SpringFest to promote connection between University and Detroit

Sunday, April 10, 2016 - 7:37pm

This Wednesday, MUSIC Matters will team up with Consider Magazine to incorporate the Detroit Village in their fifth annual SpringFest.

SpringFest is a day-long festival located on the University of Michigan Diag and North University Avenue that aims to bring together a wide array of student organizations, musicians and entrepreneurs. Detroit Village will be a display at Springfest featuring Detroit businesses.

MUSIC Matters said their goal is to improve the University’s relationship with the city. Proceeds from the SpringFest hip hop trio Migos concert, beginning at 8 p.m. at Hill Auditorium, will go to MUSIC Matters’ summer camp for children in Detroit, which is set to begin in 2017.

“Our goal for the event is to address the student body’s weakened relationship with Detroit,” a press release reads. “In the past, the University has held close ties with the city through which the nation’s best and brightest have been funneled to jobs in Detroit.”

Connection with Detroit has been a focus for multiple student organizations in recent weeks. LSA sophomore Dylan Bennett, the co-chair of the CSG Commision on Detroit Engagement, presented a resolution, which recently passed in the Central Student Government, to extend the University’s current contract with the MDetroit Connector — a bus that travels from Ann Arbor to Detroit. The resolution was passed last Tuesday.  

Bennett said in an interview, the University has a weakened relationship with the city to an extent.

“I think the fact that the University actually shut down the connector last summer shows that they, to some extent, haven’t made a big enough effort to see the potential of what a physical connection between the University and the city can have.”

Last year, Consider hosted an event regarding education reform in Detroit. They had a panel of teacher union representatives, policy researchers and nonprofits, such as Teach for America, discuss their work in Detroit. After the event, the student organization said they wanted to extend their work with the city.  

This year, Consider approached MUSIC Matters to help incorporate a “Detroit Village” within SpringFest by bringing nonprofits and startups from the city of Detroit into a tent in the Diag. They said the purpose of the setup is to encourage students to be more involved with the city during college and later seek job opportunities there.

Business junior Connor Yee, the president of Consider, said the purpose of the Detroit Village is to make students aware of what is really happening in Detroit through business and outreach.

“We’re setting up an area where these companies can interact with students, so that students can get a better idea and feel for what’s really happening in Detroit and how much people are really standing behind it,” he said. “There’s a lot going on down there that people really neglect to look at.”

The nonprofits each focus on different service areas such as transportation, neighborhood cleanup, youth mentoring and food distribution. Among them are organizations such as Rebel Nell, which promotes women in Detroit who create Graffiti Jewelry, M-1 Rail, which heads the effort to create a 3.3-mile streetcar along Woodward Avenue and Greening of Detroit, which promotes a more environmentally friendly city by way of gardening and trees, but also encourages food distribution and education reform.

Detroit vs. Everybody will also be making an appearance to sell their apparel and promote the city.

Bennett said since most students never step foot in the city, the University needs to encourage them to get involved.

“The majority of students who come to this campus go most of their time without ever going to Detroit,” he said. “We don’t market ourselves as the University that is 45 minutes away from one of the greatest culturally diverse and academic renowned cities in the country. We need to give our students the opportunity to engage in Detroit’s revitalization.”

SpringFest Chair Sabrina Khan, an Art & Design junior, said one of the goals of the event this year is to change people’s perceptions of the city.

“If you don’t know about Detroit, you think of all of the negative media. You tend to have this stigma and this negative perception of Detroit,” she said. “We wanted to destigmatize that and get people involved with going to Detroit because we feel that Detroit is our neighbor and a lot of people don’t necessarily know what it has to offer.”

Another aspect of the event is the Art Experience, which is an interactive visual and musical art exhibit where people can participate in art activities.

Khan said she was excited that the Art Experience would be another way aside from work the Detroit-based nonprofits to connect with the city.

“The Art Experience is one of our philanthropic endeavors to engage with students and also give back to the Detroit community,” she said.

Students will be able to paint pianos and backpacks that will then be donated to a school in the city. They will also be able to paint ceiling tiles for a mural that will be sent back to the city schools. There will also be a chalkboard on which students can write why they stand by Detroit. The board will be put on display around the city.