New Multi-Purpose Stage to Feature Student Performances

Our newly fenced-in backyard space continues to become more functional, enhancing the Downtown Boxing Gym’s educational mission. Now we’ve added an innovative performance stage designed and assembled by Challenge Detroit volunteers.

Challenge Detroit fellow Claire Babala, a 2016 graduate of Michigan State University had a big idea – and now it’s become a reality. While participating in the “Green Space Activation” challenge, Claire dreamed up a performance stage made of 12 wooden blocks arranged in a grid that can be separated and used for seating and easily moved and stored. The design lends itself to the stage’s multi-purpose, transitional nature.

“It can be used to host musical and dramatic performances by students at the boxing gym, as well as others from the neighborhood and throughout Detroit,” Claire says. “We have discussed hosting improv classes as well as a student play from another nonprofit. The stage can also be utilized to host speeches and community events.”

A wood frame attached to the sage can be used to hold up a screen for movie nights or to project logos and other images. The eyelets on the frame can hold wiring to display artwork. Holding it all together are 14 pieces of plywood, 30 two-by-fours, nails, screws and other materials. It came together thanks to the efforts of 18 volunteers and the help of Babala’s friends and family members.

“Part of the process also included fundraising to cover material costs and food the day of the event, and I found support at my host company, Brooks Kushman, at local businesses like Belle Isle Pizza, and from individuals in my network and beyond,” Babala explained.

Challenge Detroit is a fellowship program, launched five years ago, to bring together innovative, community-minded thinkers to dream big for our city. It has since served more than 40 local nonprofit organizations.

The original “Green Space Activation” challenge involved four teams working on seasonal programming, community, sustainability and long-term growth. The goal is to create a space our students can enjoy and use to further their educational opportunities.

Babala, who double-majored in professional writing and arts and humanities at MSU, each with a focus on community development and writing for the community, says she can envision many other uses for the outdoor space: a soccer field, expanded garden and basketball court.

“I hope that stage will be used for many years to come,” she says. “I believe that it is a versatile enough piece that new ways to take advantage of the structure will constantly be discovered. I also hope that it becomes a place where students can express themselves and explore their passion for performance.”

Babala says she was inspired by the talent of the many students at the Downtown Boxing Gym.

“It’s important to realize that we all have the potential for greatness,” she says. “With access to support and resources, there is no limit to an individual’s chances for success.”

Our heartfelt thanks go out to Claire, the rest of the Challenge Detroit fellows, and all the wonderful volunteers and contributors who took part in this summer’s projects.