Detroit does Grand Rapids: Activi-Tree is heading to ArtPrize, and it needs your help

Amid the dozens of sculptures and murals of Detroit's Lincoln Street Art Park stands an inconspicuous rectangular pod resembling the kind of portable office you might see on a construction site. But don't let its plain exterior fool you; the pod, known as the Activi-Tree, could be one of the coolest things to ever call the Lincoln Street Art Park home (and that includes a 69-foot fire-breathing metal dragon created by the art park's artist-in-residence Ryan Doyle).
The Activi-Tree is the latest project of Green Living Science, an education nonprofit that teaches Detroit kids about sustainability self-expression through arts-based activities. On its face, Activi-Tree is a shipping container decked out with a slew of reclaimed and reused materials. Its walls are insulated with shredded $100 bills (estimated at a value of approximately $1.5 million) that were taken out of circulation by the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Its floor is made of wood planks salvaged from the gymnasium of a closed Detroit school. Its benches and tables come from the now-defunct Tashmoo Biergarten. Its plywood walls were picked out of a dumpster after serving as the stage of the 2014 Eminem and Rhianna concert at Comerica Park. Its windows are made from bulletproof glass that was discarded after it had been used as part of the set for an Eminem music video.
"This is basically Eminem's garbage," laughs Matt Naimi, director of Recycle Here!, one of Green Living Science's partners in creating and programming the Activi-Tree.
Additionally, the Activi-Tree's interior is covered in artwork, including stencils by Detroit-artist Eno Laget, as well as prints of former front pages of the Detroit News containing headlines of some of the most significant world events to occur over that paper's long history.
But really, the Activi-Tree is much more than a cool space made from a hodgepodge of repurposed (celebrity) garbage and artwork – it's a space for sharing ideas and building relationships, all while promoting the three Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle). Painted on an interior wall, the phrase "share your candy" (one of Naimi's favorite sayings) aptly sums up what Activi-Tree is all about.
To date, hundreds of school kids have come through the space, where they've participated in workshops on things like stop-motion animation, stencil making, and mural painting – all of which utilized reclaimed materials from Recycle Here!. And later in September, scores of new people will get to join in the fun as Green Living Science takes the Activi-Tree to ArtPrize, an annual international art exhibition and competition in Grand Rapids.
Green Living Science is one of just 25 projects to be awarded a $2,000 seed grant by ArtPrize organizers. That money will help pay for the costs of transporting the Activi-Tree to Grand Rapids, where it will be on display and open to the public at Calder Plaza from Sept. 23-Oct. 11.
That's where you come in. Are you going to ArtPrize? Do you have a skill that you can teach someone? Want to lead a workshop on something you're passionate about? Want to hold a performance inside or on top of the Activi-Tree? Connect with the folks at Green Living Science and send them a proposal for how you plan to share your candy at ArtPrize, and they just might host you in the Activi-Tree. Write to them at or call them at 313-871-4000 ext. 3.
Simply want to connect with Grand Rapidians, Detroiters, and other people who will be at ArtPrize? Stop in the Activi-Tree any time during the festival.
(Oh, and where does the "tree" part of Activi-Tree come in, you might ask? How astute! A tree made of recycled materials will be added to the pod as a part of the second phase of Activi-Tree's development when it returns to Detroit from Grand Rapids. We'll keep you posted.)
To participate in the programming of Activi-Tree, contact Green Living Science at or call them at 313-871-4000 ext. 3.
Matthew Lewis is Model D's managing editor. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjlew.

Read more articles by Matthew Lewis.

Matthew Lewis is a writer and former managing editor of Model D. He's currently the communications officer for the New Economy Initiative. 
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