What’s Hot? Our New Wood Fired Pizza Oven Built by U-M Students

A small but mighty group of students from the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art and Design got a taste of community engagement recently while building a hot new tool for our culinary arts program – a wood fired pizza oven. The students worked hard and built the oven from scratch in our outdoor space behind the building.

“The School of Art and Design has a really unique requirement called an engagement studio. Students partner with regional organizations to create impactful projects,” explained professor Joe Trumpy who oversaw the effort. “We started with digging a hole and filling it with gravel to protect from frost. Then, we built a cement block structure filled with mortar, topped with limestone slabs and firebrick, and created a sand dome.”

During construction, the U of M students themselves hand-mixed and molded over 600 pounds of cob, a mixture of straw, clay, and sand, for the oven’s outer core. DBG students will add mosaic tiles, a finishing artistic touch that will help make the pizza oven their own.

“We chose DBG because we saw how impactful their programs are for Detroit’s youth,” said Lanisha Sims, one of the five art and design students involved. “DBG’s dedication to its students and the community is inspiring. After doing our research, we saw how much time and effort that they put into the students here. We hope helping to build this pizza oven will build community engagement and further enhance their culinary arts program.”

Salem, another dedicated student, emphasized the rewarding nature of the project.

“Communities have seen more isolation in recent years and having a sense of community is becoming more rare,” he said. “To see a youth program like this thriving in an area that needs it is a great thing on its own. But knowing how diverse DBG is, and the variety of things they offer here makes being able to help out even that much better.” 

DBG eagerly anticipates hosting pizza parties and other events, showcasing the oven’s role in community-building and culinary education. 

Molly Mitchell, former owner of Rose’s Fine Food and DBG’s associate director of culinary arts expressed excitement about integrating the oven into various upcoming activities.

“The students will not only learn how to use the oven but will also grow their own pizza toppings in our garden, creating a full-circle experience,” she said. “Outdoor wood fired ovens are so incredible because they allow for gathering and sharing food in the garden. We will be harvesting directly from our garden, preparing and cooking the pizzas right there. It is not only a great teaching tool but an effective way to build community.”

The collaboration between DBG and the University of Michigan School of Art and Design represents more than just building a pizza oven – it’s about fostering creativity, community, and education. We are so grateful to professor Trumpy and his talented students who worked in the 90-degree weather to help bring this project to life. Together, we look forward to continuing our mission of inspiring and uplifting students through innovative programs and impactful partnerships.