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BLOCK x BLOCK Uses Customized Boxes and Unique Trinkets to Introduce Local Artists and Buyers

Artist and designer Margarita Barry's latest project builds up local artists and neighborhood projects, block by block.

Margarita Barry has spent nearly a decade connecting local buyers and artists. First it was with 71 POP, Detroit's first pop-up retail shop devoted to showcasing local creatives–which Barry, a designer and artist herself, started in 2009. Her most recent project is BLOCK x BLOCK, which supports Detroit artists and neighborhood projects while mixing in the element of surprise.

The "blocks" are customized boxes filled with a mystery trinket made by a local artisan. First, pick your artist. Currently there are three: Ndubisi Okoye, whose pencil and ink drawings exhibit a music-like rhythm; Joseph Hurd, a metalworker; and Rebel Nell, a company of jewelry makers who use the peeling paint from graffiti works in their designs.

Next, decide on a price point and whether you'd like to personalize your block with a message or photo. BLOCK x BLOCK donates 5 percent of each purchase to a neighborhood project. Lastly, designate which project your dollars will benefit.

So, you see, the meaning of "block" is two-fold here.

Barry says as they grow, they'll add more artists and projects. Soon, too, you'll have the option to eliminate the mystery and peek inside the block before you buy.

I have a passion for supporting young, local artists and just entrepreneurs in general," Barry says. "Why not support local artists?" She adds, "For me, art is like treasure. There's something about getting something personal that someone took the time to make that hasn't been mass manufactured."

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