Detroit Artists Exhibit at France’s Largest Design Event


More than 60 Detroit artists are participating in three exhibitions at the 10th Saint-Etienne International Design Biennale event in Saint-Etinenne, France, opening today. Detroit is the official “Guest City” at the month-long, biennial event, which attracts around a quarter of a million visitors. The event has been held every two years since 1998.

Detroit was invited to be the Guest City after the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) nominated the city as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) City of Design. Detroit was designated as the first and only UNESCO City of Design in the U.S. in December 2015.

As guests of honor in Saint-Etienne, a fellow UNESCO City of Design, Detroit will share its unique perspective on this year’s theme: “Working Promesse” – The Future of Work.

DC3, an economic development organization that supports Detroit’s creative industries, brought along artists from Creative Many Michigan, Public Design Trust, and Akoaki to display their Detroit experiences. For many participants, it will be their first time out of the country.

The event will feature three separate, but correlating, exhibitions from Detroit: Footwork, Shiftspace, and Out of Site.

  • Footwork: The Choreography of Collaboration is curated by Public Design Trust. It includes some unexpected collaborators, such Lear Corporation, Henry Ford Health System, and Carhartt. It showcases how Detroit design continues to shape how we live, work, and move in the 21st century. The exhibit will include a “user-centric” redesigned hospital gown, made by HFHS, the College for Creative Studies, and Carhartt, as well as furniture made from scrap material from Lear’s foam plant.

Olga Stella, DC3’s executive director, says these collaborations help explain how Detroit is is driving the future of work in a “very tangible way.”

“It makes it really real and not theoretical,” she says. “One thing we’re trying to do is highlight the unusual collaborations that are taking place between big business and small business and between long-established and newer brands.”

  • Shiftspace: Detroit-style Coffeeshop, is curated by Creative Many Michigan. It will serve as a meeting place and shared workspace for Biennale participants and visitors, and will feature Detroit-based designers, artists, and food entrepreneurs.
  • Out of Site is presented by Akoaki. Curator Anya Sirota is especially excited for the event as it helps “legitimize and uplift” the work they’ve been doing. There will be various performances where designers will show how Detroiters are changing work paradigms through music, agriculture, and cultural production.

“Detroit already has amazing cultural assets and an amazing citizenry that are doing profoundly impactful work,” Sirota says. “By featuring that kind of work, we can really uplift the story of the city and make it rather than a sight to be fixed, a sight to be learned from, from an international audience.”

The 10th Saint-Etienne International Design Biennale will run through April 9. More information can be found here.