FLINT, Michigan—Thomas Hutchison has designed for the Met Gala and has worked for Argentian sculptor Sergio Vega, all with the intention of returning to Flint. Now he will use his talents to lead an organization that will help residents own their own homes.
Hutchison was recently appointed executive director of Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, one of nearly 1,200 local chapters of the international organization that assists families in building, “strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter.” The Genesee County chapter was founded in 1990, and Hutchison has worked for the organization for five years, where he established their Home Repair Program.
“When I came back to Flint, I was just another concerned citizen wanting to make Flint a better place,” Hutchison said. “So I started working with Habitat’s construction crew, and then started a Home Repair Program, and four years later, we have repaired almost 400 houses in Flint. There are few places where you can really make an impact like that.”
Hutchison grew up in neighborhoods in Burton, Flint, and Grand Blanc before moving to attend college. He completed his undergraduate degree at Western Michigan University and his master’s in electronic intermedia at the University of Florida. His coursework at Florida focused on combining media into built environments to create experiences for people. After college, he lived in New York and Florida, gaining significant experience working in project management.
His experiences include working for Argentinian sculptor Sergio Vega on fabricating furniture, sculpture, editing video, and printing high-resolution photographs for his installation at the 2005 Venice Biennial. In New York, he worked on sculpture installations and was a lighting designer at a production house, where he created concert-like experiences for large events. He also had the opportunity to work as a lighting designer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Met Gala for four years, where he worked on installations in the American Wing and the Temple of Dendur.
His goal, however, was always to bring these experiences back to Flint.
“At the ripe age of 18, I felt the best way to serve my community was to cut my teeth elsewhere, then come back,” he said.
As executive director, Hutchison will oversee administrative and financial operations, strategic planning, community relations, staff management, and other functions. Locally, the Genesee County chapter has several program areas: assisting families with homeownership by constructing new homes or rehabbing existing ones; a Work/Live program that helps low-income entrepreneurs apply for builds that have street-front commercial space with an apartment above (Great Escape Gaming on Court Street in Flint is an example of this program); a Financial Opportunity Center that offers classes and one-on-one financial coaching; a Home Repair Department, which offers services like critical repair, code restoration, veteran repair, facade improvement, furnace replacement, and a new emergency repair program that will roll out in 2020; and the Habitat ReStore (located at 101 Burton St. in Flint and open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), where they sell new and used construction materials, furniture, housewares, and urban wood.
“The people that we work with really care, and are diligently working to build a truly equitable future in Genesee County,” Hutchison said. “I feel inspired every day by the work people are doing here, and constantly see examples of how, if you dig your heels in and keep your head down, you can really make a huge impact.”