by Jessica Carreras
It’s been a good week for the city of Detroit, publicity-wise.
The “I’m a Believer” campaign, highlighted in the Aug. 15 issue of the Detroit Free Press, laid out its plans to readers to bolster the city by donating their money and time to clean up the city. “If you think it’s time to turn Detroit around, join us,” their slogan reads.
Beyond our state borders, the New York Times on Aug. 13 recognized what they called a “bright spot” in the city’s economic plight, noting promising increases in jobs and profits for the Big Three.
And in the city’s Benson and Edith Ford Conference Center, nestled within the College for Creative Studies campus, Detroit’s design and event-planning bigwigs put on a show that could knock the socks off any New Yorker. There, from Aug. 12-14, the Michigan AIDS Coalition paired up with Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS to present Michigan’s first-ever Dining by Design.
Close to 600 people showed up for the opening night’s ArtWorks evening – morphed from MAC’s usual annual art-focused fundraiser. The 11th floor of the center was overflowing with attendees eager to get a glimpse at the art, plus the indescribably unique tables on display for Saturday night’s gala event. Guests were invited to taste-test appetizers from 25 top area chefs, as well as put their bids in for original artworks.
On Aug. 14, months of preparation climaxed with the Dining by Design gala, where an elite 200 or so visitors enjoyed a gourmet meal at designers’ decked-out tables, which could only be explained as usable works of art.
At the entrance, a sculpture – which also doubled as one of the tables – greeted guests with a message: “A beautiful Detroit begins with you.”
True to those words, the city’s individual and team talent shined at Dining by Design. Some tables featured artfully arranged flowers, plants and home decor; others went in a completely different direction: Clowns. Computer font-based motifs. Table settings crafted from cardboard with twig silverware seemingly taken straight off a tree.
Almost as impressed as those who attended the event, event chairs Ann Duke and Kelly Deines marveled Saturday night at the fact that the Motor City had pulled off a fashion- and design-focused mega-project also held in San Francisco, New York City, Kansas City and Chicago every year.
“I did this for the very first time 27 years ago in Kansas City,” Deines, a designer at the Southfield-based architecture company Rossetti, told the crowd. “They started Dining by Design and it was such a cool, last-minute kind of thing in the very beginning, which now has turned into a national event.
“This is just super cool to see every kind of design in a city that is reinventing itself daily. I am thrilled to see how well this turned out.”
DIFFA Executive Director David Sheppard, who was in Detroit for the first time for Dining by Design, was equally pleased. “I have never been to Detroit and I’m so thrilled to be here,” he said. “I’m so thrilled to see such incredible talent all around this room. I had no idea.”
“Detroit is coming back!” he quoted from the New York Times, a statement that brought loud cheers.
And with the help of slews of eager volunteers, the Michigan AIDS Coalition, he added, which is expected to net thousands from the three-day event, really defied expectations. “We’ve been doing this for 13 years and we’ve done it in as many as 12 cities, but we’re very careful about where we take it because it’s a big, big job,” he continued. “But you’ve done a great job.”
Attendees agreed, and spent the evening dining, dancing and drinking in a fairy-tale world that lasted for only three days and will never be seen again. That is, until next year, assures MAC Special Grants Manager and Dining by Design Steering Committee member Terry Ryan.
Ryan divulged that plans and offers from designers are already pouring in for next year and beyond. Michigan’s own Dining by Design, says Ryan, will become an annual event.
And Detroit is ready to take it on.