Saturday 04/30/16 11AM-7PM
The Jam Handy
2900 East Grand Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48202
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IDEAS CITY Detroit: Public Conference

Cover Image:

Courtesy Detroit Soup

This event is free and open to the public.

Under the leadership of IDEAS CITY Director Joseph Grima, the Detroit event will kick off the 2016–17 series of programs for IDEAS CITY. IDEAS CITY Detroit will take place April 25–30, 2016, and will include an intensive weeklong studio laboratory workshop with forty-one Fellows, culminating in a daylong public conference, featuring many internationally acclaimed speakers from the fields of art, architecture, design, policymaking, and urbanism, including Rembert Browne, Theaster Gates, dream hampton, Walter Hood, and Amanda Williams, among others.

The conference, which is free and open to the public, will take place on April 30, 2016, at the Jam Handy, a former film studio for car commercials. Please see the program addendum for further information.

IDEAS CITY Detroit will launch the initiative’s first studio laboratory, which will continue as a central feature of IDEAS CITY going forward. Fellows will live and work in the Herman Kiefer Complex —a former hospital complex in Virginia Park and one of Detroit’s most iconic disused sites—transforming it into a hub of cultural activity. Led by Joseph Grima and organized in collaboration with Maurice Cox, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Detroit, this five-day workshop will bring together emerging practitioners who are working at the intersection of community activism, art, design, and technology in cities around the world and will include site visits, lectures, and discussions with Fellows, local experts, and community members.

IDEAS CITY Detroit will gather forty-one extraordinary individuals to tackle specific challenges facing the city. We’re incredibly excited to have the opportunity to learn from Detroit, to deploy a collective intelligence model based on arts and culture, and to further exchange with the community. The city is in the process of reinventing itself and, once again, is on the verge of transforming our understanding of the modern metropolis. Detroit is a laboratory for a new paradigm of urbanity,” said Joseph Grima, Director of IDEAS CITY.

Following an open call for participants in the studio laboratory earlier this year, IDEAS CITY received over eight hundred applications from thirty countries. Forty-one emerging professionals were selected.

Please contact for more information.


The Studio Laboratory will take place in the Herman Kiefer Hospital Complex’s former Powerhouse building, thanks to IDEAS CITY Detroit’s architectural partner, Studio Castellano.

The Public Conference will be held at the Jam Handy, a former film studio for car commercials located at 2900 East Grand Boulevard.


IDEAS CITY is a collaborative, civic, and creative platform that starts from the premise that art and culture are essential to the future vitality of cities. This international initiative provides a forum for designers, artists, technologists, and policymakers to exchange ideas, identify challenges, propose solutions, and engage the public’s participation. The initiative was cofounded by Lisa Phillips, Toby Devan Lewis Director, and Karen Wong, Deputy Director, the New Museum.


11:15–11:30 AM:
Welcome Address by IDEAS CITY, Maurice Cox, and Rembert Browne

11:30 AM–1 PM: SESSION 1
Opening Keynote by Theaster Gates
Talk by Amanda Williams
Panel Discussion with Michelle T. Boone, Theaster Gates, Jenny Lee, and Amanda Williams
Presentations by Studio Laboratory Fellows

1:30–3 PM: SESSION 2
Opening Keynote by dream hampton
Panel Discussion with Rembert Browne, Halima Cassells, dream hampton, and Sonya S. Mays
Presentations by Studio Laboratory Fellows

3:30–7 PM: SESSION 3
Opening Keynote by Walter Hood Talk by Bryan Boyer
Panel Discussion with Kunlé Adeyemi, Bryan Boyer, Ellie Abrons/T+E+A+M and Walter Hood
Presentations by Studio Laboratory Fellows
Screening by Liam Young


Ellie Abrons is Assistant Professor in Architecture at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. Her work has been exhibited at Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York; A/D Gallery, New York; and the Architectural Association, London. Abrons was recently selected, as part of the architectural practice T+E+A+M, to exhibit work in the US Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Kunlé Adeyemi is an architect, urbanist, and founder of NLÉ, an architecture, design, and urbanism practice focused on developing cities and communities. His recent work Makoko Floating School is a prototype for building in African regions that have little or no permanent infrastructure and is located in the lagoon of Lagos, Nigeria. Additionally, Adeyemi is Adjunct Associate Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning.

Michelle T. Boone is Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. As a member of the mayor’s cabinet, Boone is responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs that support Chicago’s arts and culture sector and creative industries. Previously, Boone was Senior Program Officer for Culture at the Joyce Foundation and Director of Gallery 37, a program that provides job training in the arts to Chicago youth.

Bryan Boyer is a strategic designer with experience in public sector innovation, entrepreneurship, and contemporary architecture. Boyer cofounded Dash Marshall, a design consulting practice focused on strategy and urban innovation. Additionally, Boyer cofounded Makeshift Society Brooklyn and Helsinki Design Lab, and is on the Board of Directors at Public Policy Lab in New York.

Rembert Browne is Writer-at-Large at New York magazine, where he covers culture, entertainment, politics, and style. Browne contributes regularly to Daily Intelligencer, Vulture, the Cut, and New York magazine’s print edition. He has reported from the front line in Ferguson, MO, questioned President Obama on Air Force One, and moderated the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum. From 2011 until 2015, Browne was a staff writer at Grantland.

Halima Cassells is a native Detroit artist and activist who has exhibited her work widely and has produced public works, including a Congressional Seal commemorating Rosa Parks. Cassells holds leadership roles across various community-based organizations in Detroit, including the Oakland Avenue Artists Coalition, the Free Market of Detroit, North End SOUP, and the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.

Maurice Cox is the Director of Planning and Development for the City of Detroit. Previously, he was Director of the Tulane City Center and Associate Dean for Community Engagement at the Tulane University School of Architecture in New Orleans. Additionally, Cox has served as Design Director of the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC, where he led the selection of design grants and leadership programs such as the Mayors’ Institute on City Design.

Theaster Gates is a Chicago-based artist who has developed an expanded practice that includes space development, object-making, and performance. He is Founder of the Rebuild Foundation and a professor in the Department of Visual Art and Director of the Arts and Public Life Initiative at the University of Chicago. Gates has exhibited his work and performed at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Punta della Dogana, Venice; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA; and dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany; among other venues.

dream hampton is a filmmaker, writer, and organizer who was born and raised in Detroit. hampton has contributed to magazines such as the Village Voice, Detroit News, Harper’s Bazaar, Vibe magazine, Essence, and Ebony, and collaborated with Jay Z on his best-selling book Decoded. She has directed the films _I Am Al_i and Treasure: From Tragedy to Transjustice, Mapping a Detroit Story. hampton was also coproducer of the show Black Girls Rock!

Walter Hood is an architect based in Oakland, CA, whose work focuses on community development and sustainability. He is the founder of Hood Design; Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley; and the author of Urban Diaries and Blues & Jazz Landscape Improvisations. Hood has designed a landscape garden for the de Young Museum in San Francisco, a master plan for the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy, and a solar strip for the University at Buffalo, NY.

Jenny Lee is Executive Director of Allied Media Projects. From 2002 to 2010, Lee was a youth organizer for the community organization Detroit Summer under the mentorship of Grace Lee Boggs. She founded Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, a community organization that promotes the usage of media and technology in schools and neighborhoods across the city. Lee is on the steering committee of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and Art x Culture x Social Justice Network.

Sonya S. Mays is the President and CEO of Develop Detroit, a real estate and housing development company that focuses on the revitalization of Detroit neighborhoods. Mays has served as Senior Advisor to the Emergency Manager of Detroit and played a key role in guiding the city through the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. In that position, she was responsible for a diverse range of legal, financial, operational, and economic development activities across Detroit’s restructuring efforts.

Amanda Williams is an artist and architect based in Chicago. Her work spans the fields of painting, installation, and photography, and reflects the cultural relationship between color, race, and space. Williams has exhibited her work at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Chicago Architecture Biennial; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; among other institutions. She is Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Liam Young is an architect working at the intersection of design, fiction, and futures. He is the founder of the think tank Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today and has consulted on and conducted workshops about speculation, emerging technologies, and future-forecasting for organizations including Arup, Phillips Technologies, and the BBC. Young’s work has been featured on NBC and the BBC, and in Wired magazine, Time magazine, and Dazed & Confused magazine.

IDEAS CITY Detroit Fellows
Joe Ahearn, Taylor Renee Aldridge, Ava Ansari, Hallie Applebaum, Leonardo Aranda, Nick Axel, Merve Bedir, Francesca Berardi, Beverly Chou, Carolyn Concepcion, Gabriela Córdoba, Afaina de Jong, Pınar Demirdağ, Fataah Dihaan, Shaida Ghomashchi, Jon Gray, Kunal Gupta, Tommy Haddock, Jason Hilgefort, Ekene Ijeoma, Tamara Jafar, Stacy’e Jones, Toms Kokins, Cindy Lin, Monty Luke, Daanish Masood, Tiff Massey, Jose R. Mejia, Cara Michell, Marsha Music, Ryan Myers-Johnson, Claire Nowak-Boyd, Evelina Ozola, Paolo Patelli, Margarita Pournara, Jay Rayford, Unai Reglero, Alethea Rockwell, Ruhi Shamim, Giuditta Vendrame, and Nikolas Ventourakis.


Founding support for IDEAS CITY is provided by Goldman Sachs Gives at the recommendation of David B. Heller & Hermine Riegerl Heller.

LUMA is the Global Social Engagement Partner of IDEAS CITY.

Major support for IDEAS CITY Detroit is provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Additional support for IDEAS CITY Detroit is provided by the The Ford Foundation and Lambent Foundation.

Fellowship support for IDEAS CITY Detroit is provided by the US Embassy, Athens, Greece.

Special thanks to the Detroit-based furniture company Floyd.

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