Signal Return is a storefront letterpress print shop in Eastern Market, Detroit led by Director, Ryan Schirmang. The main focus of Signal Return is art, followed by education, culture, and community outreach. What Ryan explained, is that “the backbone of the space are the learning workshops they offer. So many people spend so much time on the computer,” said Schirmang, “that we want to bring people back to working with their hands- through things like book binding and printmaking.” For more information on their workshop schedule, click here.

PLAYGROUND DETROIT recently stopped in to check out the recent storefront addition to Eastern Market. Ryan was so kind to talk to us about the space, show us some of his favorite prints, (which led to a purchase of one of their best-selling prints at the moment) and answered some questions about Signal Return. See a photo below of the limited edition print, “NOTHING STOPS DETROIT” that PLAYGROUND DETROIT now owns!

PD: When did Signal Return open?

RS:  We’ve been open since November 2011. This is now the first summer season we have experienced and so far the response has been great! Crowds have been flowing on the weekends and we hold events throughout the week as well, so we have a lot of traffic walking in from the street to check out what’s happening here in the space.”

PD: Why is Signal Return located  in Eastern Market?

RS: Eastern Market is really like a window to the rest of the greater Michigan community. All of the produce vendors who come from all over Michigan to sell fresh food attract a lot of local Detroiters and visitors/tourists. You can actually feel the energy coming in on a weekend down here and you hear people from all over saying, “Wow! This is cool!” and they want to keep coming back. It’s really an exciting place to be. We looked around for a location and this space was available and it just worked out.”

PD: How did the concept for this non-profit store front start?

RS: Signal Return started through a collaborative effort with Team Detroit, led by Chief Creative Officer, Toby Barlow and support from the Knight Foundation. These guys wanted to be able to help retain the city’s graduating talent from schools like College for Creative Studies. There are all of these young, talented graduates looking to find work and end up going elsewhere, like Chicago and New York. We wanted to make this place more ‘sticky’ and be able to keep these kids here [in Detroit]. It’s also a venue to be able to sell work in the storefront as well. We will be starting open studio times in the evenings so people can come here and work on their art, and then sell their art here also. It’s a great way for artists to make money for themselves, either as a supplement to other income or be able to focus on their work.

We just actually hired on a recent graduate, Joel Grothaus, and we were just thrilled to be able to do that. If we hadn’t of done that, he probably would have left Detroit to go find a job. We are looking forward to being able to hire more in the future.”

PD: Are you originally from Detroit?

RS: I’m from Chicago, actually. I went to University of Michigan for my Masters in Architecture, after graduating I moved back to Chicago for awhile, and then I ended up coming back to Michigan, and started working on projects downtown a couple years ago.  I have been living in Detroit now for four years and I love it.”

PD: Where do you live?

RS: I live in Lafayette Park. I’m pretty lucky to be living there… It’s like an oasis. You have these gorgeous glass and steel boxes set inside a forest, walking distance from downtown, Eastern Market and the Riverfront. The architecture blows me away every time I walk out the door.”

PD: How did you get involved with Signal Return?

RS:  I worked on the patio addition to Slows BBQ in Corktown, and also helped with the tall grass renovation in front of the Michigan Grand Central train station. Through these projects I became involved with Toby Barlow, and now I am the Special Proects Manager for Team Detroit. I have been fortunate to work on Signal Return, it’s really rewarding and fun.”

PD: Tell us more about the most recent event that Signal Return held- we heard NY-based author John Yau flew in to Signal Return to do a book reading.

RS: Yes, he flew into Detroit from NYC and read the first reading (world premier!) of his new book, Further Adventures in Monochrome at Signal-Return.  Lynn Crawford, a former student of Yau also shared her writing, thoughts, and inspiration from many pieces. Her book, Simply Separate People Two, is now available to purchase at Signal Return. It was such a wonderful, special night, we had a full house, it was great.”

PD: Where do you see Detroit in ten years?

RS: Probably full of people wearing skinny jeans! No, seriously though, it’s changing right under our feet as we speak. I think there will be a lot more people making things in Detroit, taking advantage of all the manufacturing and production resources we have at our fingertips.”




Check out some of our photos of Signal Return below!

 Check out this video from Richard Floridas series, Detroit RISING, which shows footage of Signal Return!

 Signal Return also has cameos in the Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr video for “We Almost Lost Detroit”! Can you find them?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – We Almost Lost Detroit from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. on Vimeo.