All Articles
All Articles

Culture Lab Detroit

A forum for design invigoration within a city alive with creative thinking

by David Graver
on 28 April 2014

Detroit has more than the makings of a contemporary cultural capital; the city holds a rich history as a pioneer in music and industrial innovation. But there's no shortage of current programs that continue to encourage artists to foster, evolve and perpetuate its legacy. One of America's best MFA curriculums, Cranbrook, exists just a few miles north of downtown and inspires people with vibrant passions to create and share within the arts and sciences. And in its second year, Culture Lab Detroit—a platform involving talks, exhibitions, salon dinners and performances—bolsters this with a unifying voice and an influx of ideas. Founder Jane Schulak worked in collaboration with the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (known as DC3) and Detroit College for Creative Studies to bring to life a platform for conversation and planting the early seeds of collaboration. Not only does the effort immediately and directly impact the community, it will do so for years to come.

This year's centerpiece, a panel dubbed "Art Interventions," brought together a diverse group of globally acclaimed talent on one stage. Moderator David Stark—a NYC production and events designer whose transformative, experiential scenes drape wonder within preexisting spaces—sat with architect David Adjaye, Brazilian furniture designers the Campana Brothers and large-scale artist Theaster Gates. Schulak refers to the speakers as a dream team—a list of individuals she wanted from the beginning of this second installment, many of whom she cold-called with a request to participate.

So many creators work so hard here. It's important to take time to feel it.

That same excitable, DIY spirit is what led to Culture Lab's realization last year, after more than two years of research. "So many creators work so hard here. It's important to take time to feel it," Schulak shares with CH. "The idea of this platform was new, but who I had was very obvious," she notes of her experimental concept. With the draw of these outside anchors, Schulak could encourage dialog within the city borders, while also catching the national eye. After the speakers were confirmed, Schulak basically went door-to-door inviting people—spreading the word and letting local designers and makers know their voices could be heard as well.

CultureLabDetroitDavidAdjaye1.jpg CultureLabDetroitDavidAdjaye2.jpg

This year, the forum showed tremendous growth. And, as the panel commenced to a packed audience, Gates struck the best point. The individuals on stage were there to inspire and ideate, but the main focus is on Detroit's creative community—urban farmers, installation artists and more. Gates asked the audience to look among themselves and recognize the spirit and its products. He also requested that those outside of Detroit take note of the triumphs always occurring within the city.


Following this conversation, the artists unfurled work in many ways across the city: Adjaye hosted an exhibition of his furniture collection for Knoll and the Campana Brothers showcased a retrospective at RE:View Gallery. Stark designed the setting for a salon dinner, at which artists and politicians and designers would mix and mingle. Throughout, there was an open dialogue between speakers and the audience and community members—all sharing insights and ideas.

"We see places here that are the same as Sao Paolo [with] the attitudes toward reconstruction with elements from the past," Fernando Campana says. "To see a very glorious city, to see the decadence, those things tease me."


Last year's Culture Lab saw Stark embark on a collaboration with the celebrated team at Pewabic Pottery, and hopefully this year's event will inspire like-minded, sensational projects. Gates says, "Art [can be used] as design for social change. The work is happening in Detroit; when outside artists come to tour, we are already engaged. The same root of creative ingenuity is already flowing here."

"It's important for us to exchange ideas, otherwise we will be a cultural prison," Gates pinpoints. As much as Culture Lab is a successful celebration of the city, it is also an acceptance that so much more can be done—together.

Photography by Ara Howrani, Courtesy of Culture Lab Detroit, Campana Brothers images courtesy of RE:View Gallery

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology
Loading More...