Culture Lab Detroit's Fall 2015 program engaged internationally reputed designers, scholars, landscape architects, urban farmers and chefs to explore the concept of Green Space – a topic crucial to the vitality and mindful regeneration of Detroit’s changing environment.
Alice Waters, chef, author, food activist, and owner of Chez Panisse, has been a champion of local, sustainable agriculture for over four decades. She is the founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project, an innovative model for public education that integrates the growing and cooking of food into the core academic curriculum. The centerpiece of the mission is to promote a free, nutritious, and sustainable school lunch for all students, from kindergarten through 12th grade, and to bring children into a new relationship to food.
Waters’ vision for edible education began 20 years ago with the Edible Schoolyard at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, which today draws visitors from across the world. The online Edible Schoolyard Network gathers and shares lessons and best practices from school gardens, kitchens, and edible education programs worldwide. To date, there are more than 4,000 network member programs in 54 countries.
Will Allen is an urban farmer who is transforming the cultivation, production, and delivery of healthy foods to underserved urban populations. The son of a sharecropper, former professional basketball player, ex–corporate sales leader, and longtime farmer, he is recognized as a national pioneer in urban agriculture and food policy. After a career in professional basketball and a number of years in corporate marketing at Procter & Gamble, Allen returned to his roots as a farmer, using his retirement package to purchase a plot of inner-city land with greenhouses, where he established and functions as CEO of the country’s preeminent urban farm and non-profit organization, Growing Power.
The recipient of a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship, Allen promotes access to fresh, safe, affordable, and nutritious foods for all people, regardless of economic circumstance, both at Growing Power and in community food projects across the world. Using methods he has developed over a lifetime, Allen trains community members to become community farmers, assuring them a secure source of good food without regard to political or economic forces.
Patrick Blanc is a botanist, ecological engineer, and inventor of the vertical garden, which he conceived as a teenager in the late 1960s. His PhD, in 1978, concerned the growth habits of the plants of the aroid family, and his doctorat ès sciences concerned the adaptive strategies of the tropical rainforest understory species, his central area of research since joining the National Center for Scientific Research in 1982. He won the botany prize from the French Academy of Sciences in 1993.
During these years he was also developing his vertical garden concept, building on his first realizations in the late 1980s, in particular at the Museum of Science and Technology in Paris in 1986. The success of his work was immediate, and various contemporary art institutions commissioned permanent installations. In 2001, Andrée Putman invited Blanc for a huge installation on a blind wall at the Pershing Hall hotel in Paris. His major projects include, among many others, Musée du Quai Branly; Fondation Cartier; Central Park Sydney; Acquario di Genova; Siam Paragon, Bangkok; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa; and Peréz Art Museum Miami. Today, his closest collaborations are with Jean Nouvel and Herzog & De Meuron. In addition, Blanc designs many projects in a solo capacity.
Detroit native Stephen Henderson has been editorial page editor for the Detroit Free Press since January 2009. Prior to that, he was a reporter, editorial writer and editor at the Baltimore Sun, the Chicago Tribune, the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader and the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, where he covered the U.S. Supreme Court from 2003–2007. Henderson's work has been honored with more than a dozen national awards, including the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for commentary... and now, recently announced, Mr. Henderson has received the prestigious 2014 Scripps Howard Award for Commentary. Henderson hosts a weekly talk show, "American Black Journal," and cohosts the weekly news wrap-up show "MiWeek," both on Detroit Public Television. He lives in Detroit with his wife, Christine, and two children, Oscar and Eleanor.