Hundreds of students and faculty packed Blau Auditorium in Ann Arbor on Friday to learn about creative entrepreneurship in Detroit. In the front row sat a dozen Detroit artists, advocates and entrepreneurs who came to share their stories of innovation and collaboration.
"There's no new idea under the sun," Chazz Miller of Public Art Workz, who concluded the fast-paced, two-hour IdeaLab session donning his signature red beret and black leather jacket, told the crowd. "It's just up to us to put our own view on them."
Miller's view is that it all begins with our landscape. "In order to make change, one of the first things we have to change is the environment. We need to change hearts and minds in Detroit, and everything that grows is influenced by its environment."
Miller does this through creating public art projects in Brightmoor and beyond. You can read about his latest project, Papillion Effect here
Indeed, the physical city was a dominant theme throughout the session. Images of historic homes, public art projects and market sheds flashed on a double-screen behind presenters. Collectively, the photographs and videos showed a dynamic and diverse city fueled by grassroots, entrepreneurial efforts.
The IdeaLab presented by Model D Media concluded a two-day conference called "Revitalization & Business: Focus Detroit" sponsored by the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. The session followed keynote speakers William C. Ford, Jr. of Ford Motor Company and Anthony Earley of DTE Energy.
Presenters included Jerry Paffendorf and Mary Lorene Carter of LOVELAND and Imagination Station; Austin Black of City Living Detroit; Gina Reichert of Power House Productions; Randall Fogelman of Eastern Market Corporation; Matthew Naimi of Recycle Here; Amy Kaherl and Vanessa Miller of Detroit SOUP; Ken Agacinski of the MORE Program; Sean Mann of Let's Save Michigan; and Miller. Claire Nelson of Bureau of Urban Living opened the session and Paul Schutt of Issue Media Group shared the mission of Model D.
Besides just being super ambitious, interesting people, what makes all of the above genuinely cool is that they're solving problems and serving their communities everyday in creative new ways. They're not asking permission, they're not waiting for some windfall of capital. They're starting small, thinking big, and changing paradigms as they go.
Reichert reiterated this in her remarks: "Start small. Be specific. Do what you love. And connect with as many people as possible."
After the conference, Kaherl and Miller, along with friend Erin Ellis, headed to a local tattoo parlor to make their city love even more permanent. Now the three women wear the words "Detroit Adventure Society" on their arms.
"It's a reminder of shenanigans and good times we continue to have in the city," says Kaherl. "We want to always see Detroit as an adventure."Many thanks to Vanessa Miller for the photos