Detroit Design Festival Tries to Move Beyond Drawing Creatives

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The push to re-imagine Detroit as a national Mecca for creative entrepreneurs takes another leap  forward, starting September 21, with the new Detroit Design Festival, eight days and nights of crowd-sourcing ideas, talents and urban solutions.. The city has been making global headlines of late for its ability to draw young artists from all over the country and from every genre on the promise of cheap real estate and rich creative opportunity. This festival marks the first major showcase of creative Detroit and the potential local and relocating artists have to transform one of America’s anchor rust belt cities.


Both believers and critics agree Motown has accomplished step one; getting creatives to come. The more salient measures are starting to surface as well, factors such as funding for efforts like the festival and economic support for the ideas Detroit’s emerging artists are dreaming up.

Enter the Detroit Creative Corridor Center and its Creative Ventures Program, a business accelerator devoted to moving second-stage creative companies to sustainability. The program is being funded by a $500,000 grant from the New Economy Initiative, a consortium of 10 of the nation’s leading foundations. DC3, as it’s known locally, recently selected 17 second stage arts companies for a wide ranging menu of support, including premium space, strategic mentoring and investment counseling.  

“Detroit can be a leader in design, urban development, greenbelts and mobility,’’ says Matthew Clayson, director of The Detroit Creative Corridor Center. “We’re connecting the creative talent of Detroit and positioning them to help advance real solutions.’’

Chandra Moore, a 33-year-old architect from the San Francisco Bay area, is the founder of coG studio, one the 17 companies selected for creative support. Moore’s select the programs selection is helping to propel  her dream of using community design to combat urban despair. She says Detroit’s affordability and its growing network business resources have given her the space she needs to reimagine how urban communities can inspire youth through innovative uses of space.

"Space is a small percentage of what helps children thrive,'' says Moore, 33. "I may not be the teacher but I can create the space for the child to have a healthy and vibrant experience filled with love and passion. Change a child's environment and they will adapt and thrive.''

Since July, Moore, a former assistant professor of architecture for the University of Detroit Mercy, has been  managing coG studio full-time, with three employees. Moore has worked on projects as wide ranging as the design of a 34,000 square foot Therapeutic Wellness Center for The Saben Center in Los Angeles, to designing the St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis Tennessee, to a full service-design and construction administration of Detroit’s Riverwalk Pavilions.

"I know this is my purpose to help youth in urban communities thrive by design,’’ says Moore. “I’m grateful to be in a city where that kind creativity matter and is possible.’’

Watch a video talking about the festival: