Creating an idyllic space for artists, educators and entrepreneurs in rural Michigan

A former Catholic boarding school in Clinton is in the works to become an idyllic working space and retreat for artists, educators and entrepreneurs in southeast Michigan.

“Boysville” is now “Macon Creek,” named after the waterway that runs along its east side. It is a development from The Hive Project, a holistic creative incubator for artists and innovators.  

Situated across 215 acres in the midst of farm country, Macon Creek features 17 buildings among miles of walking paths, woods, a pond and fields. 

The Hive Project founders John Goodell and Kim Tucker-Gray had been looking for a permanent location for their non-profit and wanted a rural, inspirational campus that would empower a diverse community of creators. Though they had not needed something to this scale, they knew right away this was meant to be their new home. Its central location within an hour’s drive of Ann Arbor, Detroit and Toledo made it all the better.

“It’s 30 minutes from [where I live in] Ann Arbor … and it feels like I’m Up North within 10 minutes,” Tucker-Gray said. “The hustle and bustle of the city is behind me, and it really is an easy place to tap into creativity within just a few minutes of being there.”

With a big space comes a big vision, one that uses all aspects of the property for a holistic community that fosters creativity and collaboration. While in its early stages, Macon Creek has grown steadily since its launching in May 2021.

Right away, it opened “The Hive” (not to be confused with its parent organization, The Hive Project). The 19,000 square-foot building serves as both a co-working space and a banquet hall for community events, plus an art gallery that features rotating artists. The co-working space has about 40 users in fields ranging from real estate to social work to IT start-ups and is expected to grow.

“Even though the people that are coming into The Hive and working there [live] mostly within 30 minutes of the place, the work that they’re doing is worldwide,” Tucker-Gray said.

In the summer of 2022, Macon Creek opened an arts camp featuring one-week programs for sixth- through 12th–graders with focuses in instrumental music, theater and dance, choral arts and visual arts. It is currently a day camp, but Macon Creek plans to renovate the site’s former dorms and apartments to offer overnight accommodations for summer of 2024. 

While a co-working space and a youth arts camp might not appear to have a lot in common, the holistic, collaborative mission of The Hive Project finds ways to join the two. Among its members are farmers who lease 100 acres of Macon Creek but also give educational presentations to students on the farming process and where their food comes from.

Another collaborative effort was with a Michigan State Police canine unit, who used some of the property’s vacant buildings for training purposes. One of the troopers then gave a presentation on his work, bonding with the campers over his own musical background as a percussionist. 

Goodell said these personal interactions are what make Macon Creek unique.

“It’s not just a music camp, it’s not just a canine training unit, it’s not just a field where you can lease a farm,” he said. “It’s all part of a bigger ecosystem that we’re trying to model on this campus.”

In the works is a partnership with the Great Lakes Arts Foundation (GLAF), a non-profit with a mission to promote the arts throughout the region. While Macon Creek currently has a strong focus on the performing arts and youth programming, GLAF President Don Wakefield has a grand vision to create a cultural attraction and a haven for the visual arts more geared to adults.

This year, to start, GLAF plans to transform one of the Macon Creek’s buildings into an industrial arts center, a maker space for ceramicists, glassblowers, woodworkers and other artists. In addition to creating their own work, the artists could also offer classes to the community.

Tucker-Gray said many people discovered new interests during the pandemic, and now that people are back at work, the center would be a place to continue those new hobbies.

“The heavy lifting of the material and the tools would be there,” she said. “They’re able to come in, collaborate or just work on their own and I think that’s all a part of that space.”

While still in the concept stage, Wakefield hopes to eventually create an artist retreat, an art museum and a 50-to-100-acre sculpture garden on the property. 

He said the rural atmosphere was exactly what he was looking for.

“It is a country getaway, and you feel like it when you’re driving out there from our area [around Plymouth],” he said. “It’s not too far at all, but it’s surrounded by farmland and barns … so that’s cool.

Macon Creek is also working to create other partnerships to continue to renovate and fill the space, especially with established institutions like universities. Goodell said the property is uniquely situated, because its buildings can be renovated to be up and running in a matter of months, as opposed to building something from scratch which would take years to complete.

“[We’re working to convince] people who have resources to support those things that this is something that not only the community wants and needs, but that we’re capable of delivering,” he said.

Tucker-Gray said overall, the goal is to put more good in the world and to build a place for people to access their creativity.

“Those spaces have gone away, and we’ve scheduled our lives in a way that we don’t have the time, don’t make the time and don’t take the time to do it,” she said, “so having a space and creating that time allows for just endless possibilities.”

Erica Hobbs is a writer based in Detroit with a passion for arts and culture and travel. She has reported for numerous news outlets including the Detroit News, Fodors, Business Insider, Reuters, WDET and (now the Ann Arbor News), among others.
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