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Case Study: Popps Emporium

Case Study: Popps Emporium

Popps Emporium transformed from a blighted property to an active community art space.

Popps Packing is an artist-run neighborhood based nonprofit organization in the Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan area founded in 2008 by husband and wife artists, Faina Lerman and Graem Whyte. Expanding upon their mission through community feedback, Popps aims to create impactful arts programming and foster cultural exchange between local and international artist communities.

The Popps Emporium project began in 2012 when Popps bought a blighted storefront with an attached house to extend their existing programming. Using the Public Spaces Community Places crowdgranting program from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the Emporium was transformed from a blighted property to an active community art space. The building created a residency space, a community gallery, and a tool lending library. Popps Emporium serves as a community resource for the sharing of goods, skills, and experiences while offering a platform for community engagement, creating new connections and neighborly good will.

Popps Emporium in Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan.
Popps Emporium in Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan.
“As an organization the work we do is about placekeeping, there is already people and place here. The fact that we live here and we are trying to honor and salvage what existed has cemented our work in placekeeping. We wanted to make art more accessible and create a space that was special and not alien but welcoming.”- Faina Lerman, Executive Director Popps Packing

The Emporium has become home to the East Davidson Village Block Club meetings, an international artists residency, tool lending library, and a pop up community art school called the Ceramics School. The Ceramics School was started by neighbors Henry Crissman and Virginia Torrence and offered 6-weeks of classes, free Friday night parties, youth drop-ins, open studio time and more. Neighbors attended and made pots, candle holders and other ceramics, while learning to build a fire, and glaze their work.

Camp Carpenter in action! Kids perform on an outdoor stage.
Camp Carpenter in action!

Popps Packing also puts on a summer camp for the neighborhood in the backlots behind the Emporium. Camp Carpenter is a week-long outdoor adventure camp for children ages 7–14 set in and around Popps Packing’s buildings, art installations, and green spaces. Campers work alongside professional artists to design, build and create the elements of their own imaginative worlds and to construct the physical structures of the camp facility.

Camp Carpenter in action! Youth learn to use hand tools, like a handsaw.
Camp Carpenter in action!

Children learn to use basic hand tools, take their designs from idea to reality, collaborate across age groups, and tell imaginative stories through theater games and role playing — all while contributing to the betterment of the Detroit/Hamtramck community through the construction of a lasting play space for all.

“This is the most interesting community meeting space I’ve been in.” — Scott Benson, Detroit City Council Person for District Three
Popps Packing in the neighborhood, an illustration of the block.
Popps Packing in the neighborhood.

Project Details

  • Project: Popps Emporium Renovation
  • Project Type: Community Centers and Venues, Education
  • Project Location: Hamtramck, MI
  • Crowdfunding Raise: $30,664
  • Crowdgranting Match: $30,000
  • Patrons: 161
  • Leveraged Funding: $125,000
  • Total Project Estimate: $185,000

The funding raised through this crowdfunding campaign allowed for the completion of the final phase of the Popps Emporium project that included:

  • completion of all interior finish work
  • installation of a solar system
  • façade renovations and signage
  • equipping of the tool library and resource space
  • build out of the outdoor workshop spaces

About Public Spaces Community Places

Public Spaces Community Places (PSCP) is our crowdgranting partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). This crowdgranting initiative provides matching grant funds to eligible projects that improve public space in the state of Michigan. Projects can receive a matching grant of up to $50,000 if they reach their crowdfunding goal.

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