Melinda Anderson’s creative, vibrant and interchangeable displays can flow with the seasons and celebrations.
Photo provided by David Rudolph
Dressed in all black and standing in a pose of power, Melinda Anderson holds steady gaze lowered and bold.
Behind Anderson, a president, creative officer and event producer at Studio M Detroit, is a geometric-shaped metal heart with a “313” artfully in the center with pops of red and pink colors accentuating the ornate design. Anderson was recently captured standing boldly in front of her creative “313” inter-changeable canvas that invites public interaction, which she made for this year’s 313 event on March 13.
A Heart for Detroit
Anderson is known for transforming ordinary spaces into works of art that people in the era of social media are more than happy to capture in a selfie.
The countless events the architect and event planner has done caught the eye of Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock who asked Anderson to develop something unique for the space behind the Shinola Hotel in Parkers Alley in Detroit. The historic spot is named after Thomas Parker, a free Black man who was one of the city’s first Black landowners.
So, Anderson rolled up her sleeves and did what she did best — got to work on creating her “313” Heart installation (in celebration of Valentine’s Day) and then switching it up with another work of art at the same location in honor of 313 Day.
“I have been engaged with Bedrock since June last year,” Anderson said, adding that a lot of things were “up in the air” with COVID-19 and she has had to pivot to overcome the challenges. Anderson said that with her work it is important to foster “civic pride” in Detroiters.
“I’ve lived and traveled all over the world — Detroit gets a lot of respect outside of Detroit,” she said. “From the things I’ve done, I want people — especially Black and Brown artists, designers of color — see it is possible to have an international career and do amazing things while staying and living in Detroit. … We have so many things that exist here [we] should be proud.”
Up next for Anderson is a project she is working on this summer with an installation sponsored by the Independent Business Association on the Avenue of Fashion for “Light Up Livernois” slated for July 3.
She said that the Livernois area is rebounding after its businesses had a “tough time” with construction and COVID-19.
“Light Up Livernois is [one of the] signature events happening in the city — that is going to be a really incredible movement,” Anderson, who is working on other installations to attract foot traffic in area businesses, said.
“The Wakanda We Deserve”
Native Detroit resident Lauren A. Hood makes much-needed shifts in her space of community development and ensures Black residents have a seat at the table time and time again.
Hood serves as a translator/negotiator between development entities and citizen stakeholders, according to her bio. Through her consultancy Deep Dive Detroit, Hood produces workshops and events fostering community engagement, equitable development, and racial justice for civic, philanthropic and institutional clients. She is serious about preserving the city’s cultural heritage, and she is currently the chair of the City of Detroit Planning Commission and on the board of directors for Detroit Sound Conservancy, MoGo, and on the advisory board of the Urban Consulate.
“The City Planning Commission holds the vision for the city,” she said. Hood added that the many hats she wears helps keep the work “righteous” when it comes to providing context to those who want to bring their developments to Detroit — the “Blackest city in the country.”
“Once you understand what’s been done to communities of color you enter the space with a different kind of ethos,” she said. “Lots of my colleagues look at Black communities [negatively]. … A lot of my work changes the way people approach [Detroit].”
She added that through her work she hopes to bring continued progress to the city and reimagine in action some of the spark that was during Black Bottom’s heyday while shedding white European-centered ideas.
And bottom line, she said, it’s about focusing more on humans and less on buildings. Boosting Black spaces and places to thrive is a must “if we really want to get to the Wakanda we deserve.”