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Resourced for Success: The Brightmoor Maker Space MEDC Check Presentation

On Monday, October 26, faculty and staff from the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan gathered with administration, staff, students, and alumni from the Detroit Community Schools at the site of the forthcoming Brightmoor Maker Space.

The occasion was a joyful one, as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) presented the partners with a check for $25,000 in support of the Brightmoor Maker Space at the Detroit Community Schools. Brightmoor residents, community partners, and donors also helped recognize the partnership between the two schools and the forthcoming maker space.

The event celebrated the Stamps School's successful crowdfunding campaign held on the Patronicity fundraising platform earlier in July. Through a partnership with Patronicity, the MEDC matches crowdfunding campaigns that qualify for its Public Spaces, Community Places program, like the maker space, and that reach their fundraising goal. Stamps exceeded its $25,000 goal, as 147 people stepped up to contribute $31,700, ensuring that the School would secure a $25,000 matching grant from the MEDC. In total, Stamps raised $56,700 for the maker space project.

The original catalyst for the Stamps School’s collaboration with Patronicity and the MEDC came in the fall 2014 when the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded the School a two-year, $100,000 Knight Arts Challenge matching gift to help launch the maker space. Stamps had one year to raise $50,000 for the first match. This challenge sparked a chain of philanthropy. By raising at least $50,000 through the combination of its Patronicity campaign and the resulting MEDC match, the Stamps School secured its first match from Knight Arts Challenge grant and ultimately netted more than $100,000 for the Brightmoor Maker Space at the Detroit Community Schools project.

Now, the Detroit Community Schools and Stamps will combine resources to transform the Bagley Quad Shop, an old Ford Motor Company garage, into the Brightmoor Maker Space at the Detroit Community Schools. Renovating the garage for entrepreneurial, hands-on programming has been an active interest of DCS Co-Founder Bart Eddy for some time. He has attracted support for this endeavor from the Ford Motor Company Fund and UAW-Ford, among other community partners like the Community Connections Grant Program, while incorporating youth employment opportunities into four fledgling businesses known as the Brightmoor Woodworkers, Brightmoor Bikes and Trikes, DCH Apparel and Detroit Community Market Garden. The financial support the funders have provided will play a crucial role in the renovation of the garage—underscoring that the maker space is the result of a shared vision held by multiple partners. Scheduled to open in Winter 2016, the maker space will be a resource-rich incubator for creative skill development and entrepreneurial initiatives. The space will serve Detroit Community School students and alumni and the Brightmoor neighborhood at large.


“MEDC is proud of the opportunities provided to students and neighbors through the Brightmoor Maker Space,” said Katharine Czarnecki, Director of Community Development at MEDC. “The community will have opportunities to grow, to use creative ideas for problem solving, and to work together to build the next great Detroit innovations.”

The Stamps School’s partnership with Detroit Community Schools began in 2009 through the Detroit Collaborations program at Stamps, organized by Nick Tobier, Detroit Faculty Engagement Coordinator. A K-12 charter school system in Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood, Detroit Community Schools has been a strong Detroit Collaborations partner. In addition to the many interactions that Stamps and DCS students have had since 2009, the DCS students have also been investing their time in maker activity and small enterprises through the Entrepreneurship in Action programs, now known as Brightmoor Makers, at DCS, as well. These extensive, year round skill building and small enterprise development opportunities have given DCS youth new experiences and perspectives that they have taken with them into their post-DCS lives. The legacy of maker activity at the DCS is strong and poised to expand with the opening of the Brightmoor Maker Space at the Detroit Community Schools.

As Sharon McPhail, Superintendent of Detroit Community Schools said, “It's been a long road to get to this place and that's why I think it's important to remember: there are so many things that involve community, that are about community. The Brightmoor Maker Space at the Detroit Community Schools is going to make a difference in the lives of the children here and in the lives of many members of this neighborhood.”

Both Tobier and Guna Nadarajan, Dean of the Stamps School of Art & Design, commended McPhail for her enthusiastic support of integrating maker culture into the Brightmoor neighborhood. “Sharon has leveraged her connections, her administrative expertise, and her enthusiasm to help us grow this project into an opportunity for both students and community members,” said Nick Tobier. “She has been an unbelievable partner in this.”


In addition to deep community projects like the Brightmoor Maker Space, the Stamps School's Detroit Collaborations oversees a series of Stamps courses entitled Detroit Connections. Initiated in 1998 by Stamps Professor Janie Paul, Detroit Connections courses provide opportunities for Stamps students and faculty work with Detroit partner schools to collaborate on ongoing, weekly art workshops and design projects. Recent courses include Professor Hannah Smotrich's Design Collaborations course and Professor Stephanie Rowden's Sound and Story course, now in it's third successful year at DCS. In addition to serving a community function, the Brightmoor Maker Space will provide new curricular opportunities for the Detroit Connections program and its participants.

“The Stamps School of Art & Design is committed to the idea of the socially engaged artist and designer,” said Nadarajan. “We have been working with the Brightmoor neighborhood for many years and these fundraising efforts ensure that the commitment is sustainable, supporting community development for generations to come. At Stamps, we fundamentally believe in the power of making. We believe that creative practice can transform you as a person and that creativity makes for a better life.”

Brianna McGee is a Detroit Community High School senior and an active participant in Brightmoor's maker offerings through Detroit Connections. Described by Tobier as “one of our brightest artists,” Brianna took the stage at the check presentation gathering on October 26 to share how the program has impacted her life:

“I remember that I didn't take my drawings seriously,” Brianna said. “And then I met Nick Tobier. He looked at my sketches and saw something that I was missing. He invited me to the Stamps summer camp at U-M. When I say that experience changed my life, it honestly did. It changed my career path. It made me feel as if I had a really bright future. This was something I could do well. Thank you for giving me an opportunity. This maker space will give other kids an opportunity to be something else, not to be a stereotype.”

All photos by Nicholas Williams.