How Detroit Became a Maker Hotspot

Photo: Courtesy of Timothy Orikri - Detroit Resurgence via Pierre Paul Design

Makers are slowly but surely helping to regenerate the city of Detroit, which collapsed with the auto industry. Since the Michigan metropolis went under largely because it relied on a single corporate industry, diversification by creativity seems a fitting antidote. “When you take a city down to a low point, it requires such an enormous amount of heart and soul to rebuild,” says Shane Douglas of Douglas & Co., a designer and hand-maker of fine leather goods in Detroit.

"Many people abandoned this city and ripped the ground out from under it. Those who remained are passion-driven people–artists, creators, and crafters who use their pleasures as a vehicle for business. There is such strength behind that kind of work. It is no longer just a hobby," Douglas says, reflecting on the vitality of the city’s patriots.

“No dream is too big for Detroit,” says his wife Melissa, an artist and lifetime Metro Detroiter and co-founder of Douglas & Co.

Creatives from other cities are even moving in now. Brooklyn-born-and-bred Galapagos Art Space is relocating its 20-year-old performance center to Detroit after being priced out of New York. Galapagos bought nine buildings totaling 600,000 square feet and has plans to create a 10,000 square-foot lake near Detroit’s Corktown in an area some refer to as the “Hubbard-Richard” neighborhood.

Galapagos Executive Director Robert Elmes told the New York Times they bought the buildings for the price of a “small apartment in New York City” at the time. Among the buildings is “an old power plant that looks like a little Tate Modern,” Elmes said. Galapagos helped put Williamsburg, Brooklyn on the art map. Now it’ll give Detroit cache.

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