A New Use for an Old School: Historic Building in Midtown Transformed Into Skate Park, Concert Venue This Weekend

The House of Vans pop-up brings an indoor skate park, art galleries and live music to the empty classrooms and hallways of the Jefferson School in Midtown.


Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation. CultureShift airs weekdays 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on 101.9 WDETFM Detroit public radio.

In the past two decades, there’s been about 200 school closures in Detroit.

That’s left dozens of unoccupied former schools shuttered and boarded up including historically and architecturally significant ones like the Jefferson School in Midtown, which closed in 2016 and is currently awaiting a $21-million redevelopment scheduled to be finished by next year.

How should we use these buildings in the mean time?

Longtime skateboarding brand Vans has come up with an idea.

Transform the old gym at the Jefferson School into an indoor skate park complete with skating demos and workshops. Put live music from Detroit’s own Danny Brown and bass wizard Thundercat in the auditorium. Turn the old classrooms into art galleries and workshops focusing on everything from film and cartooning to a modular synth workshop with Matthew Dear.

The House of Vans pop-up is open now through Sunday. It’s a concept from Vans that has been exhibited in other parts of the globe — Paris, Mexico City, Hong Kong — but this will be its first-ever Detroit stop.

“You can get lost in the school. You can check out some art. You can attend one of the many workshops,” says Brooke Burt, senior manager of lifestyle brand marketing for Vans. “The other great thing about the skatepark is that in the mornings over the weekend, we’ll be doing free skate clinics.”

The event is completely free and open to the public of all ages but you will need to RSVP as some of the workshops and events are already at capacity.

Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation about House of Vans happening this weekend in Detroit with CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper, Brooke Burt from Vans and Ghostly International’s Sam Valenti. 


  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.