Tash Moore: So, tell us how you got started. What led you to found CREATIVE RELATION?
Monique Becker : We’re in our second year now with CREATIVE RELATION. During last year’s pilot, we went by Resident Movement as the program was most heavily focused on access to Movement Music Festival. I was born in Detroit and always knew Techno music as black Detroit music, but over the course of a decade of attending the festival, it felt like it began to reflect black Detroit culture less and less. So, [we] birthed out of a frustration for that reality and a desire to do something about. So I linked up with Adrian Tonon from the mayor’s office, who’s the night time economy ambassador, Michael Reyes from We Are Culture Creators and then Sam Fotis and Jason Huvaere from Paxahau, the production company behind the festival. I could not have asked for stronger, more genuine partners. It was important to Paxahau in particular that we give the right folks — emerging creatives of color looking to grow professionally — an avenue to attend the festival and also understand the behind the scenes, the production side, the visual arts components, vending opportunities, etc. beyond just the performance side. Our grassroots effort and team have grown to include Cyrah Dardas, Kashira Dowrige and Xavier Cuevas as Creative, Social Media and Media Directors, respectively. We are always looking to build with other like-minded businesses and excited for the future of our work.
TM: How do you define & redefine the business of art?
MB: That can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. [The business of art is] how to make money from art, how to make a sustainable career from art, how art really is incorporated into the economy. And we really start with education about business aspects of art. There are a lot of amazing groups that offer workshops for small and creative businesses in the city. We definitely don’t believe in working in silos or reinventing the wheel, so rather than our approach to education focusing on a more formal workshopping session, we’re working to connect people with people. We bring in speakers, we have a quarterly educational series that focuses on topics from financial planning, budgeting to real estate for creatives and understanding lease terms, what do you need to be aware of. Gentrification is something that every city has to tackle. The folks in the creative economy are the ones who make a place cool, add that social capital, and then don’t have any equity and so they are pushed out. How do Detroit creatives purchase property and position themselves to protect against future gentrification? We have to understand negotiating and contracts, or how to pitch yourself or sell your work….We advocate that it needs to be sustainable and opportunities need to flow democratically and to folks that tend to be marginalized. We’re sharing our collective knowledge.
TM: How do you see Detroit’s creative or cultural economy evolving over the next few years?
MB: I feel that Detroit is in a very important moment in terms of cultural and creative output. The desire for folks to collaborate on a broader scale is there. Developments are also ramping up and we see the tourism industry growing. Michigan is one of the fastest growing markets in the country and it’s in large part because folks are beginning to learn and become more familiar with the real Detroit story. They want to visit and participate in the culture here. The tourism industry should benefit the creative economy greatly as a way of connecting art and culture consumers with art and culture producers? For us at CREATIVE RELATION, we want to make sure emerging creatives of color see the upside of increased tourism and outside money as well.
TM: What drew you to entrepreneurship?
MB: In Detroit where everyone has five side-hustles, I am no different. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, and self-directed and self-motivated. As CREATIVE RELATION and my other company, Mona Lisa Development, began to ramp up, I found it difficult to focus on my entrepreneurial work while working full-time for someone else, especially when the leadership or mission did not quite fit with my values. With CREATIVE RELATION we’re continuing to refine our business model but we see ourselves as a social enterprise, so we’re really rooted in providing a good to the emerging creative community, the business community and government. It’s important that our work always contemplates who are we serving and who are the opportunities going to? It’s important to redirect ourselves and make sure that focus is strong. In the end, our goal is to sustain work that brings a real benefit to our community and city.
TM: What is your favorite memory from [Detroit] Startup Weeks past?
MB: I am really looking forward to [attending for the first time], not just as an aspiring entrepreneur…and Olivia Guterson* who is leading Detroit Startup Week is actually in the CREATIVE RELATION cohort.
Monique Becker is Managing Director of CREATIVE RELATION. Monique is an art and design lover and collector that appreciates the union of vintage and contemporary styles. This aesthetic interest carries over into Monique’s passion for connecting people across lines of difference, which is essential for innovation and mutual growth. Monique is co-founder and Partner of Mona Lisa Development, which focuses on adaptive reuse of duplexes in Detroit. More information about CREATIVE RELATION can be found here.
In celebration of Detroit Startup Week, 5 day conference for Detroit’s entrepreneurs, we’re speaking with leading creators and founders in our community. Meet local leaders in person at the conference June 17th-22nd. RSVP here: http://detroitstartupweek.com/
* Olivia Guterson is a lead organizer with Detroit Startup Week.