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Creative directions to create cultures in Detroit

By Albert Yu, Michigan Korean Weekly

Mike Han grew up… everywhere. Born in Ann Arbor, MI, Han has lived in Boston, MA, Holland, MI, Westport, CT, Stevensville, MI, Plymouth, MI, Kalamazoo, MI, West Lafayette, IN, Los Angeles/Hollywood, CA, before finally finding himself in Detroit. And it is here that he finds himself working to realize his childhood dreams.

The various places Han lived were punctuated with the exploration in his life — having left college where he studied pre-business, he also explored hospitality and tourism management, briefly enrolled in art school, and dabbled in personal fitness training. But the twenty-some years spent trying to figure out who he was revealed a surprising answer.

“Usually in college, you figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life,” Han said. “For me, I found out a couple years ago that the kid I was when I was six is the same person I am now in terms of core interests.”

As a child, he “just wanted to play with and read about sharks and dinosaurs,” and now Han finds himself drawing them all the time. Starting out with an observational blog about Detroit in 2010, Han biked around the city taking photographs, which evolved into making products. Today that has shifted from making products to focusing on the creative services that surround them — marketing.

More than that, Han seeks to create experiences through art, such as the activation of public spaces and vacancies.

This venture has resulted in Street Culture Mash Studios, a creative services business. Han’s duties as principal include marketing, sales, business development, and creative direction; his partners are Director of Operations Joshua Magee, Creative Director Tyler Schick, and Director of Videography Chris Hersey.

Together, the collective produced Woodward Windows, an experiential marketing piece for the developers involved. This creative activation of their assets works on drawing attention to their space through art installations.

Currently SCM Studios is working on building financial support for the project.

“We’re hoping to get corporations invested in downtown, to invest in public art and acknowledge the correlation between economic development and public art.”

In addition to SCM Studios, Han is creating Fearless & United, a non-profit developer. SCM itself is a for-profit venture, looking to generate revenue to turn back and invest into its own projects. Han seeks to have the two ventures intertwined, a non-profit that works with the for-profit.

However, SCM isn’t just another attention-generating process. Han seeks to connect corporations, to link the brands with the creative minds. It’s not just about marketing for a client company, but doing it in a way that connects them with the appropriate talent. To create opportunities that fit with the brand of the client company to help them connect with their audience.

“What sets us apart is that it’s not about having a corporate vision and creating stuff based on what the brands want to portray themselves as,” Han said, “but knowing where that company’s at and knowing what they want to achieve, and identifying the talent that exists here on the ground floor.”

To further that end, Han has made a conscious decision to work exclusively with brands that align with SCM’s own mission, and to stay authentic in his production.

“In every situation, we try to be the target ourselves. We think about what we’d want to consume.”

For example, SCM’s biggest client, Vitamin Water, has their hands in music, style and action sports. That lifestyle aligns with a lot of SCM’s mission and goals.

Han and his team, focus on creating things that are sustainable – different from the typical ‘use and discard’ cycle that both artists and their art often suffer for the sake of economic development.

“Cities have a lifecycle — creative minds find unwanted spaces and work to improve the quality of life, physically building out their space and changing the landscape. Because of their work, money followed. People become attracted to the creative enclave, and soon it becomes all luxury and expensive. The artists get displaced because they work themselves out of their own community.”

Han finds Detroit exciting because of the amount of space that exists to discover and develop, and the creative community that is drawn to the city.

“If we can create a sustainable infrastructure – create long-term affordable places and keep the community here that is greeting all this economic activity – we can keep the tremendous value to creating culture in Detroit.”

Han realizes the need for community and support for other artists. Realizing that, regardless of the creative minds, things often boil down to finances in order to succeed. He cares about other artists because it’s for the city.

“If you have a whole bunch of people succeed, it’s better for everyone – and way more fun.”

With the collective team at SCM Studios, and the budding Fearless & United, the mission stands to be a catalyst that positions Detroit as the next creative capital of the world.

“I just want to do business differently.”

Company Contact:
Michael Han
Street Culture Mash Studios

Street Culture Mash is a collective of fearless creators. We are collaborators, innovators, facilitators, story tellers and change makers. Our mission is to create an environment that sustains creative practice and proliferates the world’s best art and design.

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