The Urban Folk Art Exploratory was founded in 2005 by Remi Harrington with a mission to provide a voice to the Hip Hop Community to activate social change through the Arts. That mission has evolved from arts-based social justice education and programming through area nonprofits like Kalamazoo Communities in Schools, into full-on neighborhood-centered food industry ecosystem development, and various other aspects of public interest design led by the people.

The goal is to re-engineer pathways to access by leveraging public and vacant spaces. Those sites have historically been viewed as blight and functionally obsolete, but they are valuable and can be remediated and reimagined into all types of cool things that the entire community can enjoy, in addition to creating work for people.

Their vision of a viable and harmonious Hip Hop community is the verbal illustration of the story the Diaspora people of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Hip Hop has provided pathways for participation in the economy and the democracy as citizens in ways that Black people have historically been ousted from taking part in.

When the work started in 2005, Harrington says this conversation felt radical. Sixteen years later, the same conversations are happening, but she has recognized shifts in the social, political and economic landscape.The hope is to create systems in the Black community that seamlessly transition from the conversation to activating values in the space of real estate development, historical arts preservation, instructional design, food systems design and workforce development.

The Urban Folk Art Exploratory believes the people must create for themselves because, regardless of intention, systems will fail without solutions that center community.

Note To Our Donor Advisors:
You’ve already shown your love for this community by creating an Advised Fund at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. Through Partners in Philanthropy, we offer you an opportunity to demonstrate that love again by supporting one or more of the projects highlighted with a grant suggestion from the fund you established. The programs shared in this publication are among the recent funding requests we’ve received from local nonprofit organizations.

To support this program, download the grant suggestion form and select Urban Folk Art Exploratory or make a grant suggestion using Kalamazoo Connect at