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August 11, 2011
detroit art incubator brings ideas to market
DETROIT ART INCUBATOR BRINGS IDEAS TO MARKET
THURSDAY AUGUST 11th, 2011
GREGARIOUS GLUE: STEEL, PORCELAIN, PLEXY GLASS, ZIPTIES AND STRING BY SCOTT BERELS
DETROIT ART INCUBATOR BRINGS IDEAS TO MARKET
THURSDAY AUGUST 11th, 2011
Without offices or walls, artists can talk to each other, feed off of one another's creativity and watch multiple ideas move from conception to inception. But without marketing or business planning, making a true product from this freewheeling creativity can be extraordinarily difficult.
The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) is attempting to help artists do what they do best-create-while eliminating the barriers they often face when trying to get their ideas to market. The DC3 is a 2,500-square-foot arts incubator that officially opened last month. It houses 13 creative companies and offers virtual business and mentoring programs to creative businesses operating outside of the incubator.
"The concept was to create a one-stop shop for the creative economy in Detroit," says DC3 Associate Director Bethany Betzler. "We wanted a public space so they could engage with resources, and wanted a business strategy to make the case that a creative industry could expand or relocate in Detroit."
Business Leaders for Michigan and the College for Creative Studies partnered to create the DC3, which is part of the Road to Renaissance initiatives identified in 2006 to help grow the southeastern Michigan economy. The DC3 was launched with $500,000 in funding from the state's New Economy Initiative. Its new Creative Ventures Acceleration Program gives eligible businesses access to business services and mentorship programs.
The DC3 is located in the redeveloped Argonaut building, a 1930's era art deco style building formerly owned by General Motors, and houses creative businesses such as First Element Entertainment, Left Bank Creative and The People of Detroit. The open floor plan gives artists the flexibility to share as they create. Many of the artists also have studios or production facilities that are better suited to accommodate the technical aspects of creation outside of the DC3.
"It was designed with collaborative work in mind," Betzler says. "Initially the design included private cubicles and independent workspace but we took a look at that plan and decided the whole point of connectivity and getting the creative community to work more collaboratively should include an open space."
Creatives are often used to working alone. Those in the DC3 use the physical space to bounce ideas off other creatives. Those working virtually use it to network, taking advantage of the many business courses and networking events the DC3 hosts to share ideas and learn about best business practices. Many of the participants say access to DC3 resources encouraged them to stay and build their businesses in Detroit.
Emily Thornhill, owner of the clothing company Homeslice and participant in DC3's virtual acceleration program, was going to head to New York after high school to pursue a career in design.
"I decided Detroit would be a trailblazing experience which would be more exciting for me than working as a peon in New York for years," Thornhill says. "I wanted to be my own boss but thought I could do that more easily here. There's a huge industry in New York and you can easily get lost in the crowd."
Not long after school, Thornhill started making and selling clothes in Ferndale. Thornhill and her business partner parted ways last year with Thornhill pursuing her own ecological women's clothing line. Though she's owned a business before, Thornhill is using the DC3 virtual business program to develop a long-term marketing plan so she can once again open a brick-and-mortar operation as well as a production facility, both which she hopes will create jobs.
"I'm not the best businesswoman in the world," Thornhill says. "I went to school for art. I could use all of the help I can get. I know my weaknesses and I think [the DC3] can guide me in the right direction."
The mentoring program and business seminars Thornhill attends are part of a one-year pilot program designed to give artists the essential tools they need to market their businesses, manage their finances and turn their art into profit. This year, in-resident businesses and virtual businesses do not have to pay to participate in DC3 mentoring activities. Instead, they're being asked to provide program feedback. The financing model will likely change in the future, though Betzler says she doesn't know what it will look like.
"I think this is really addressing the issue of brain drain," Betzler says of the program. "We want to talk about what strategies will keep the young and talented here. In the creativity industry you don't have to go to New York or L.A. or abroad. It's not that we don't have the talent here. It's the opposite. We just lack the infrastructure to support it."
Mashawnta Armstrong is the publisher of MASH, a fashion/architecture/culture/lifestyle publication she conceptualized while studying architecture and design at the University of Michigan. Armstrong launched the quarterly publication in March and has been working with DC3 supported mentors and business owners to develop her advertising and distribution plan. She hopes it will be a revenue-generating enterprise in the next year or so.
"Lots of artists don't know how to market themselves so that's a really important aspect of it," Armstrong says. "What I lacked was the business sense and that's going to get me to become a vital part of Detroit. We want to establish that we're here to stay and this is going to help with that."
The artists are a positive voice for the city. The first issue of MASH focuses on Detroit and the beauty of the city, but it also addresses the negative perceptions outsiders have of the region. Other DC3 businesses like Detroit Lives! primarily are focused on reshaping the city's image.
Aside from helping creative businesses succeed and expand, the DC3 connects artists, which further fuels economic development. For example, several photographers and freelancers who volunteered to work on MASH are now cashing in on paying gigs they encountered through the MASH connection.
"They're starting to get recognized by other publications so it's putting other young creatives on the map," Armstrong says.
The DC3 has an annual artist outreach conference and design festival to connect regional artists. The first conference was hosted in Detroit in April. The Detroit Design Festival, presented by the DC3, is scheduled for September 21-28.
To qualify for DC3 assistance, businesses must apply
ENDANGERED SPECIES: MICHIGAN WOODWORKER HONORS THE CRAFTSMEN OF THE PAST
THURSDAY AUGUST 11th, 2011
With today's mass production of furniture and the increasing popularity of "big box" stores, quality craftsmanship seems to be a lost art. In an effort to pay tribute to the craftsmen of the past, Michigan's Fred Rehak creates one-of-a-kind furniture using recycled machinery and wood from the late 1800s-1900s - a time when artisan and engineer were one in the same.
Rehak's interest in his craft began more than 20 years ago. A longtime UAW member from Saginaw, he spent much of his free time on his woodworking business, traveling to various art fairs to showcase and sell his creations, which at the time were mostly game boards and small, ornate cabinetry. After a few years, Rehak realized that the woodworking machines he was using were not suitable for some of his more technical work, so he started shopping around for used, industrial-grade machinery. Other woodworkers and artists became interested in his machines, which ultimately led to an amazing business opportunity. Rehak began scouring the Internet, for used woodworking equipment, which he then sold to other craftsmen. Eventually, the business became so successful that Rehak left his longtime career at an automobile factory to focus on his business full time. He started dealing with bigger, more elaborate machines and developed a large clientele from all over the country.
"As I became more involved in the business, I got to really know the different machines," said Rehak. "The more I learned about the industrial machinery, the more I was able to fulfill my clients' needs. I introduced them to more exotic machines that allowed them to become more efficient in their own production. In doing that, I started visiting a lot of the shops and meeting people who were extremely skilled in their crafts, including a world renowned guitar maker from Michigan, Bryan Galloup, and an award-winning cello maker, Raymond Schryer. I was able to provide these individuals with the knowledge of the machinery and at the same time, I was able to pick their brains about the different techniques they used. I absorbed these skills to use someday."
As time went on, Rehak began to scale back his machine business to pursue his interest of furniture making. Today, his primary focus is to combine recycled machinery from the late 1800s to 1900s with woodworking to create one-of-a-kind pieces. This is referred to as his Techne Line of furniture - techne, from ancient Greece, meaning the mechanical arts. He visits old furniture factories around the country and finds old, non-working machines, some which have been sitting in storage for more than 50 years, and repurposes them.
"I am interested in machinery from this time period because of the incredible design sensibility," explained Rehak. "Back then, craftsmen designed machines that were not only functional, but beautiful, and I really want to preserve and honor that work. I look at the shape and the form of the piece I am working with and I try to complement that in my woodworking. I do a lot of research on each piece of equipment, and sometimes I will make a machine into a functional piece of furniture while showcasing how the machine once worked when it was in service."
Rehak moved to Suttons Bay in northern Michigan 12 years ago, after vacationing in the area for more than 20 years.
"I am fortunate enough to be able to live and work in my vacation spot," said Rehak. "Geography is very inspirational to any artist and you can definitely find a lot of inspiration here - the mist rolling off the lake, the beaches, the light. There is also a very strong art community up here and a lot of support for local artists."
Rehak works on his unique pieces in his shop in a 26,000 square-foot building he purchased with a friend and fellow woodworker. The two saw great potential in the old fruit processing plant and now the building is home to not only Rehak, but several other artists including a boat builder, a high-end custom motorcycle builder, and a boutique clothing manufacturer.
In addition to the work space, Rehak's relationships with area artists also led to another great business opportunity. In 2010, he and nine other furniture makers and sculptors got together to lease a vacant building in downtown Traverse City. This building is now the site of the Artisan Design Network, a gallery and network of Michigan artists and craftspeople. As the gallery received more exposure, word got around and other area painters and photographers started to show interest, and now, the network has grown to include 40 members.
Besides his business endeavors, Rehak also enjoys taking part in the local community and believes it is very important to give back. During the 2011 Traverse City Film Festival, Rehak donated 10 percent of his sales to a local women's shelter. He also complimented the festival's theme of honoring labor by displaying one of his most inspirational pieces in the gallery - "Endangered Species".
"I made the piece about a year and a half ago," said Rehak. "It was created out of an old band saw wheel and includes line drawings of blue collar workers - welders, woodworkers, etc. I really found it an amazing piece to work on. It allowed me to honor a group of people that I feel truly built this country. "
Rehak's work is on display at the Artisan Design Network.
THE HIVE IN BATTLE CREEK
THURSDAY AUGUST 11th, 2011
Jeremy Andrews was mesmerized by a book called Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. Reading this book provided Andrews valuable inspiration and insights on swarm mentality and how he might apply it to his work life: creative community building.
Swarm mentality found in nature relies on simple creatures, like birds in a flock or bees in a hive doing their own things, to act collectively to address complex issues. Think of bees buzzing in and out of the hive performing their own functions and, almost by accident, doing the complex work of pollinating plants and bringing back nectar for honey to the hive; or birds in a flock navigating their way to their winter home.
Andrews' experiences in co-operative work and co-operative living reinforced his interest in the swarm mentality. He worked at a popular East Lansing food co-op, ELFCO, and lived in one of the area's few living co-ops. These experiences provided the perfect backdrop for the work he would do in his hometown, Battle Creek.
Andrews lived in France for a while, then moved to East Lansing to be the cheese buyer for ELFCO. He then moved on to Portland, Oregon where he confessed that he was chasing "cool." Along the way, he decided to move back to his hometown of Battle Creek-a place that he thought was decidedly "un-cool." It was time to make home cool.
In an attempt to raise the cool factor in Battle Creek, Andrews and his friends started having theme parties around town, usually for a good cause. In 2007, for his 30th birthday, the party theme was Moustache and Cleavage. The party was a hit and a year later, after much discussion, many that had attended the Moustache and Cleavage party started a social club called Battle Creek Metropolitan Area Moustache Society (BCMAMS), a kind of social fraternity/sorority for guys and girls. The aim of BCMAMS was to formalize the fund-raising functions and set the group's attentions to creating some larger scale events, like the major concert event called Leilapalooza, which recently happened at Battle Creek's Leila Arboretum.
During this time, to pay the bills, Andrews was a real estate investor, using his skills as a rehabber to buy, fix-up and sell properties. After the real estate market crashed, Andrews turned those skills to help a local nonprofit called Creating Change. The nonprofit helped individuals learn how to do basic home repairs and Andrews learned more about community organizing. From that experience, Andrews went on to a job with a community foundation doing grant outreach. While doing some community outreach in the Calhoun Street area, Andrews spied a vacant building owned by Neighborhood Inc. The vision was to use the building as a satellite for lots of different community organizations. By December of 2010 the building was acquired and The Hive was formed.
The Hive is described by Andrews as a neighborhood cooperative and collective utilizing grassroots organization, shared resources, and the creativity of its membership to enhance the community of Battle Creek. Picture a meeting space, a space for collaboration, bees buzzing in and out.
Like a swarm where there are no official leaders, there are several member groups that make up The Hive partnership including: JONAH (Joint-Religious Organizing Network for Action & Hope), Sprout Urban Farms, BC Tool Library, BCMAMS, Buy Local Battle Creek, Neighborhoods, Inc., Creating Change, and various other small civic groups with a penchant for social change and community engagement.
Now the full-time Executive Director of Sprout Urban Farms, also operating out of The Hive, Jeremy Andrews is bringing many past skills together-co-ops, careers in food, community organizing, grants outreach, and parties for a cause. Thanks in part to his idea, The Hive is having a positive effect on Battle Creek.
The HIVE at Work
Gardens, Food, and Art. Through a grant program from the Fair Food Network for urban gardening, Sprout Urban Farms, is creating economic impact through youth, community gardens, and art installations. Young people ages 16-23 are being hired as interns to work 24 hours a week on the community gardens-learning about growing food, marketing and preparing food, encouraging entrepreneurship, and understanding the opportunity to make a living off of food in Battle Creek. Part of the grant included some funds for advertising directed to materials that would do double duty-create signage for the gardens and creative art installations in the gardens for the benefit of the community.
Community Mural Project. Members of The Hive created a much-needed improvement to the storefront of the Krickett's Book Shop in the Calhoun neighborhood, just down the street from The Hive. Book store owner, John Kerry (aka Mayor of Calhouney Town), describes the transformation of the storefront as impressive, not only because of the outcome, but for the way that it came together by the community volunteers.
Emergency Community Response. Recent storms over the Memorial Day weekend provided another opportunity for The Hive to get creative. A resident collaborative came together as a first responder group to help two neighborhoods, Post Addition and Old Lakeview, get the immediate help that they needed during the aftermath of the storm and power outages-busy bees doing the work of community.
Concerts for a Cause. On July 30th, the first Leilapalooza was held, drawing 3,000-4,000 visitors to the Leila Arboretum to experience 32 bands perform, enjoy the Arboretum surroundings, consume food and beverages, and experience other community displays like the new roller derby team display. Funded through $12,000 in grants, it is estimated that the event drew in approximately $15,000 in revenue for its first year event. Plans are to set aside some money for next year's event and the remainder to be divided between two nonprofits, Leila Arboretum and Kingman Museum. This first-time event provided good exposure to two community assets, the Leila Arboretum and the Kingman Museum, and the opportunity for 32 local/regional bands to perform. It was the first time an event of this kind happened at the nature center and in Battle Creek.
There is a sign at the Leila Arboretum that says 'Something's Growing Here' - a perfect description of the work of The Hive Neighborhood Resource Co-Op in Battle Creek.
The Hive Neighborhood Resource Co-Op is located at 104 Calhoun Street in Battle Creek. To reach Jeremy Andrews, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a buzz 269-832-0777
LOCAL TALENT. LOCAL SWEAT. MICHAEL PAVONA AND DESTINATION: 1111
MARY KATHERINE QUASARANO
THURSDAY AUGUST 11th, 2011
Michael Pavona, a Grand Rapids artist and innovator, is also the developer and co-founder of Destination: 1111 -a three-day art event in the warehouse district of the city's southwest side. Pavona was led to the industrial building (a former La-Z-Boy factory) at 1111 Godfrey for studio space and Destination: 1111 was born two years later. Through coming to know and share the work of neighboring artists in the building, Pavona discovered that he was sharing space with several artists that like himself had been juried to exhibit at the Muskegon Museum of Art. In the first year of the event, the work of Pavona and four other artists was featured to four hundred visitors. The event has grown over the past seven years, and in 2010 it featured the work of over one hundred visual, musical, and literary artists from across the country. The event now receives support and sponsorship from local businesses, and this past year, more than a thousand visitors came. Destination: 1111 is appropriately billed as the event featuring "Local Talent - Local Sweat."
The success of the event, and working as an artist, is deeply connected to Pavona's belief in the importance of balance. His life as an artist is figuratively balanced by a set of conjoined twins whose names are Creativity and Practicality. Like all conjoined twins, Creativity and Practicality have lives and gifts of their own, but when an attempt is made to separate the two, one invariably cannot survive. Each is dependent upon the other for a full and balanced life. Pavona nurtures Creativity by pursuing his art and through coordinating and promoting Destination: 1111. He gives Practicality the attention it deserves through work with autistic young men at his day job at the Lincoln Campus. "I want my artistic legacy to be the achievement of balance in life." He has great affection and respect for the young men he serves adding, "We're all miracles."
Pavona's artistic journey has been distinctly shaped by the people of two regions of Michigan. He credits being raised in the Okemos/East Lansing area, close to Michigan State University, as an enormous part of his formation as a youthful explorer. "The area provided a playground for me to grow, explore and develop. Freedom to explore is the basis for all visual, performing and musical artists." He finds artistic inspiration everywhere and in everything. Pavona is proud to be an MSU alumnus, and a picture of football Coach Mark Dantonio adorns the refrigerator in his studio space. "I am inspired by anyone who leads with talent and passion and that includes coaches."
When Pavona moved to the Grand Rapids area fourteen years ago, his art and world-view deepened. "Working for exposure sends a young artist out into the world, but it is not sustainable in the long term. When I moved to Grand Rapids, my creative calling blended with business. I was motivated by the community's strong work ethic and 'can-do' spirit. I now believe that if you work hard, you will be rewarded."
Events like Destination: 1111 are the best blend of creativity, business and “can-do” spirit. The art and business community’s efforts on a small-scale lay a strong foundation for large-scale art events like ArtPrize to stand on. A powerful synergy is created when three forces come together: a foundation built by a talented and committed local art community, a geographic region with vision, and the generosity of a major benefactor who supports and encourages both.
Destination: 1111 is sitting out 2011 in order to reflect on and refine its mission and re-group for the future. For the past seven years, its innovation has provided a showcase event for local artists, along with ways and means for businesses to engage with art. Destination: 1111 will return, and in the meantime, Michael Pavona will continue to create and innovate, with Creativity and Practicality at his side, and seeking balance in all things.
If you would like to make a studio appointment with Pavona, or leave a message, you can reach him online at email@example.com or by phone: 616.581.0491. Catch him in Lansing as a judge for Art Attack on September 24.