Re:publica Detroit event to explore access across arts, culture, mobility, new economy, and more

Detroit is partnering with friends in Berlin on more than a shared love of techno. This weekend, Sept. 27-28, community-driven planners in both cities are collaborating on hosting Re:publica Detroit, a transatlantic conversation around a growing digital future.

The focus is on access and who receives it in regard to creative expression, economic opportunity, and urban mobility in the age of digitalization.

Detroit’s no stranger to the conversation around access. The idea is central to the city’s growing economy, its ever-changing landscapes, and its increased opportunity for entrepreneurship, innovation, and talent.

Growth in these areas has for sometime spurred longtime Detroiters to ask, “Who is it for?” “Who does this include?”

Lauren Rossi, co-curator of the arts and culture track, says her team has created programming based on opening up conversation about what it looks like for Detroiters to have access to urban culture in their own city.

Lauren Rossi is co-curator of the arts and culture track at Re:publica Detroit.

“Even though things are free and open to the public,” she says, “not everybody feels like those spaces are for them.”

Re:publica Detroit, part of the Sequencer Tour, is based on the annual event that attracts thousands to Berlin every year, and is funded by the German government through its year-long celebration of a German-American friendship.

It invites residents, local artists, innovators, economic developers, community activists, and more to join communities across the globe in examining questions about access as they pertain to here, and as they may relate to other places.

Through paneled talks, workshops, performances, and exhibitions, the three main areas of focus to be addressed are access to “mobility and urban space, to “arts and culture," and to “work and the new economy.” Many activists and community leaders from the city are among the featured speakers, including Lauren Hood (who is delivering a keynote on placekeeping), Malik Yakini, jessica Care moore, Monica Lewis-Patrick, and more.

Rossi and her team are also thinking about youth and their access to opportunities in arts and culture. Specifically, that kids in Detroit don’t have a lot of access to art programming in schools.

“To me, it's inherent that people should understand the power of the arts,” she says,” and the impact that it has on kids in terms of being able to think creatively and to use their hands to make things.

“I think it impacts young people on so many different levels that it seems crazy to me that it would be something that's neglected, or a way that the youth in Detroit are neglected.”

The studio manager at Tiff Massey Studios in Detroit, Rossi is co-curating the arts and culture track with Massey, an interdisciplinary artist from the city who specializes in metalsmithing, using 1980s hip-hop culture as a major source of inspiration for her jewelry.

Jessica Robinson, co-curator of mobility for Re:publica, says the way organizers from Germany have brought many locals in as co-curators has also allowed other people into the conversation that would not have been on the radar if the conference was planned from afar.

“Because of that,” she says, “there are voices in the discussion that even in our narrative, as Detroiters, about the city, sometimes aren’t represented.”

Re:publica “is a rare opportunity to have this dialogue we think is true,” Rossi says, “but also within an international event, putting Detroit in an international context. I think that's the one thing that truly makes this event unique and important for people from Detroit to show up and to engage in.”

Re:publica will be held at Tangent Gallery, 715 E. Milwaukee Ave. in Detroit, Friday and Saturday and is free and open to guests throughout the two days, but registration is required. Sign up here.
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Read more articles by Sarah Williams.

Sarah Williams is a freelance writer and photojournalist based in metro Detroit. Her work focuses on individuals and nonprofit organizations investing in their communities through arts and culture, holistic healthcare, education and neighborhood revitalization. Follow her on Instagram @sarahwilliamstoryteller