Art & Design to launch new maker space in Detroit neighborhood


Students and faculty at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design will work with a neighborhood alliance in Detroit to launch an incubator for creative enterprises and a community space for developing skills.

The Stamps School is using a $100,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge, which funds ideas that engage and enrich Detroit through the arts.

Working with the Brightmoor Alliance and Detroit Community Schools, the Stamps School will repurpose an underused property to launch the Brightmoor Maker Space.

The Maker Space will nurture creative engagement in the area, offering art and design workshops from prototyping and 3-D printing, to hands on work in wood, to entrepreneurship programming, and more. The Maker Space will also include locally driven entrepreneurial initiatives.

Neil Zemba (BFA ’13) directs a shoe design workshop for Detroit high school students. (Photo courtesy of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design)

The Stamps School is committed to partnering with local organizations to help nurture the city’s revitalization efforts through creative programming.

It has been working with partners in the Brightmoor area since 2010, providing art and design programs in collaboration with the K-12 charter district Detroit Community Schools, and forming partnerships with The Brightmoor Alliance and Neighbors Building Brightmoor, organizations dedicated to creating a sustainable neighborhood after years of decline in population and businesses. 

“This space will further the school’s continuing efforts to be part of the reimagining of Detroit that is underway all across the city,” said Gunalan Nadarajan, dean of the Stamps School.

In addition to new programming, the Maker Space will allow for the augmentation of the Stamps School’s existing neighborhood programs, particularly its youth-led enterprises in screen printing and furniture design, among others. It will also be a catalyst for new workshops in skill building and provide a community center for public maker events, such as an annual hackathon.

Stamps will also utilize Re: Tool-Kit for Detroit, a maker resource jointly created by faculty at the School of Art & Design and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, to engage Detroit businesses in programming at the center.

“In the Detroit Future City plan that was drafted in 2013, Brightmoor was designated as a zone for innovative production,” said Nick Tobier, associate professor of art, and Detroit faculty engagement coordinator at Stamps.

Emma Berger (BFA ’13) works with a Detroit Community High School student on a new student-run silk screening enterprise. (Photo courtesy of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design)

“There are a number of groups and residents who have undertaken a range of projects to reinvigorate the area, including market gardens, innovative repurposing of vacant and underutilized land, vacant houses turned into outdoor amphitheaters. There is a spirit of regeneration in the neighborhood. We want to help to support and extend those efforts.”

“The cities that are the most vibrant are those where every person considers themselves a creative being. The Brightmoor Maker Space will forward that idea by creating a neighborhood space for art and innovation,” said Dennis Scholl, vice president for arts at the Knight Foundation.

“Since 2010, we have seen our partnership with the University of Michigan grow through our classes with the Stamps School of Art & Design,” said Detroit Community Schools Superintendent Sharon McPhail.

“Our students have teamed up with the Stamps School faculty and students to launch great ideas, from a silkscreen and design business that has been running now for two years, to student audio work for radio and our recent collaboration with 3-D printing.

“We believe that sharing these ideas with a community that is filled with innovators and with skilled tradespeople will give our students and staff the center they need to create an innovative future.

“With hands-on skills, the design and entrepreneurial training offered by U-M, our Maker Space will complement the programs at our school. This will enable us to meet the challenge of creating a pipeline to the trades, and connecting our curriculum to larger networks. We whole-heartedly support this project.”

The Brightmoor Maker Space will be a sustainable place that nurtures entrepreneurship, offers making skills, and fosters community engagement, allowing Brightmoor to extend its position as one of Detroit’s enterprising neighborhoods.


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