Ford, Detroit Company Turn Fallen Art At Michigan Central Station Into Jewelry

By Benjamin Raven, Walker, Mich.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Workers with "Rebel Nell" toured the grounds of Detroit's Michigan Central Station searching for fallen art and graffiti. They then took what they found back to the shop to start the process of making unique jewelry from their treasures., Walker, Mich.

After sitting vacant in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood for nearly 30 years, the walls of the Michigan Central Station garnered quite a bit of graffiti and its new owners have found a way to even preserve fallen art from the historic building.

As Ford looks to make the iconic train station and Corktown neighborhood an "anchor" for Detroit's comeback it continues to search for ways to preserve as much of the past as possible.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker commissioned Rebel Nell to "repurpose layers of graffiti paint from inside the massive building into one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry."

Rebel Nell is based in Corktown, and works with the main mission of employing women transitioning from homelessness while educating them on issues such as budgeting, life skills, housing and legal aid, among others.

Amy Peterson, Rebel Nell's CEO and co-founder, said in an interview with MLive it means the world Ford picked a small business out of Corktown for this project as they "could've easily outsourced this."

"The first part is one of my favorites; the women we employ get to pick what color and shapes speaks to them (with a specific piece)," Peterson said. "Every piece is one of a kind because of where it came from and the women who made it.

"This is an amazing and incredible opportunity to preserve this legacy and history of the train station, especially for a small business like us to partner with Ford and the Ford fund. For Ford to even think to partner with us means a lot, and is a great symbol of how they're developing and getting ingrained in the neighborhood." -- Workers with Rebel Nell toured the grounds as they searched for fallen art and graffiti inside Michigan Central Station, and then took it back to the shop to start the process of making the jewelry. Ford says in an email that only piece of fallen art and graffiti were used, "as they were respectful of the artists' works."

Shawn Wilson, manager of community management for Ford Fund, said in an interview that after getting to know Rebel Nell and its mission that they "loved their model and especially the empowerment of women."

"They utilize their resources to better these women's lives. We wanted to get behind that," he said. "The response that Ford received to opening up the train station really gave us a chance to see how important it was to the people of Detroit and Michigan.

"(Rebel Nell didn't) so much have free range of the train station, but they were looking for art, murals or graffiti that had already fallen or was in the process of falling. They have a good eye for what's going to make beautiful jewelry."

The limited-edition jewelry is already complete and ready for purchase on the company's website. Products include Rebel Nell's signature pendents, cuff links, pins, and items in the shape of Detroit and Michigan's mitten. The set is made up of 300 pieces, and prices range from $95 to $225.

The relationship between Ford and Rebel Nell first started when the Corktown-based company won the automaker's Ford Resource and Engagement Center accelerator competition for social entrepreneurs. The company won $50,000 toward its expansion for its efforts.

One-hundred percent of the proceeds will go to Rebel Nell, and four charities including Love Runs, Covenant House, among others. Wilson said Ford worked with the company to select the charities while sticking with the theme of empowering women and homeless shelters. -- Peterson said that through this partnership with Ford, the company was able to hire two additional women from the Coalition On Temporary Shelter in Detroit. Since launching in 2013, the co-founder says Rebel Nell has hired 20 women from the COTS shelter.

"We have a lot of respects for the muralists in the city," Peterson added in a Ford news release.

"The Michigan Central Station collection is a cool way to preserve history. It's an iconic piece of Detroit's history. The jewelry encapsulates the history of Detroit and the train station. It's amazing project to be involved in."

Ford plans to spend about $740 million on renovations to buildings that will soon make up its Corktown campus, after purchasing the long-vacant Michigan Central Station for an undisclosed sale price.

The automaker plans to move about 2,500 employees into the once-doomed train station by 2022 after purchasing the train station-- built in 1913 -- from the Moroun family who has owned it since the early 1990s.

The process in turning the train station -- and neighborhood -- into a future centerpiece for the automaker won't happen overnight, as four years of stabilization, construction and modernization still has to occur.

In late 2017, Ford moved employees back into Detroit proper for the first time in years with a new center focused on autonomous and electric vehicle business and strategy. More than 200 employees moved into The Factory also in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood.

Those employees have been active and working in Detroit since May of this year, and Ford says they will help speed up the development of its hybrid F-150, Mustang, Explorer, Escape and Bronco models.

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