Design Expo with The Rhonda Walker Foundation

Yesterday, DESIGNCONNECT partnered with The Rhonda Walker Foundation to host a Design Expo at the Boys and Girls Club. Teenage girls from across the city of Detroit joined us for this hands on experience, receiving face-time with some of the biggest female names in art and design.

The young women learned about interior design in the worlds of automotive and health and wellness, photography, architectural design, urban planning & landscaping, and event branding. Having strong, female role models talking about how they made it in a male-dominated industry inspired every single young woman in that room. We watched their faces light up as they asked questions, chatted with the panelists, and participated in intimate workshops where they could dive deeper into each field.

A huge thank you to our incredible panelists for giving of their time to inspire young minds on a Saturday:

  • Katherine Chappelle: Senior Interior Designer, Gensler

  • Ujijji Davis: Landscape Architect, The Smith Group

  • Hèlene Kenny: Branded Experience Designer

  • Eleanor Oakes: Assistant Professor, College for Creative Studies &

    Founder & President, Darkroom Detroit

  • Crystal Windham: Director of Design, Cadillac Interiors, General Motors

  • Clarinda Barnett-Harrison: Senior Director of Economic Prosperity,

    United Way

  • Bailey Morgan: Design Student at College for Creative Studies

And a huge amount of gratitude for the incredible Rhonda Walker Foundation, and Rhonda herself, for partnering and coming along side of us to create an incredible opportunity for these young women. The girls walked away excited, hopeful, and inspired for their futures, and that means everything!

A Morning at ROSSETTI


ROSSETTI, a 50-year old architecture firm in downtown Detroit, hosted art students from Detroit School of Arts for a morning lecture and hands-on tour of their office. The students were coached about architectural design, project management, textiles, teamwork in design, creating design concepts, and so much more.

In addition to the amazing lectures from the ROSSETTI staff, the students were shown around the office, including the balcony overlooking the city, to give them a feel of what working in a design office feels like. So many of our students walked away with inspiration, and that inspiration has carried over into what they are doing in their own classrooms at Detroit School of Arts!

A huge thank you to our friends at ROSSETTI for being such an integral part of introducing our students to sustainable career pathways in design.

Grand Circus Gaming Workshop

3 DSA art students test out a flight simulator created by Abertay University.

3 DSA art students test out a flight simulator created by Abertay University.

Grand Circus Detroit, a computer programming training facility located in downtown Detroit, hosted our students and staff for a Game Design Workshop as part of Detroit Design Month. Representatives from Scotland’s Abertay University lectured about video game development and coding, giving students a unique perspective on alternative pathways in design and technology. Students were then able to try out some of the games and virtual reality simulators that Abertay students had developed!

A huge thank you to our friends at Grand Circus and Abertay University for sponsoring this event, providing transportation, and making sure each and every student had Abertay University goodies to go home with! 


After a great deal of planning, DESIGNCONNECT held its inaugural FUN& FUND Raiser on April 25, 2019 at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art. With the goal of supporting visual arts students at Detroit School of Arts (DSA) in mind, advocates came out to enjoy a night of fun which included a silent auction, dedicated giving, as well as the premier of a short film by Julian Carmona about the state of arts program at DSA, and the support DESIGNCONNECT will provide to the visual arts students at DSA.

Explore Creative Career Series

On Tuesday April 23rd, designers from Czarnowski and Patrick Thompson Interior Design spoke to the 80 students in the DSA visual arts program. Ivory Alexander from Patrick Thompson Design shared details of her role as an interior designer and the exciting projects they’ve worked on around Detroit. Kevin Calabrese from Czarnowski introduced branded experience design and showed the students many projects they’ve worked on around the world.

Fiat Chrysler Design Center Field Trip

On Tuesday, March 26th, the first Design Up Close event was held. Sophomore and Junior Visual Arts students visited the Fiat Chrysler Design Center in Auburn Hills. The students were able to see an Exterior Design Studio and were exposed to the different aspects of the design process including creative clay sculpting, 2D and 3D sketching, color and materials design, and 3D modeling.

Pilot Program Launch

After months of planning, our pilot program at Detroit School of Arts (DSA), a Detroit public high school, has officially launched! The first in-school workshop, part of the Explore Creative Career series, was held on Tuesday, February 26th. Three designers from General Motors, Justin Salmon, Tara Ellis Magee, and Jenna Grabowski, spoke to the 80 students in the DSA visual arts program.  

The designers not only explained their different creative roles in the automotive design process, they also shared their personal stories and the very different paths they took to get where they are today. They answered a ton of questions from the students and gave solid advice on pursuing a creative career. The students left inspired and looking forward to the upcoming field trip to the FCA Design Center in March.

Soft Launch Event

The DesignConnect soft launch event was held on September 29, 2018 at the Welburn Group Ladder 12 Studio in Corktown, Detroit. The event was hosted by Ed Welburn, former Vice President of GM Global Design, and attended by our stakeholders and supporters. The event was a great success! Everyone is very excited about the mission of DesignConnect and ready to take action.