BY AJ TRAGER
DETROIT – Soon traveling and local artists will have a space to create, network and develop artistic opportunities in the city of Detroit. Local activist, poet, author, film producer and three-time Women of the World Poetry Slam top five finalist, Natasha “T” Miller, plans on opening an inexpensive bed and breakfast called Artists Inn Detroit that will provide artist lodging.
Miller purchased 1574 Cadillac and the neighboring house earlier this year. The 1574 house, which has stood vacant for nearly a decade, is located in the East Village neighborhood. The area is home to Pewabic Pottery’s headquarters and includes classic apartment towers such as The Kean and The Hubbard. East Village is located between downtown Detroit and Grosse Pointe. The neighborhood has the potential to be one of the most desirable affordable housing districts in the city, in a neighborhood rich in history, family and opportunities for young professionals.
“Usually artists go into communities and they’ll stay a day or two and they’re gone — off to their own city or the next city. But you’ll get artists to stay in Detroit longer if they can afford the lodging. Not only are they now in a space where they can afford the lodging, but they’re also in a creative hub,” she said.
In 2012, Miller become a Detroit Kresge artist fellow and received a $25,000 grant for her performance art. She has had the idea of opening up an artists’ inn for years and after winning Kresge, and running into the former owners of 1574 who are working to renovate the Cadillac block, she finally decided it was time to move on the project.
Artists Inn Detroit will provide artists with the opportunity to create while away from home by providing different packages based on the needs of the artist. Anyone, regardless of artist status, can stay at the inn under the standard rate. However, in exchange for discounted rates, artists will have the opportunity to contribute to the culture of the city and the growth of the community by choosing packages that will allow them to go into local schools and neighborhoods and provide workshops for students and local residents.
“What entices investors the most is all the programming that we’ll be able to do,” Miller explained. “We’ll use it as a restaurant and then we’ll have different performances. We’ll rent it out for different things including LGBT youth programming and workshops and all types of things. It’s pretty much a hub for many different things.”
Miller is no stranger to travel and knows that traveling, or wanderlust, comes as naturally to artists as creating. Through her performance and activist work she has traveled all over the country and told BTL that sleeping in hotel rooms gets old really quick, and she would much prefer to stay at an inn, like Artists Inn Detroit.
The future inn needs a lot of work. Miller plans on altering both the interior and exterior of the space to make it more accessible to visitors and also to bring out the style and structure of the home. Miller has already begun discussions with architects and home renovation specialists in the area to plan upgrades for rooms such as soundproofing, better lighting and placing computers in the rooms that will cater to the individual creative processes of each artist.
The top floor of the space will be renovated to provide a residency space for artists who plan to stay in Detroit for longer periods of time, possibly consisting of a two to three month stay.
“Everything is going to look different six or seven months from now, but you have to be able to look at this now and see that it can be something else. Which is hard,” Miller said.
On top of all of the services and networking opportunities Artists Inn Detroit will provide, Miller plans on forming a strong relationship with the neighborhood and possibly Pewabic Pottery. She also plans on maintaining an urban garden.
“We want to make it a professional bed and breakfast but still a community space where you can come in and everything is as quality as your most expensive hotel, but you still feel at home,” Miller said.
Miller already owns two properties on Cadillac Street and is looking to purchase the neighboring property that is currently laying vacant on the other side of 1574. If all three homes are purchased for the project, Artists Inn Detroit could potentially be looking at 30 available rooms.
“Like with any project, once people see that it (Artists Inn Detroit) is happening and are excited about it, it’ll be a whole lot easier finding funding for the second or third property because they’ll see that the inn is a real thing,” said Miller.
Miller envisions a community with blocks anchored by homeowners, renters and businesses proactively contributing to the stabilization of the neighborhood and is committed to restoring the East Village by redeveloping underutilized, blighted vacant spaces and overseeing the renovations.
The full projected cost for renovations and start up is currently $250,000. Every dollar will go towards the residency program for local artists, community art workshops, renovations, appliances for the restaurant and creating a space in the backyard for urban gardening. The development team is also applying for grants, housing public fundraisers and investing personal funds to get the project off its feet. Miller has set an initial goal of raising $100,000 and at the end of March had raised close to $3,000.
Miller will serve as CEO and founder and is currently joined by Carla Tinsley-Smith, who will serve as president; Chevis Mayes, future top chef; Richard Todd Smith, community consultant; and Shane Romero, board member.
Donations to the project are currently being accepted at https://www.patronicity.com/project/artists_inn_detroit#. Miller can be contacted by phone at 313-282-1196.
Visit the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/artistsinndetroit/.