#2 Small Budget, Big Hustle with Garret Koehler of ASSEMBLE



Garret and a couple buddies wanted to bring the X Games to Detroit. So they got in touch with the executive director of the X Games and became the bid entity for the city. Hear the underlying reason why bringing the X Games to Detroit would be a win/win situation. The X Games bid turned into a Grassroots movement that got the attention to some city stakeholders. Hear why, even though Detroit won the popular vote by a long shot, the bid was lost and how that didn’t stop them.

Garret was right in the middle of a movement and it began with no one getting paid to do the X Games bid for the first couple months, they pushed forward and even though they lost the bid, they had rallied enough support to throw a multi-million dollar event themselves — and as a result, formed ASSEMBLE.

Hear Garret tell his favorite story about ASSEMBLE’s first big event where he noticed Dan Gilbert standing amongst some of the most notorious graffiti artists from Detroit, live spraying on wooden panels, just nodding his head — appreciating their work. Which he explains afterward by saying, “It’s all about context — So in the context that this was legal, sanctioned, whatever — Elmer’s work was celebrated as an asset when it’s normally seen as a liability.”

Garret reminisces about his time in Ireland where he did conflict resolution between the Protestant & Catholic conflicts. Where he asks a soldier who represents the epitome of one side of the conflict, “What’s it going to take for you that’s had so many friends killed by Catholics, who has killed people as well — what’s it going to take to somehow bridge this gap between the two warring sides?”

“The city is going to change, but do we want Detroit to become another Chicago? Do we want to be Brooklyn? Berlin?...”

“The question isn’t ‘Is Detroit rebuilding itself?’ it’s ‘What are we actually trying to build in Detroit?’ The city is going to change, but do we want Detroit to become another Chicago? Do we want to be Brooklyn? Berlin?...” Here Garret brings up the things doers in Detroit are talking about. “To ASSEMBLE it’s not about changing the narrative anymore, it’s about convening and asking ourselves, ‘What do we want to build?’”

Join us and Garret Koehler, watch/listen to this enlightening episode of Stream Detroit.

Show Notes


  • (03:27) “There was this huge misconception, still is I think — globally, about what’s happening in Detroit.”
  • (04:10) “It started out with us and grew into this grassroots movement of people who saw the value of having the X Games here…”
  • (06:37) “We put together a proposal that reflected the actual cost of what it would have been in this city…$14,000,000…”
  • (10:10) “We were going on adrenaline for 8 months straight…”
  • (13:40) “My favorite story from that night was seeing Dan Gilbert standing there...”
  • (16:49) “If you’re trying to do something that’s broad and bring together a diverse group of people you do have to find the things that we all share in common…”
  • (21:32) “…People are sick of bullshit and fraudulence…Why can’t we be genuine and authentic about what we’re doing, where we’re at, what kind of backing we have and don’t have and just hope that the story resonates with people?”
  • (25:59) “The world doesn’t understand what’s happening to Detroit, they think this is a dead city, but we’re rebuilding it from the ground up and we’re doing it in a completely different way that’s ever happened before. We want to share that story with the world.”
  • (28:24) “This question, “What are we building in Detroit?” introduces a conversation that allows us to talk about Dan Gilbert and Danny Brown in the same sentence”
  • (44:00)“That’s the story of Detroit — Small budget, big hustle…”


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