The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jan 15, 2016

How a former Ford Motor Co. garage will incubate new businesses and build community in Detroit

Posted by Rosie Sharp

Above: A sneak peek at Brightmoor Maker Space. All photos courtesy of Stamps School of Art & Design.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Bart Eddy is superintendent of Detroit Community Schools. He is a co-founder. Sharon McPhail is the superintendent.

Back in 2014, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at University of Michigan was awarded a $100,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant for the creation of the Brightmoor Maker Space—a new maker space with the goal of fostering a “wider creative confidence” in the lives of the surrounding Brightmoor community. The project was inspired by the work begun by Bart Eddy, co-founder of Detroit Community Schools. The founding mission of Detroit Community Schools is to educate the whole child–head, heart and hands.

“I have been working with Bart and the school since 2009, and we wanted to extend the work we do in the school to the community,” said Stamps Associate Professor and Senior Counselor on Civic Engagement to the Provost Nick Tobier. “Both for the youth we work with to have a continued anchor in creative hands-on work after they graduate, and to share the joys of working together with more people.”

Detroit Community Schools and Stamps have been combining resources to repurpose the former Bagley Quad Shop (once a Ford Motor Company garage) into the Brightmoor Maker Space at the Detroit Community Schools–a community workshop for building skills and an incubator for new enterprise. The fundraising efforts of 2015 were a great success, and included a matching grant from Michigan Economic Development Corp.; more than $100,000 was raised in support of the project. Progress has been steady on renovations, and the space is slated to be open to the public by March of this year. The 3,200-square-foot open floor plan leverages the garage’s very high ceilings and plenty of outdoor space. According to Tobier, a few makers are already attached to the project, including Brightmoor Bikes and Trailers, DCH Apparel, Detroit Community Market Gardens and Brightmoor Woodworkers.

Help Build the Brightmoor Maker Space!
from UM Stamps School of Art & Design on Vimeo.

“We have two classes that have been running now for five years that feed directly into the space,” Tobier said. “My class, Change by Design, where many of the enterprises were incubated (including screenprinting and sneaker design), and Stephanie Rowden’s Sound and Story class, that has done audio work heard on NPR. These all complement and build the skills sets and ignite the makers to do more. We also have an artist/designer in the schools program, the Michele Schara residency, that will extend beyond Detroit Community Schools to the maker space, and we look forward to bringing more of our alums and their skills to share with Brightmoor Maker Space–currently Knight awardees Lyz Luidens and Carrie Morris.”

The space is poised to be a welcome addition to the multitude of new projects that have Brightmoor—one of Detroit’s most notoriously blighted neighborhoods—on the comeback. Tobier is currently going door to door and business to business in Brightmoor talking to people about what they make and what it means to them, in an effort to garner awareness and engagement in the space when it opens to the public. Between now and then, a forthcoming roster of soft opening activities, including screenprinting for Valentine’s Day, are in the planning stages.

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