City Transformation, Education

A picture of Detroit collaboration

The Concert of Colors celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. All of the great, eclectic music and energy Detroiters have come used to and as always, a few surprises.

In addition to the outside vendors selling their wares, this year in the Max M. Fisher community organizations, local start-ups and artisans were given space on three floors of the venue. They all had one thing in common. They had to promote something positive in the city and foster collaborative change in some way.

One display wasn’t a vendor at all, but a participative embodiment of joint creativity. There Saturday and Sunday, W-A-Y Program had a canvas up and next to it, several red plastic cups full of paints and foam brushes. The purpose was to encourage everyone who passed by to make his or her mark. As one of the event coordinators, Madeline Black said, “It didn’t matter what people did on the canvas, the idea was to do whatever they felt like doing.”

Some of the passersby hesitated at first, but then really got into it. Some children made smiley faces. Other grown-ups just put a dot or free-form shape. In the end, everyone created, everyone contributed and everyone came together to create something new.

Black, who is director of community outreach for W-A-Y, said she first got the idea from a You Tube video she saw from a similar project in Indianapolis and decided to bring it to Detroit. To anyone who came up to the canvas she would explain, “The only instruction is, there are no instructions – do what you feel.” Several hundred people over the two-day period did just that and the result was a Motor City masterpiece.

This smaller version of the collaborative canvas was such a success Black wants to do it on an even bigger scale in August with more people, a bigger canvas and a lot more brushes.

W-A-Y sees this as a demonstration of the work they do with students. Their program encourages students to work in a collaborative environment, solving problems and working on projects of their choosing. Having worked with school districts across the state primarily in the past, they will open their first charter school this fall near W. Vernor and Lawndale in Southwest Detroit.

One spontaneous participant offered to purchase the finished painting, but W-A-Y presented it to event organizer Marshalle Montgomery.

See a time lapsed video of the creative process on the W-A-Y Program Facebook page. For more information of W-A-Y, visit their website or connect at (313) 444-9292

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