Detroit Month of Design returns with installations, workshops, tours

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Design in Detroit? It's so big, it has its own festival.

Eleven years after the Detroit Month of Design debuted to showcase the city's burgeoning role in the design world, the festival returns Wednesday with its biggest lineup yet, featuring unique art installations, workshops and more.

This year's Detroit Month of Design, put on by Design Core Detroit, will feature more than 150 participants and 85 in-person and virtual events all spread out over the month of September — up from 70 last year.

"We're excited," said Kiana Wenzell, director of the Detroit Month of Design. "...The festival is for everyone."

And while one of its most popular events, Murals in the Dark at Eastern Market, won't happen again this year because of the pandemic, organizers say what they will have is more installations than they've ever had, which is more than 20.

One of those is called Breath of Fresh Chair, an outdoor installation near the state's outdoor adventure center that feature the iconic Eames chair.

The Breath of Fresh Chair installation features parts of 48 disassembled Eames chairs. Observers can walk around and within it "to contemplate the connection between nature and the built environment," according to Design Core Detroit.

 "It'll be all of these Eames chair parts creating a sculpture," said Wenzell.

The Detroit Month of Design was created after Detroit was designated in 2015 as the United States' only UNESCO City of Design. It joined a network of now 31 design cities and 180 cities focused "on using creativity as a driver for sustainable and equitable development around the world," according to Design Core Detroit.

The festival focuses primarily on three types of design — the built environment, visual communication and product design such as jewelry and fashion. 

What Design Core Detroit learned from putting on last year's festival, also a mix of virtual and in-person events, said Executive Director Olga Stella, is how to put on a successful event amid a pandemic. They had 50,000 participants last year.

"We're using the same hybrid format — some virtual events, some in-person, time tickets, a lot outdoors," said Stella. "... A lot of (last year's events) were taking place over multiple days so we could really spread out attendance. And people felt safe."

One in-person immersive installation that debuts Sept. 10 this year, sponsored by Rocket Companies, is called Moments of Immersion by Detroit-based artist Yazmin Dababneh. Held inside the First National Building on Woodward in Detroit, it combines physical sculptures, light and experimental film. 

Detroit artist Yazmin Dababneh's Moments of Immersion installation as part of the Detroit Month of Design will feature sculptures, light and film to create a unique experience with a built environment. It opens Sept. 10 in Detroit's First National Building.

"You've seen some outside artists come into Detroit and do these immersive installations. This is the first time we have a homegrown, young designer doing something like this and I think it's going to be just fun, interesting and really memorable," said Stella. "It's such a good example of what the festival means for emerging talents — for designers who might not have a platform to show their work to a large audience."

Several tours also are planned throughout the month, including several at the new Oudolf Garden Detroit on Belle Isle. Another on Sept. 14 will celebrate Detroit's Black urban planners with a tour at the Julian C. Madison Building. And on Sept. 16-17, Hamilton Anderson Associates will offer tours of what was once Detroit's Paradise Valley, a thriving business and entertainment district near the city's former Black Bottom neighborhood. 

This year's programming is really about inclusion and accessibility, said Stella. 

"The need for accessibility and inclusion, it's relevant," said Stella. "It's relevant. And people want to engage in it... There's a lot of great content for professional designers but there's something for everyone."

Detroit Month of Design

Sept. 1-30

85 in-person and virtual installations, exhibtions, workshops, talks and tours.

To see schedule, go to