First event from Flint crowdfunding class comes to life, supports local artists and makers

FLINT, Michigan -- In order to deal with the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, people came up with many ways to occupy time in solitude while living through difficult and sometimes even tragic times. For artists, crafters, and other makers, those creative pursuits became healthy outlets and relief from the heaviness of the world.

“The resilience of us as human beings has been really important,” said Derrick Smith, a Flint artist and business owner. “A lot of people are finding themselves through crafting, or keeping themselves busy with music or gardens. In our society, the working class kind of works people into the ground and a lot of people haven’t had time to think about their physical or mental health. That takes a big toll on people, so being able to unplug for a minute is important. It has kind of been like a rediscovery of how important those aspects of life are.”

Smith, who owns Zoolander Creations, helped provide an outlet for crafters and makers to showcase and sell their work at a Flint Arts and Crafts Fair at Brush Park downtown last weekend. The event featured local artists as well as live music and other elements of Flint’s creative scene. Along with providing a platform for the artists, the event was also just about bringing people together.

“Everybody's been kind of hibernating,” Smith said. “So now, everybody's ready to finally come back out and get together and see other people.”

Last winter, Flint’s What’s Up Downtown Project worked with a group of local residents, including Smith, for a crowdfunding class and campaign to help bring unique, outdoor events to life in the city this summer and fall. The class hit its goal of raising $20,000 to do a series of pop-up events, and Smith’s event was the first one to come to life.

Along with learning more about using crowdfunding as a platform to create resources for community events, Smith also said getting to know other participants in the class with different backgrounds and skills was also valuable.

“They (the people in the class) are really creative,” he said. “It was just really eye-opening to be able to get out of my comfort zone and work within that realm. I’m absolutely floored that we were able to raise $20,000, like from as far away as Ireland. That was really overwhelming.”

Smith said he hopes to make the Art and Craft Market a recurring event at other spaces in the city. For his business, he makes tie-dye apparel, paints, does lighting installations, helps scout and find artists for events, and supports event setups. He also works with organizers of big events like Flint Drop Fest and Flint Underground Presents: First Fridays Sound and Vision. Mainly, Smith’s goal is simply being a supportive member of Flint’s creative community.

“Basically, I’m just one of those people who wants to be like, ‘how can I help?,’” Smith said. “I want to be able to use my connections (to other artists) to plug in and help your event. I’ve found art and found this community, and it’s really been a therapeutic community, so I want to support it.”

For more information about Zoolander Creations, visit Smith’s Facebook or Instagram page.

Read more articles by Patrick Hayes.