Farmington resident adds color to empty storefronts

When Claire Perko moved from Atlanta to Farmington two years ago, she wanted to get involved in the community.

Today, she’s filling empty store windows in downtown Farmington with color and messages of hope and encouragement. Perko is a member of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Main Street Design Committee, which she was encouraged to join by city council member Steven Schneemann.

Dress Barn window
Claire Perko designed this cheerful window display, which recently moved into the former Dress Barn on Grand River. (Claire Perko)

“I’m a landscape architect and urban designer, and I’m working remotely from my office in Atlanta,” said Perko, the mother of two children ages 3 and 6. “This was somewhere I could lend my expertise even more.”

Claire Perko
Claire Perko (Contributed)

The window project started when she ran into DDA Director Kate Knight and assistant Jessica Westendorf, who wanted to fill an empty storefront that had been vacant for months. Perko volunteered to create a winter scene and snowmen in the former Art Alcove on Grand River.

When it came time for the snow to go, she had an idea that incorporated flowers and would greet passersby with a message of hope through a spring and summer limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friends and family helped create the display, which has since moved into the empty Dress Barn building at Grand River and Grove. New owner GLP Financial Group of Farmington Hills is transforming the former Art Alcove building into office space for 25 employees expected to move downtown in September.

The display quote riffs on “We can do hard things.”, from author Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, because “it’s not overly optimistic, and it’s not gloom-and-doom, but something in the middle that speaks to the strengths in our community.” A world map filled with butterflies signals that “we’re all in this together,” Perko said.

Butterfly map
A map created with paper butterflies is part of the display in the former Dress Barn window. (Claire Perko)

“We have been cocooned in quarantine, but we just have to get through this,” she added.

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