Local artists build blocks so you can have a unique holiday gift

Local artists build blocks so you can have a unique holiday gift

It might as well be a kick to the kidneys – that look you get when someone opens the gift you put so much effort into and says “this is great … even better when I bought it.”

BLOCK x BLOCK gives you a chance to prevent that problem, all while helping local artists. And, you can do it all online.

“Through BLOCK x BLOCK we’re daring to bridge the gap between online shopping, discovering homegrown artists, supporting local neighborhoods, and making art accessible through personalized gift giving,” says Block x Block founder Margarita Barry.

You’ll get a personalized “block” (box) filled with one-of-a-kind surprise works by local artists who help build up Detroit communities. Blocks also come with a small trinket from the artist that represents where the idea came from, like a postcard or even a bag of herbs. Each mystery block features original commissioned work and includes a statement from the artist.

You can customize your block by uploading a personal photo and greeting.

To order your block, go to the website. There you can:

  1. Choose an artist
  2. Find the commission level you want
  3. Personalize
  4. Select a project
  5. Checkout

Then, before you know it, you will have a block with a piece of art that is its own thing. If you really like it, it doesn’t even have to be a gift.

“BLOCK x BLOCK allows users to commission unique works from artists packaged in customizable boxes (or blocks), all while contributing to neighborhood improvement efforts and other civic causes,” says Barry. “Each block’s artist and commission level is your choice, what’s inside is entirely up to the artist.”

The artists you can choose from are:

  • Ndubis Okoye – ink and paper artist, who has already gained a following
  • Joseph Hurd – metal sculptor
  • Rebel Nell – a group of women artists, former victims of abuse who learn the trade of jewelry making with found objects to help regain their independence.
Ndubis Okoye

Bolstering Detroit doesn’t end with just these artists – 5-10 percent of the money will go to neighborhood projects. One is Detroit Hives, which brings bees to unused land in the city.

Another is the Detroit Parent Collective, Detroit’s first permanent combined co-working space and preschool.

Dollars also go to Dinner for 30, which encourages people to bridge cultural gaps through live storytelling and cooking. A cook prepares a dish that is connected to a fond memory and tells a story about it. When the cook is finished with the story the audience of 30 tastes the dish.

A grant from Emerging City Champions, a fellowship program for young civic innovators, helped Barry launch the project.

Barry also credits the many connections she’s made since she introduced her first project in 2010, bringing pop-up stored to Detroit. Thanks to her efforts 71 pop-up stores rotated in the area.

Joseph Hurd

To kick off BLOCK x BLOCK there will be a Holiday Block Party on Dec. 2 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the future home of the Boho Bar at 71 Garfield St. #140A. The event will be part of Noel Night.

Partygoers will be able to meet the artists, enjoy free refreshments and listen to DJ Thornstryker.

RSVP on the event Facebook page.

With BLOCK x BLOCK you can help a neighborhood, support local artists and get some unique art, all while finding the right present for that hard to shop for “friend.” In the end, isn’t that the real meaning of the holiday season?

You can follow BLOCK x BLOCK on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

— Lead picture is of Ndubis Okoye.





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