The 2016 Innovation Fund: The Forge

The Innovation Fund is a four-week crowdfunding competition that gives VFA Fellows the opportunity to launch their business ideas and projects. Eleven Fellow-led teams are off to the races sharing their new ventures with the world and hustling to raise as much money as possible. Between now and August 4th, the team that raises the most money will receive additional funding to launch their venture.

Anna Isachenko is the Operations Czar at SPLT, a social ride-sharing platform designed to reinvent the commute. She was born and raised in Moscow, matured in New Jersey, moved to upstate New York to receive her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Ithaca College, and now lives in Detroit. As a student, Anna revitalized the International Business Association, was elected to lead the Model United Nations team, and developed business ideas including the TraceIt Project, a smartphone app which allows users to scan the barcode of a garment and uncover its ethical background, in terms of both labor and environmental impact. While Anna is pursuing her passion for sustainability at SPLT, she is also developing The Forge, a space for visual, sound and design artists to collaborate.

This past January, my former jazz instructor asked me to record a version of a Billie Holiday cover. Fascinated with Detroit’s rich musical history, I decided to book studio time at United Sound Systems, a studio known for its contribution to the Motown movement. My good friend Cassie joined me for moral support. Surrounded by framed vinyl records, we made our way to Studio D. The floors creaked beneath our feet as we walked through the halls, reminding us of the many other musicians that had created in the space.

I had the live demo recording on my flash drive in less than an hour. Yet felt that something was missing and asked my friends for help. Kelly agreed to capture a photo that would portray the meaning of the song. Emily created the graphic design. Combining the skill-sets of sound, visual and design artists, along with an unconditional support network, the project was finally complete.

Civilla Space

Now imagine what that would like look like if artists of these mediums lived together in a historic Detroit home. As you enter the ground floor, you see a room filled with artists sketching away at their ideas.

You keep walking to find a smaller room with soundproof walls and someone experimenting with a new melody on piano. The next, you see an artist working away at an acrylic, rushing before the sun goes down to take advantage of the natural light seeping through the wide windows. You explore the upstairs to find messy bedrooms, each with their own character. Residents of this home are part of a year-long opportunity to explore their art by collaborating with each other and the community. The result: a safe space for experimentation. 

I wondered what would happen if I brought emerging artists under one roof and was inspired to create The Forge. I realized the immense potential for a new type of artist space; a place combining the tools of maker-spaces, the knowledge of art institutions, and problem solving of design-thinking innovation centers, with the immersive experience of a residency program.

Part maker-space, part studio and part idea incubator, The Forge will be home to five emerging visual, sound and design artists selected to live for one year in a renovated Detroit house. In addition, they’ll receive all of the tools they need to get inspired and bring their crazy ideas to life. During the year, the surrounding community will be invited into the studio space every weekend (and weekday with enough funding) to learn, make art and meet up with other local creatives.


The ability to create music in a collaborative and supportive community has been a point of emotional growth for me and my art. I want to create a space where others have access to that opportunity. Follow my journey.

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