If you know of vacant meatpacking plant in your neighborhood, you might consider converting it into a home and workspace. At least it worked out really well for the Detroit-based artists Faina Lerman and Graem Whyte. In 2007, the painter and performance artist, and her husband (a sculptor and architectural dabbler) seized the opportunity to buy the former Popps plant (later known as a cookie factory) built in the 1930s and rebirthed it into a bustling art center in the city’s Hamtramck neighborhood. Hamtramck is a culturally diverse city within a city. It was originally settled by German farmers, followed by a flood of Polish immigrants in the early part of the 20th century. Over the past thirty years a large number of immigrants (Yemenis, Bengali, Macedonian, Turkish, and Russian) to name just a few have taken up residence in Hamtramck along with a growing tide of young creative entrepreneurs. Since 2009, Graem and Faina have hosted seasonal indoor/outdoor installations, exhibitions and performances in the building where they also live in with their two young children. Popps Packing is not only a home and studio, it’s also an experimental arts venue aimed at promoting dialog and cultural exchange between the local, national and international communities through exhibitions, performances, workshops and artist residencies. In 2011, the duo purchased a house (Poppa Joe’s Guest House) and a house/storefront (Popps Emporium) across the street, further activating neglected spaces on the border of Detroit and Hamtramck, while providing additional housing and exhibition space for visiting artists. In 2012, they started a residency program that includes studio practice, research, architectural interventions and alternative systems projects. Popps Packing has been a self funded enterprise since it’s inception, relying on the resourceful handiness of Faina and Graem, lots of time/labor/material donations from their friends, odd jobs from clients, and small scale fundraising to keep things moving.
See what Faina’s wearing here: Carhartt Women’s Coleharbor Hoodie, Clarksburg Zip-Front Sweatshirt, Original-Fit Jasper Jeans, Sandstone Kenai Parka, C-Grip Knuckler Gloves, and Carhartt Women’s Rapid City Utility Work Apron