By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — More than 100 people filled the front lawn of the City Hall Artspace Lofts Sept. 21 to celebrate the grand opening of the $16.5 million arts campus.
The grand opening officially celebrated the seven-year project completion.
Artspace President Kelley Lindquist called Dearborn “a great, great place to live and a treasure for the art community during the opening.
“When I first showed employees the plans for the project, they would say it was the best building they have seen,” he said. “You can see and feel the energy and influence when you walk through the building.”
Artists opened their units to guests and displayed their artwork of various media during the celebration.
Ceramic artist Joan Smykowski; Portraiture artist Carole Kabrin, knitter Yolanda Taylor and Saatchi artist Carl George were some of the artists who participated.
Graphic designer and Detroit native Lionez Kimber said he will never forget when was accepted to live in the building.
“Being part of this project and community has been an answer to my prayers, especially as a single father,” he said. “I love connecting with artists and being surrounded by extraordinary people creating high-quality art.”
Kimber’s neighbor and also a graphic designer Denguhlanga Kapilango moved from Rhode Island to Michigan in order to purse her art.
“This project is a blessing,” she said. “I am proud to be a community member in a city where artists are encouraged and celebrated.”
The project was first envisioned by Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. in 2009, while visiting a friend in Minneapolis.
“I reached out to Artspace and asked if they had any projects in the metro Detroit area,” he said. “I asked if they would consider Dearborn and here we are today.”
The process was made possible when the city moved operations from the complex in 2014 to its current Dearborn Administrative Center location at 16901 Michigan Ave.
The Minneapolis-based non-profit purchased the City Hall complex for $1.6 million in December 2013 and got the keys to the building the next month.
The process began in 2008 after Artspace met with the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority to discuss the possibility of the project.
This is the first project for the non-profit in Michigan, after looking at over 20 possible sites in east and west Dearborn.
Today, the vision is now complete with artists and their families living in the complex at 13615 Michigan Ave.
The main building and annex feature 53 apartment units consisting of live and work space for artists and their families.
Artists were able to customize their units however they pleased with their artwork, artwork of their neighbors, paint, furniture and more.
The campus also includes studios, co-working space for entrepreneurs and artists, incubator space, creative businesses, a live-and-work unit for an artist-in-residency program and galleries.
Residents had a choice between studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units ranging from 700 to 1,250 square feet. They feature on-site washer and dryer units, window blinds, common area gallery or exhibition space, outdoor plaza and on-site parking.
The complex consists of three buildings: the former City Hall, the West Annex and the Concourse.
City Hall and West Annex buildings will be used for the residential units, community room, outdoor patio and corridor art galleries.
The Concourse connects City Hall and the West Annex, and will provide small business incubator space, art galleries, community meeting and classroom space, office space and individual co-working studios.
Planning for that connector building is part of the next phase where artists can apply for commercial opportunities.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)