top of page

Wood Stories
Spring 2024

The Brightmoor Makerspace

MakersSpace-31.jpg

For the last 6 years, I’ve spent most of my Saturday mornings working with young people at the Brightmoor Makerspace in Detroit. 

 

Brightmoor is a tough neighborhood.  Rollo Romig wrote in The New Yorker that "much of Brightmoor matches what Detroit looks like in the popular imagination—an alarming amalgam of city dump, crime scene, and wild prairie.  As a result, the city has nicknamed it ‘Blight More’.”

In 1996, Bart Eddy founded Detroit Community Schools (DCS) in the Brightmoor neighborhood: a K -12 charter school based on the educational principals of Rudolf Steiner.  (“Its pedagogy strives to develop pupils' intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner. The cultivation of pupils' imagination and creativity is a central focus.” - wiki).

But in 2009 Detroit Public Schools were put under ‘Emergency Special Measures’ and placed under the authority of the State of Michigan.  As a result, all creative, artistic and practical skills at DCS were marginalized to the point of near irrelevance.

Determined to keep creativity alive for the local young people, Bart Eddy, along with Nick Tobier, from the University of Michigan, created the Brightmoor Makerspace – a purpose-built workshop for the neighborhood youth to build skills and self-confidence.  Today, the Makerspace offers after-school and Saturday lessons in Textiles, Electronics, Bicycle Repair, Filmmaking, Woodworking, and Construction. 

Here's a video about the Makerspace produced by Mike Moegelin and his students in the Filmmaking group.

Nick-Tobier & bart.png

Nick Tobier and Bart Eddy

Jan27-TieDye.jpg

My role has been to take in kids in their Sophomore and Junior years and introduce them to good working practices: math, measurement, safe use of tools, basic work habits and woodworking skills.  They can then join the construction crew, where they go out into the Brightmoor community and take on real construction projects including outdoor classrooms, stages, garden furniture, playscapes, home repair, and house renovation.

Over the last 25 years, I’ve taught young people in a British high school, in a young offenders prison, in an elite private boarding school, and now in this struggling neighborhood in Detroit.  I’ve learned that most all teenagers, regardless of background, face many of the same personal struggles when it comes to growing up. But additionally, these Brightmoor kids live in poverty; many have no stable home; all of them have family or friends experiencing trauma, addiction, or death.  School can erupt in violence.  However, when these kids enter the Makerspace, every one of them is cheerful, respectful of their peers, at ease in the company of me and my colleagues, and do their age-appropriate best work. 

I’m in awe of them.

Recently, I discovered Brightmoor is no longer on the list of Detroit’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods.  I’m convinced that this is due to the efforts of Bart Eddy, Nick Tobier, and the army of pastors and community activists working tirelessly to rebuild the neighborhood.  

I’m in awe of them, too.

If you would like to support the work we do at the Brightmoor Makerspace, I’ve set up a GoFundMe page for our non-profit sponsor, the Sunbridge International Collaborative.  100% of your contribution goes towards helping these kids:

GoFundMe-Logo-2011.png
New Workshop

Recently, interior design consultant, Michelle Adams visited my new studio with photographer, Marta Perez.  Here is their portrait of the workshop:

WS-9.jpg
bottom of page