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Nick Tobier


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A&D Associate Professor

Nick Tobier, Libra, is a public performer whose work is rooted in the social lives of public places. He studied landscape architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design and subsequently worked as a landscape architect in private practice and with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation/Bronx Division. Nick Tobier's interest in the potential of public places has manifested itself in built public projects and actions in San Francisco, Detroit and New York, internationally from Toronto to Tokyo, and performances on the stage and in the streets from Milan to Paramaribo, Suriname and at The Edinburgh, Minneapolis and Philadelphia Fringe Festivals.



Posts by Nick Tobier

Design for Social Change

Collaborating with students from Detroit Community Schools

Last fall, I taught the first of what I hope is a regular class and partnership between the School of Art & Design, the Center for Entrepreneurship, and a community school in the Brightmoor neighborhood in Detroit. The class uses the principles of human centered design to develop art and design projects that will impact the community in a positive way.

Let me try to give a concrete example to illustrate the meaning of human centered design and why it is essential for a collaboration like this.

Think of an object you use habitually—a chair, shoes, a wallet. Each of these has a recognizable and designated function. I don’t know about you, but my wallet doesn’t always work for me, and so I stuff receipts, bits of paper, business cards and other ephemera in my more capacious pockets. The chairs, they’re OK, but I find myself, like right now, sitting on the floor. 

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Artistic Bureaucrats

Politicians Get Creative

Michigan Senator Hansen Clarke was on the radio yesterday, talking about his childhood on Detroit's Lower East Side first, and then about his education as a painter at Cornell University. Clarke offered an interesting take on his governing style as influenced by his fine arts background. Using both concrete examples and useful prompts a good drawing teacher would suggest, Clarke talked about seeing a big picture to understand how it is organized as a whole--conceptually and as a composition, an interest in thinking abstractly, and a willingness to engage in giving form to new ideas.

As we think about artists and creative visions for Detroit, I thought Clarke's words were well placed and reflected on two artistically inclined politicians who have used their creative backgrounds to shape their policy and their cities.

One is former 2-term mayor of Bogota, Colombia, the...

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Thriving Streets: Southwest & Midtown

Following the shifting names of Detroit's Creative Spaces

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend time with Juan Martinez, principal of Ceaser Chavez Academy on Waterman Street in southwest Detroit. Juan had grown up in the neighborhood, and we got to talking about his favorite spots from childhood, and how many of them are still around--Duly's Coney Island on West Vernor and the Holy Redeemer Church on Junction-- and what makes a great neighborhood. He noted this past Sunday's feature Detroit Free Press article by John Gallagher, Southwest Detroit, Midtown thriving, which I'd highly recommend (along with John Gallagher's book, ReImagining Detroit )



Ice Cream vendor, Hubbard Street, Southwest Detroit

Among the topics that come up in these discussions are themes of new use--urban agriculture, artists' work space--and along with those questions about displacement of existing communities and the interplay between...

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