Rust Belt to Artist Belt III Conference

n April 6 and 7, artists, designers, creative sector business owners, community development leaders and other visionaries will gather in Detroit for Rust Belt to Artist Belt III. The biennial conference, previously hosted in Cleveland, will explore the role the creative community can play in the transformation of post-industrial economies in rust belt areas.

B.L.A.C. is a proud Rust Belt to Artist Belt III media partner. And we are delighted to introduce you to one of the many talented and inspirational panelists that will participate in the conference. Meet Margarita Barry, the creator and publisher of She is also the founder of Detroit Design Lab, a web design firm, and a new venture called 71 POP, a space that will help local artists showcase their work. We caught up with her to ask a few questions about her work, her take on creative people and the conference.

What is your opinion of Detroit as a place for creative people to grow and prosper?
Michigan is home to a growing number of forward thinkers ready to take advantage of the great opportunities the state has to offer. The unique opportunity here in Detroit specifically for young people to create is far greater than in any other major market. Detroit is a burgeoning hotbed of young entrepreneurs, creatives and thought leaders who are rethinking urban living and putting in elbow grease to redesign our landscape. I believe that these doers will be the group to bring innovative ideas to life and have a significant impact in helping to revive our urban neighborhoods. Young people see Detroit as a place where they can affordably create from the ground up, and we definitely need that kind of energy.

Can you share why you decided to establish
When I first came up with the idea for I Am Young Detroit in 2009, I knew that amongst other things, Detroit was struggling with a massive brain drain and wanted to find a way to use my combined skill sets in design, journalism, and web development to create something that would combat that. I wanted to figure out a way to not only help keep our young talent here, but also bring in talent from other cities. I thought, “What better way to attract and keep young people here then to showcase the young, bright doers who have decided to call Detroit home and are achieving success?” The post-beta incarnation of I Am Young Detroit, set to launch later this year, will take that even further by providing additional resources and opportunities for aspiring young doers.

What role do you think the creative community plays in the transformation of Detroit and our region?
Creativity is the key to re-imagining Detroit. It’s going to take a lot of thinking outside of the status quo to help transform the region, and that kind of thinking tends to come naturally to creatives. Creative entrepreneurs will be especially vital in the transformation of Detroit. It’s one thing to have an innovative idea, but really honing in on the left-brained facet of your start-up and turning that idea into a profitable business-that’s the key. That’s when you start creating jobs and are enabling yourself to buy local services and products from other entrepreneurs. Using your business to create jobs and support the local economy-those things are really going to help turn this city around.


During the conference you will be on a panel about strengthening creative small businesses. What advice can you offer a creative small business now that you have a couple of business ventures under your belt?
I would first advise to deliver a quality product, and on time. Branding is important, but it means absolutely nothing if you produce low quality products or services and have developed a bad rep. Second, I would say know your market. Know exactly what they want, and how they want it. And if you don’t know, ask them. Third, create a meaningful and relevant brand experience for your creative business-everything from the logo, to the storefront, and website. Creating a web presence that is visually appealing is important, too, and may not always be in reach to small business owners. That’s the primary reason why I created Detroit Design Lab, to help these small businesses create a polished look for their brand, but at a price that is within reach.

Why do you think people should attend the Rust Belt to Artist Belt III Conference?
I really love what the Rust Belt to Artist Belt Conference is coming to Detroit. Another venture that I’m working on is 71 POP, a collaborative, creative, retail pop-up space for emerging artists in the 71 Garfield building. So I’m personally really excited about the Funding Innovation, Lab Culture and Proving Ground tracks. Doesn’t matter if you’re [an artist], entrepreneur or creative entrepreneur, you really need to be there. There’s something for everyone. The networking alone would be enough to get anyone psyched. So get out there, and work that brand!

Margarita will be a panelist for the April 6 discussion titled “Strengthening Creative Small Businesses” scheduled to begin at 10:45 a.m. Learn more about the event schedule and register for the Rust Belt to Artist Belt III Conference by visiting

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