Playground Detroit co-founders Paulina Petkoski and Samantha Banks Schefman

Playground Detroit to open retail, gallery and event space near Eastern Market

They have mastered the art of multitasking. That’s what creative entrepreneurs with big dreams do. Paulina Petkoski and Samantha Banks Schefman, both 30, are making things happen for themselves and the growing community of artists and musicians they support via Playground Detroit, an agency they started in 2012 to showcase Detroit’s top talent.

“To date, we have worked with more than 100 artists and hosted more than 50 events,” Petkoski says. “And we’re just getting started.”

Playground Detroit co-founders Paulina Petkoski and Samantha Banks Schefman

The two first met at Groves High School in Beverly Hills. They attended separate colleges — Paulina studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City while Samantha earned a degree in metalsmithing at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit.

No surprise, creativity runs in both of their families. Schefman’s father, Robert, chairs the foundation department at CCS and is known for his stunningly lifelike watercolor paintings. Her mother, Christine, is director of the David Klein Gallery. Petkoski’s father, George, is a master architect with the Sidock Group. He had his own firm for decades.

Following graduation, Paulina and Samantha met up again while pursuing careers in New York’s fashion industry and joined forces to support the creative community where they grew up. That’s how Playground Detroit was born.

“We act as agents for the artists,” Schefman explains. “We give them exhibitions and work to get them commissions. Our goal is to retain the talent of this city and to attract more, and broaden the market and the audience.”

Building ‘The Playground’

Playground Detroit also has a digital magazine, an online marketplace and a vast social media network. Paulina and Samantha launched their initiative from New York, but have since moved back to Detroit to expand their efforts. For five years, they hosted exhibitions and events in pop-up locations including bars, restaurants, shops and businesses. Now, they’ve leased a 1,500-square-foot space in a historic building at 2845 Gratiot Ave. near the Eastern Market, and they are transforming it into a retail, gallery and event space called the Playground. The two-story red brick building dates back to 1877.

“We are creating an inspiring, vibrant space and community hub with exterior murals and an adjacent art park,” Schefman says. “This will be a unique retail destination and a place to showcase Detroit’s amazing talent and creativity.”

Plans include installing moveable walls, track lighting, displays, shelving, an office and point-of-sale retail. There will also be a DJ booth/sound system, kitchenette, lofted lounge space, and an engaging front window and custom bench system. A Kickstarter campaign was launched to raise $75,000 for construction, programming and startup costs, including purchasing merchandise for retail. The crowd-funding campaign runs through the end of the year.

In 2017, plans call for a grand opening and at least six exhibitions with Detroit artists and two national artists. Why are they so driven to do this? They say they want to give artists and musicians an opportunity to be part of the conversation in the continued development of Detroit and encourage people to push harder and dream bigger.

“I believe in Detroit,” Petoski says. “There’s an incredible amount of potential here. This is a resilient, innovative, brilliant, inspiring group of people who are here by choice, and they’re working hard every day to see the changes they want to see.”

Artist William Irving Singer participated in Playground Detroit’s Holiday Recess exhibition in 2015 and donated work as a reward for the Kickstarter campaign. He will be debuting a new body of work in his solo exhibition at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art in 2017. 

“Over the past couple years, Playground Detroit has proven to be an invaluable resource for local artists and the community at large,” he said. “The opening of its new gallery highlights a commitment and sense of leadership many underrepresented Detroit artists have been waiting for.” 

To support Playground Detroit by contributing to its Kickstarter campaign, visit