By ELIZABETH CLARK
DEARBORN — After its first years of providing artists and their families with affordable housing and studio space, the next phase of City Hall Artspace Lofts is about to take shape.
The three-building campus was designed as a mixed-use arts center that showcases the region’s reputation as a center of innovation and creativity.
The City Hall and West Annex renovations were completed in 2016, and now feature more than 50 units of live/work space for artists and their families.
“We have 100 percent of the units leased with musicians, performers, visual artists, clothing designers, arts administrators, and other creative entrepreneurs, as well as their families,” says Dana Mattice, grants writer and communications specialist for Artspace.
The third and final building to be completed, the Connector building, will provide a creative hub with commercial space for artists and businesses, and nonprofit and cultural organizations.
The East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority has moved its office to the Connector, and the Arab American National Museum has set up an artist residency space there as well.
Additionally, the Connector will be home to the Arts and Tech Learning Lab, a creative space that will be used by both residents and students in Pockets of Perception, the Dearborn Community Foundation’s youth initiative that empowers students to design and implement a public art project.
“The Dearborn project is rather unique among Artspace projects,” Dearborn Economic and Community Development Director Barry Murray says. “The 25,000 square feet of commercial space located in the former Concourse area was first developed as a connector between the historic City Hall and Police Headquarters buildings. So Artspace has designated this space as the “Connector” reflective of its role at the campus and the opportunities to connect artists with the larger Dearborn community.”
“The lab will appeal to creatives young and old with lively colors and a bold ‘accent’ wall,” Matisse says. “It will be filled with equipment such as computers and software, a smart television, as well as desks to work, which can be moved around and reconfigured.”
Ralph Parus is looking forward to using the lab and seeing the Connector open for business.
“I have been looking forward to the development of the Connector building since I have moved in,” he says. “This development will mean more community involvement.”
Parus was the very first resident of the City Hall Artspace Lofts when he moved in in January 2016.
“About three years before I moved in I searched the Internet for live/work spaces in Detroit or anywhere in Michigan,” Parus says. “I found the Artspace website, learned that they were building a campus in Dearborn and followed the development of the City Hall site. After attending a few information sessions I applied right after Artspace started accepting applications.”
Growing up on the east side of Detroit, Parus first found a love for art when his mother showed him an article about Vincent Van Gogh in an issue of LIFE magazine.
“Ever since then, I became very interested in how anything was created, especially if it was created by hand,” Parus says.
That interest turned into metal and jewelry work, using a variety of metals. These days, his preferred metal is steel.
“My industrial Detroit influences can be seen in my work, but with a contemporary flair,” he says. “Being born and raised in Detroit, I feel it is in my nature to build things out of metal.”
Progress on the most recent development has been made possible by grants from several partners. The Ovation Network and Comcast supplied the technology for the Arts and Tech Lab, and the Ford Motor Co. Fund built the lab. Funding from the William Davidson Foundation helped finish the buildout of the building.
“We felt that project provided a catalytic opportunity for Artspace and the resident artists and also meaningfully complemented the investments the city and others are making along Dearborn’s commercial corridors to build density, diversity of activity, and sense of place,” says George Jacobsen, senior program officer for the Davidson Foundation.
The foundation also wanted to find a way to honor Russell J. Ebeid, who worked 41 years with William Davidson at Guardian Industries, and whose family is a major contributor to the foundation. They unveiled a plaque honoring Ebeid during the kickoff event on Nov. 13, which unveiled the lab and thanked its partners.
“We are so thankful to the William Davidson Foundation, Ford Motor Company, and the Comcast-Ovation partnership for their support,” Mattice says.
Murray says that this hub will connect the community further with the larger metropolitan Detroit area, to such places as Midtown and Downtown Detroit, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Wayne State University and the Center for Creative Studies, and other cultural attractions including the AANM, The Henry Ford and the Ford family estates.
“Artspace has created interest through other artists having an opportunity to live in east Dearborn via projects that expand urban density, walkability and apartment-loft living as envisioned in the City’s vision for the downtown districts,” Murray says. “The combined Dearborn and Detroit community will benefit from Artspace and the Connector as a destination for creativity and cultural programming that will have both local and regional interest.”
Murray expects that the completion of the connector space in the City Hall ArtSpace Lofts will further cement the notion that Dearborn is a hub for artists and cultural appreciation.
“The Artspace project is an anchor in the arts and culture strategy for Dearborn’s east downtown district, providing a hub of creative people interested in seeing the arts advanced in Dearborn,” he says.
(This story was reprinted from Metromode Media. It also is available at: http://www.secondwavemedia.com/metromode/features/dearborn-art-space.aspx.)