Launched!: Urban Innovation Exchange debut in review

From the beginning, a steady hum of excitement seemed to fill the two rooms at Seva, the restaurant that shares a building with the N’Namdi Art Gallery in Midtown.

The reason for the buzz was the launch of the Urban Innovation Exchange (UIX), a project dedicated to promoting and championing urban innovation in the city. Model D is joining media partners Detroit Free Press and Huffington Post and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to roll out UIX over the next three years. 

During a casual program that included food, drinks, music and mingling, over 200 guests took in brief project introductions by Issue Media Group co-founder Brian Boyle, Knight Foundation Detroit Program Director Rishi Jaitly, social entrepreneur Phil Cooley and others. 
The intros also put a spotlight on four Detroit innovators. 

Kyle Bartell, born, raised and educated in Detroit is working on a project called C Squared Park (C2 Park), at the Southwest intersection of Cass and Canfield.

"This project fosters the idea of promoting civic engagement and utilizing our idea of how we define public space here in Detroit," Bartell says. 

He envisions C2 Park as a spot that will encourage people to recreate, gather and relax in their community. Local residents have had an input by sharing their design suggestions for the park. 

Piper Carter introduced her close friend Halima Cassells, the director of Detroit Mural Factory (DMF).

"All of our murals are collaborative projects," Cassell says, "each addressing specific needs, and serve as a mechanism to empower the community."  

To date, about 15 murals have been completed in the city ranging from block-long "muralscapes" to creative "boardups."

Many Detroit-based artists support DMF, along with organizations like the HERU Organization5e gallery and ArtsCorps Detroit. DMF looks to expand this year by creating Detroit Mural Factory Gardens, a community garden in Detroit’s North End neighborhood. 
After spending four years away from Detroit, Jay Rayford returned to the city saying "I got a chance to see Detroit from the outside looking in and I got tired of hearing people say negative things. I decided I was going to represent the best of Detroit no matter where I went." Rayford’s sincere passion for Detroit led him to create Rep Your City, which he envisions will be the hub for everything happening in Detroit. In order to "Rep your city," Rayford believes more is required than simply wearing hats and jerseys representing local sports teams; it’s about what you do. 

"My only wish is that this bug spreads to many and we stand as the Joe Louis clinched fist in our downtown center and amplify the thousands of positive voices that represent change," Rayford says.  

Fittingly, the program ended by recognizing Chazz Miller, a man who epitomizes being a Detroit artist. Miller founded Detroit Art City, an organization that promotes public artwork. Miller has been the mentor of many, including Cassells.

"As a young teenager being raised in Detroit, I went to the DIA, saw Dutch paintings and was very inspired," says Miller. "My measure of success as an artist is to inspire; I have a desire to inspire."

The Urban Innovation Exchange is an initiative to showcase and advance Detroit's growing social innovation movement. Led by Issue Media Group with Data Driven DetroitThe Civic Commons and a coalition of media and community partners, UIX is made possible thanks to funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
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