Samantha Schefman and Paulina Petkoski are the classic Detroit story of returning to your roots.
The two former New York City residents moved to the Motor City to start a concept of creativity and community for Detroit artists, musicians and entrepreneurs: Playground Detroit.
“The whole world is curious about what’s happening here,” said Petkoski.
Petkoski, born and raised in Detroit, moved out to New York City around 2006-2007 for fashion design, receiving her BFA in international fashion design from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
As graduates from Birmingham Groves High School, Petkoski and Schefman reconnected in New York in 2010, both workers in the fashion industry.
The pair created the idea of Playground in 2012, originally an idea that entailed a three-day festival and showcase of Detroit talent through visual and audible art, complemented with musical performances.
“Our goals were really lofty,” chuckled Schefman. “We realized that we weren’t ready to go all the way and do some giant festival because we hadn’t had any history of event production.”
Instead, they decided to build up an audience and start hosting small events, film screenings and group exhibitions in New York to shed light on the interesting and unique things happening in Detroit; things that were not hitting the mainstream media in 2012.
With over 100 guests at their first event, the pair proved a growing interest in Detroit.
“We took what we learned from the fashion industries and the gallery experience and decided to move back to Detroit and open up a space of our own,” said Schefman.
On December 30, 2016, Playground exceeded its Kickstarter goal, raising $75,630 to fund a 1500-square-foot space at 2845 Gratiot in Eastern Market. The plans are immediate construction and interior redesign with a debut in the spring or summer of 2017.
“It’s going to be a staple area between the West and Indian Villages, Eastern Market and Downtown. We will be the bridge,” said Schefman, a graduate from the College of Creative Studies (CCS) with a BFA in metalsmithing.
According to Schefman, Playground is multi-faceted, functioning as both event and exhibition space for artwork and design. Their mission is to support artists, giving them the ability to live off their work through entrepreneurship and networking. In the future, they hope to host pop-ups with national retailers.
When Petkoski moved back to Detroit in 2014, she began nurturing relationships with artists while managing a space in a Corktown Airbnb for a friend she met in New York.
Schefman moved to Detroit in 2015 when they gained a 500-square foot space to use as a gallery and a common space for events. Yet, with the building’s primary use as a residential space, combined with the age of the building and the capacity to hold guests, the pair decided to dive into the concept and move.
“It was a really great test and proof of concept and it was extremely successful,” said Petkoski. “From then we decided that we were ready to move on and get a real space of our own and that’s the space on 2845 Gratiot.”
“Being open to collaboration and the different players in the field unifies the idea of innovation and creativity and playfulness to overcome intense struggle and negativity and challenges people face. It’s a positive way to look at the city. Positive energy breeds positive energy,” said Petkoski.
Playground Detroit is currently located in the incubator space for artists and entrepreneurs, Ponyride, working with local shops and venues, hosting exhibitions and concerts.