Ideas that “Mind the Gap”

Arts / Article

The autumn chill is not the only thing September is bringing to Detroit this year. Along with it comes the excitement and buzz associated with the first-ever Detroit Design Festival.

The Detroit Design Festival (DDF), brought to you in part by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, is a citywide celebration of art, design and ideas. The Detroit Design Festival team has been working closely with the arts community to connect creatives with venues and money, essentially crowd-sourcing the funds and resources to make things happen. As a result, between Sept. 21 through 28 around 85 “happenings” — from studio tours, roundtable discussions, fashion shows and design competitions — associated with DDF will take place. The festival is also acting as a platform for promotion, featuring the projects on its website and funneling them through various media outlets. Expect to see some of Detroit’s recently adopted traditions during the festival week, including Detroit Soup, as well as some very exciting new projects and collaborations.

One of these new happenings is “Mind the Gap,” a design competition focused on ideas that fill the “in-between” spaces in Detroit. The project is facilitated by Claire Nelson, who also owns the Bureau of Urban Living. She took a moment to share some of the inspiration behind the competition. “As in many cities, Detroit has a lot of ‘missing teeth’ in our urban fabric. As buildings are torn down for parking or empty lots, our streetscapes take on a gap-toothed appearance. Sometimes, it’s the smallest slivers of space that can make the difference between a vibrant, walkable neighborhood and a place that feels uninviting or unsafe. So, when the Detroit Design Festival was announced, I thought it was a great opportunity to ask the public for ideas about how to fill these “in-between” spaces — alleys, sidewalks, storefronts, vacant lots — with creative new uses. People submitted lots of really great ideas, including many projects already underway to activate public space in our city,” she says. Submissions were generated through an open call to the public, and those selected will be displayed at the Bureau of Urban Living as part of the Detroit Design Festival. An opening exhibition is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 22, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Nelson shared the following examples of “creative community projects that are ‘Minding the Gap’ in Detroit.”

The Detroit Design Festival takes place Sept. 21 through 28. A full schedule of happenings and their locations can be found on its website at