publisher,” and Maria Costa’s premiere of “¡Viva America!” Following each film screening, attendees have the opportunity to attend a Q&A session with the artists and filmmakers.

· AXD 2013 Exhibition - MOCAD will keep the spirit of Art X alive throughout the entire month of April by hosting the Art X Detroit 2013 Exhibition. From April 10 - 28, the creative works of all twelve Kresge Visual Arts Fellows and one Kresge Literary Arts Fellow will be featured in the exhibition. From paintings to sculptures, photography to mixed-media installations, this exhibition provided the artists an opportunity to showcase recent or new works, collaborate with others or explore an altogether new medium for their work.

· AXD Panel Discussions - Six engaging Art X Detroit Panel Discussions will take place April 10-13 at MOCAD. Nationally-recognized panelists, along with local arts practitioners, will dive into a number of topics, including community engagement through the arts, creative placemaking, arts coverage in the media and higher education in the arts.

For a complete Art X Detroit schedule visit Visit Art X on Facebook for updates and for behind-the-scenes information. For more information on the Kresge Arts in Detroit program, visit

Art X Detroit is funded by The Kresge Foundation and produced by Midtown Detroit, Inc., a nonprofit organization spearheading reinvestment in Midtown through the arts, beautification and economic development. Supported by ArtServe Michigan, the College for Creative Studies and MOCAD.


Detroit's creative class is located along the lakeshore in the city, as the map above indicates, in a narrow strip that runs north along Jefferson Avenue from downtown through historic Indian Village towards Grosse Pointe. Home to Wayne State University and major arts and cultural institutions, rapidly revitalizing Midtown has also drawn a growing creative class population.

The purple blotch in the north is upscale Palmer Woods, noted for its large Tudor homes close to Detroit Golf Club. The neighborhood was founded in the early 20th century as an exclusive enclave for auto industry barons, including the founders of Fisher Body, and is where a number of Motown recording artists live today.

Greater Detroit's class divides overlay and underpin its long history of white-flight and racial cleavage. Reviewing the various causes of the city's decline, Daniel Little, chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, recently pointed to race segregation as the most significant factor over on his blog "Understanding Society":

Despite the economic pounding it has taken, or maybe because of it, the revitalization of Downtown Detroit has gained significant momentum as I pointed out in the Financial Times today.

With its fraying social fabric and the imposition of an emergency manager to cope with its collapsing finances, it would be easy to argue a city that was a global centre of carmaking and musical innovation 50 years ago has passed the point of no return.

Easy, yes; but wrong. Detroit’s days as a manufacturing powerhouse – like those of many industrial cities in America, Europe and elsewhere – are irrevocable. But its downtown is rebounding, thanks to the kind of central location, affordable property, improved efficiency and productivity also bringing people and businesses back to struggling former industrial hubs such as Cleveland and Pittsburgh. 

According to recent report, Detroit's Greater Downtown spans 7.2 square miles: across the city's riverfront from the central business district to trendy Corktown, home of Slows Bar B Q, Astro Coffee, Sugar House, Brooklyn Street Local, and the Honor & Folly inn; Mies van der Rohe's verdant Lafayette Park and Rivertown, north to the Eastern Market, Detroit's farmer's market; the Cass Corridor, with arts institutions; Midtown, home to Wayne State University and Detroit Medical Center, up Woodward Avenue to Tech Town and New Center. This corridor has a population of 36,550 people, or 5,076 people per square mile. It is more affluent, diverse, and educated than the city as a whole. College educated residents between the ages of 25 and 34 made up eight percent of the population for Greater Downtown, compared to just one percent for the city as a whole, three percent for the state of Michigan, and four percent for the nation.

One of the things that nearly killed downtown Detroit was the misguided notion that its function as a location for offices and headquarters could be transplanted to its suburbs. The region can no longer afford the outmoded and incorrect notion that it can build an alternative "downtown." As I pointed out in a recent talk to the Detroit Regional Chamber's Policy Conference, "Anyone who believes you can build an alternative core out there in the suburbs need a head examination."

A new generation of business leaders understands this, like the billionaire entrepreneur Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, who has moved more than 3,000 jobs from the suburbs to downtown, purchasing millions of square feet of office and residential space to accommodate them. (Gilbert owns 15 buildings with 2.6 million square feet of commercial space and two parking garages with some 3500 spaces). Compuware has brought thousands of professionals, techies, and creatives into downtown Detroit as well. "[W]e realized we needed to control the hardware, or the buildings -- the real estate," is the way he put it.

University of Michigan's Little points out in an email: "The influx created more racial and ethnic diversity in the center of the city as 20- and 30-somethings are moving into office buildings retrofitted as rental housing." This was not just based on community altruism, it was also good business. Gilbert realized that locating his business in the center of the city was more attractive to many employees and cheaper. "The good news was there was a skyscraper sale going on in Detroit at the time," he added.

A major new initiative by the highly regarded Project for Public Spaces has outlined plans to animate the district with dozens of pop up food markets, cafes, and shops. It is based on PPS's landmark "Power of 10" framework that proposes "a great city needs at least ten great districts, each with at least ten great places, which in turn each have at least ten things to do." PPS describe this strategy as a "Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper strategy that will include installations, pop-ups, and other activities in key public spaces like Cadillac Square, Capitol Park, and Grand Circus Park." The aim is to reorient downtown Detroit from its historic focus on streets for cars to a place for people and pedestrians. As PPS's Fred Kent put it when presenting the vision in Detroit: "We want to create a city where you don't drive through the center, you drive to it."

Detroit's Greater Downtown district is home to the region's major arts institutions — the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Max M. Fisher Music Center, the Bonstelle Theater and the Fox Theatre. The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, founded in 2006, is part of the Sugar Hill Arts District. Midtown is also home to the vaunted music venue The Magic Stick. Writing in the New York Times, Maynard described it as the veritable epicenter of the contemporary Detroit music scene, where acts like The White Stripes and The Von Bondies among others got their starts.

Long home to a cutting edge music scene which spanned soul, jazz, rock, pop, electronic, and techno, downtown Detroit also features a world class design community, which we profiled in our "Detroit Rising" series.

In an email to me, Christian Unverzagt, a Detroit-based architect who lives in Lafayette Park and teaches at the University of Michigan's Taubman College, pointed out the transformation that the Cass Corridor has undergone. Long home to activists and artists, its gritty, windowless galleries and practice spaces have given way to a variety of renovated spaces including Green Garage (a co-working space), Great Lakes Coffee, and small retail shops such as City Bird, Nest, Hugh, and Nora, along with several yoga studios.

The area has become so attractive, Unverzagt adds, that there is now a shortage of rental housing. As a further signal of how far its transformation has progressed, a Whole Foods (the standard bearer for gentrification) will open there, a few blocks from Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe, another market that opened in 2012. Unverzagt notes that even hard-hit Hamtramck, a diverse working class community, has more recently become a destination for artists who are buying homes to both live in and experiment on. Its downtown has seen an influx of several storefront galleries and restaurants, and the artist-initiated Ride-It Sculpture Park and the skateboard shop Chiipss, relocated there from Plymouth, a suburb 25 miles to the west, have become the hub of a local skateboard culture. As Roy Strickland, a leading urban designer who heads the urban design program at the University of Michigan (he was previously director of the urban design program at Columbia University and a faculty member at MIT), pointed out in an email, downtown Detroit is being powerfully revitalized around four key legs: higher-ed, health, arts and culture, and technology. The confluence of these forces has brought considerable revitalization to a core that was once virtually hollowed-out. Put a rectangle around this area, he adds and "Detroit looks pretty healthy."

On top of that, the greater Detroit region broadly remains economic powerhouse. Even with its diminished population in the city, the metro area's population puts in the same league as San Francisco and Boston. With $200 billion in economic output, its economy is the same size as Ireland's, Hong Kong's, or Singapore's. It is connected to the world through its airport. On top of this, the region is home to an incredible cluster of universities and knowledge based institutions, the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor, long a center for top researchers and now an emerging nexus for tech start-ups, Michigan State in East Lansing, and Wayne State in Detroit. The region's talent base is especially deep in engineering, design, and industrial know-how. Before all those assets can be fully-leveraged, suburban interests must come to the table, and transit must be extended outside the core to the suburbs and ultimately all the way out to Ann Arbor.

Detroit's nascent turnaround is different than slum clearances of the past; its impetus comes from a very different place than the redevelopment programs of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, that staked huge sums of public money on ill-conceived mega-projects. The initiatives that are making the difference today are more market-driven and less top-down; they are organized not by the federal, state, or local government but by a unique coalition of profit-driven entrepreneurs, old-line philanthropic foundations, and grass roots neighborhood groups.

A consortium of companies and foundations including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Detroit Three, Quicken Loans, the Kresge Foundation, Penske Corporation, and Platinum Equity have announced plans to purchase 100 police cars and 23 ambulances and lease them to the city of Detroit.

The Kresge Foundation's Complete Neighborhoods program has channeled millions of dollars to "[f]oster sustainability, increase economic opportunity and stabilize property values and the city's tax base by investing in neighborhoods that are magnets for new residents and that sustain existing residents," while its Detroit Future City initiative will provide $150 million to create more concentrated economic development, reuse the city's 100,000 vacant lots, add much needed parks and green space, and create more economically viable and healthier neighborhoods. With backing from local businesses, foundations, and the federal government, a new light rail system will help connect and consolidate development across the several distinct creative class clusters that have developed across this corridor.

The challenge for the city and region moving forward is to spur further urban economic revitalization while bridging this class divide.

Such dramatic change has stoked considerable demographic shifts, which mirror the region's class and racial divide. "On one hand, you see a 'new' Detroit. Young, white, educated, and employed are the characteristics of those who are taking a chance on the city," argued Karen Dumas, former press secretary to Mayor Bing in the Detroit News this past summer. "They stand in stark contrast to native Detroiters — most of whom are African-Americans and many who are undereducated and unemployed — who have stayed and stuck it out over the years, through challenge and controversy." The challenge for the city and region moving forward is to spur further urban economic revitalization while bridging this class divide. That will require greater cooperation between the city and its suburbs.

Still, what's happening in and around downtown Detroit should not be minimized: It is a critical step, if only a first step, toward creating the jobs, economic activity, and tax revenues that are needed to underwrite broader recovery and building. As is the case in most of America's older industrial cities, Detroit's days as a manufacturing powerhouse are irrecoverable; its future economic growth will turn on its creative and knowledge industries — and the transformation of its low skill, low pay service jobs into higher-wage, family-supporting jobs by involving workers in continuous productivity improvement. A new urban social compact is desperately needed to make this happen: to upgrade its underfunded schools and to train and connect more workers and residents to the new economy that is emerging downtown. The same kind of compact is needed in cities like New York, San Francisco, and even London which, while more affluent, suffer from the similar if not worse inequality.

All that said, the new developments downtown, taken together with the broader region's economic assets, put Detroit on a much better economic footing than has been the case for a couple of generations. While the jury is out on the city's long-term future, "the resurgence at its heart," as I note in the FT, "provides grounds for real hope tempered with cautious optimism."

Click HERE to read the full article! 

influencers: veronika scott at home

What is it about Detroit that makes you want to call it home?

In Detroit, everyone is doing something engag- ing and of their own creation. The city is a hub of creativity, whether you’ve lived here your whole life or moved here to start something new. We have a strong entrepreneurial community, where the people who own businesses and buildings have their own proactive ideas for the future of the city. People in the city recognize that for the success of the whole—we need to look beyond individual success and work together as part of a bigger system. There are many issues that need to be tackled, and no one person can do it on their own. I have lived in many places, but Detroit will always be the one I call home, because I know that I would have never been able to start the Empowerment Plan in any other city in the world.

Tell us a little bit about the building you live in and how you designed your space. 

People have many preconceived notions about Detroit, but where I live we walk around at night, ride our bikes around the neighborhood, and new businesses are always popping up. The Canfield building is located in the heart of the city. The building is an old manufacturing facility that is now home to a beautiful loft space, as well as three different storefronts. I have been a nomad most of my life, and this is the first time I have really settled into a home. Because of my job I travel quite frequently, and I am doing construction projects every few months. In picking a place to live I wanted a safe haven that was easy to maintain and relaxing. When I moved in, there was a rather interesting color scheme—purple and green—I had to change it. I used white to open up the space and a relaxing yet vibrant blue instead of a more aggressive color. The loft bed was already in place but I built the wall under it so that people wouldn't be looking at a bed from the living room. Most people don’t even realize it’s there until I point it out.

Any tricks to living in just 750 square feet?

You have to have the ability to minimal-ize, which was easy for me because my possessions were few when I moved into the loft. But realistically it’s all about the hidden storage that you can create in a small space. The bed is on top of a walk-in closet and there are shelves and bins throughout the space for everything else. I enjoy the small space because when I was in a larger loft, I felt like I couldn’t make it my own. I couldn’t afford to furnish a large space, and with my loft now I am able to personalize it and really enjoy it as my home.

Click HERE to read the full article! 

Opportunity Detroit is looking for innovative, creative, and inspired designs for a new building that will sit on the historic Hudson’s site, one of the most beloved locations in downtown Detroit.

First Prize: $15,000
Second Prize: $5,000
Third Prize: $2,500

Register before April 30th:

Detroit Collision Works

As I wrote in my last post, Detroit Collision Works is a new 36-room shipping container hotel under development near the sprawling Eastern Market in downtown Detroit. Founder/CEO Shel Kimen is presently raising money through Kickstarter to build a pop-up prototype called FIRST CONTAINER that will consist of two containers near the permanent site. Like the hotel, the pop-up is designed to be a gathering place with scheduled programming where locals and visitors can gather to discuss the future of community development, food production, sustainable design, green transportation and other New Urbanism topics. Kimen’s priority is creating a place for sharing stories—a platform for people to talk about what’s important to them, both personal and professional.

I have spent the majority of my career walking through hotels around the world and interviewing thousands of hotels reps for a variety of consumer and industry media. Over the years, certain hotel groups have established trends that other hoteliers copied. The Kimpton and Morgans collections, for example, started the designer/boutique hotel movement in the 1980s and 90s. Ace/James hotels invented the residential-style hipster hotel early this century. NYLO Hotels, 21c, Unlisted Collection and others are bringing “industrial-chic” into the mainstream.

Collision Works has the chance to be the next big thing because, like those mentioned above, it’s dialed into both the mindset of today’s traveling public and socio-economic themes of this era. Here are five reasons why Detroit Collision Works is a game changer.


No other city in the country suffered from the Great Recession as much as Detroit. Once the symbol of the American dominance in manufacturing and the American Dream, Detroit lost 25% of its population from 2000 to 2010. That was the largest drop of any U.S. city over 100,000 people, including New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. But as celebrated urbanist Richard Florida writes in The Atlantic, Detroit is rebounding with a renewed spirit of innovation and cultural arts at the grassroots level. The people making up this community need places to share ideas. Collision Works is purposefully designed to meet that demand.

In effect, Collision Works is moving into a new “community accelerator” hotel niche and venue for people to learn more about local start-up companies. In New Orleans since Katrina, the rate of start-ups is about 30% higher than the national average. In Detroit, organizations such as I Am Young Detroit and Detroit 4 Detroit are spurring the same drive among community entrepreneurs. Detroit Collision Works will tap into that energy and knowledge and share it with visitors.


Can one person in America make a difference? The rise of Social Entrepreneurship is one of the most exciting and fastest growing developments in business today. The idea that a company can have a sustainable business model and make a positive impact on the community is highly attractive to the Millennial generation. By leveraging that interest, Collision Works is the hotel of the future where locals and guest can learn about social issues in both a fun and experiential manner.

Founder/CEO Shel Kimen (read her story here) says:

“Everyone loves a good story. Stories make place and bind communities. I wanted to create a project in Detroit that creates lasting and sustainable value for both the people that live here and the people that visit. A combined hotel/co-working space built around stories seemed like the best way to do that. Detroit needs a super cool hotel that helps visitors understand what Detroit is really about and it needs places for people to gather and work beyond coffee shops. It also comes from a belief that great design and rich experiences do not have to be expensive.”


Hotels have been trumpeting their corporate social responsibility by becoming greener and leaner over the last decade, and that’s great. Detroit Collision Works is designed from the ground up to be low impact. Basically it’s the birth of “urban ecotourism,” and how cool is that?! Container architecture is a fast growing building technology in both residential and commercial applications all over the world, from the Re:START village in Christchurch to the FREITAG store in West Zurich. The Platoon project in Berlin might be the coolest urban culture/arts development in the world right now.

There is a glut of shipping containers in cities around the country because freighter companies often find it more affordable to buy new containers in Asia versus rerouting the boxes back to America’s ports. And that supply continues to grow due to North America’s trade deficit within the Pacific Rim. While there are downsides to using containers for building purposes, the process attracts a huge interest among consumers. And that type of heightened exposure is pivotal for generating discussion among the masses about the future of America’s urban cores.


Memphis mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. wrote a letter to Kimen in March requesting that she consider building another Collision Works in his city when Detroit is up and running. The beauty of Collision Works is that it’s easily scalable around the country and simple to adapt to any commercial urban setting. Think of this. If a Collision Works hotel was in your city, would you visit? Chances are yes, especially if you’re a creative professional, because there’s nothing like this right now.

The idea of a community think-tank “attraction” proved itself with the opening of the popular BMW Guggenheim Lab in New York’s East Village in 2011, followed by a road trip through Berlin and Mumbai that ended in January. Data and discussions collected from the project will be displayed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York later this fall.

Now imagine if this type of discussion could take place every day in every major city in America, with a network set up to share all of the information among all of the hotels with the public. This is where Detroit Collision Works gets especially exciting.

Click HERE to read the full article! 

"Go to Detroit. It's more honest. Also, there's a great art museum, a proper public market, some of the country's best architecture, the music scene is fun, the food scene is better than it has been in ages and the beer is better and much cheaper. Everything's cheaper. Also: Detroiters are friendly -- Chicagoans are just polite. There's a big difference."