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Detroit Design Festival 2013



By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen

The Detroit Design Festival begins next week with a variety of creative showcases that offer a new outlook on the future of the city. From Sept. 17 until the 22nd, venues throughout the city will host events spotlighting the work of Detroit-based designers.

“Design means something to everyone,” says Melinda Anderson, a coordinator for the festival working through the Detroit Creative Corridor Center. “Art is about creative expression, and design is more about function. So, how can design improve lives and how can design become useful to people? So, we define design as something functional, like graphic illustration, fashion, landscape, architecture — anything people can use to better themselves.”

Over 300 design professionals will be spotlighted during the 70 events of the festival, with a goal to affect the city’s economy, culture, education and entertainment. The event was organized through the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, and is sponsored by corporations including: Quicken Loans, Chrysler and Campbell Ewald. Most of the events are free and open to the public.

“We’ve created six paths to help people choose which design happenings to attend,” says Matthew Clayson of the Detroit Creative Cooridor Center in a press statement. “Community, consumer, practitioner, enthusiast, exploration and youth. This will take the festival to a whole new level for attendees, while it continues to provide an excellent platform for independent designers to connect with the community, buyers and each other.”

Highlights of the festival include the Detroit Design Festival kickoff party on Sept. 17 at the A. Alfred Taubman Center, the Connect.DRINK.SHARE.Solve networking event on Sept. 19 in the Compuware building lobby at 1048 Woodward Avenue, and Eastern Market After Dark, a Sept. 19 evening tour of over 30 art venues in Eastern Market.

Jakki Kirouac, a project coordinator for the festival, believes the Detroit Design Festival can help residents understand the way designers are helping transform the city.

“I hope that one day Detroit Design Festival touches a lot of people, appeals to a lot of different audiences, but we’re still getting awareness out there,” says Kirouac. “A lot of people still need to know what’s going on out there.”

Anderson says that one of the main goals of the festival is to engage youth in the future of design, with a number of events in the festival’s youth track featured.

“We want to inspire the future designers,” says Anderson. “It’s really a lot of great things coming together for young people.”

Franchesca Lamarre and Deja Jones are both seniors at Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies focusing on careers in fashion design, and are excited about Detroit’s future for designers.

“I think there’s a big artist movement going on in Detroit, where there’s a lot of people invading spaces and creating something out of it,” says Lamarre, “it’s giving a lot of opportunity for artists to get known for their art, and the appreciation is getting stronger.”

“I think that now art is getting appreciated more than it was ten years ago,” says Jones. “And people are accepting different types of art — it doesn’t have to be the straight line. It can be unique and different, and people still will accept it and appreciate it.”

Flaco Shalom, an artist and founder of the Untitled Bottega, an art gallery set to re-open on Sept. 21 with a gala event, carries this spirit of acceptance into his work. The Untitled Bottega over the past two years has become a favorite of young Detroit artists looking to enhance their creative talents with entrepreneurial skils.

“Detroit art is under new management,” says Flaco Shalom, “we’re not telling anybody no, we’re letting anybody showcase whatever they want to showcase.

I don’t care if you rap, do ballet, do paintings, you can showcase something that you’ve never had the opportunity to showcase ever before in your life.”

Anderson emphasizes that the festival is meant to reach out into the communities as a part of the complete redevelopment of the city, rather than just focusing on more popular areas like downtown, Midtown and Eastern Market.

For example, Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion on Livernois Avenue near 7 Mile Road will feature Light Up Livernois on Sept. 20, featuring art, shopping and entertainment, and the North End will feature a full day of culture and design on Sept. 21.

“Just from this cluster of designers, you start to have neighborhoods being strengthened,” says Anderson, “you have money being put into the community, and then you have all this beautiful work.”

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