project leader
Laura K
601 Horton St
(North End)
latest update rss
Goal Reached!

the project

This fundraiser will establish an annual tax-free stipend of $30,000 for the inaugural Abby Kraftowitz Fellowship. Abby Kraftowitz was a photographer whose work highlighted both the strength and vulnerability of the human spirit. She connected profoundly with her subjects, who were women and LGBT families facing trauma, addiction, eating disorders, and end-of-life illness. She studied with artists around the world, refining her unique ability to portray, with sensitivity and beauty, their pain and resilience, the ways these obstacles challenged them and their communities supported them. Her deeply personal photos were published and exhibited by the Homeless Children's Education Fund, AIDS Task Force, TIME, The Eye of Photography, Slate, the Southern Vermont Art Center, and the Madurai International Photography Festival, among others. Abby brought her boundless spirit and sense of adventure to her artistic practice, and when she passed away in January 2020 at the age of 33 after a battle with ovarian cancer, City of Asylum/Detroit decided to continue her legacy by creating a fellowship in her name. You can see some of her work at

City of Asylum/Detroit offers shelter to writers and artists who are at risk in their place of origin. We are part of the International Cities of Refuge Network, a network of over 70 cities advancing freedom of expression, defending democratic values, and promoting international solidarity. Our mentors at the U.S. headquarters in Pittsburgh have energized the North Side, a once depressed community, with housing for writers, public art, a park, a restaurant, and a bookstore. At City of Asylum/Detroit, we’re bringing this vision to Detroit’s North End. 

We’ll offer long-term shelter in our Detroit properties to those who are at risk as a direct consequence of their creative activities, and a broad range of literary and artistic programs that anchor neighborhood economic development by transforming blighted properties into homes for these programs, and energize public spaces through public art with text-based components. Cities of asylum protect an increasingly wide range of writers and artists, including bloggers, novelists, playwrights, journalists, musicians, poets, non-fiction writers, visual artists, cartoonists, singer/songwriters, translators, screenwriters and publishers. This varied mosaic of creative workers, and the communities around them, engenders City of Asylum/Detroit’s most urgent goal: the radical democratization of creative expression. 

The Abby Kraftowitz Fellow will be a visual artist, likely a photographer, who creates work in Abby’s spirit of human connection, love, and courage in the face of hardship and loss.

the steps

Already Completed:

  • A space for the artist to live has been donated by Viridiana Homes.

  • Pro bono legal support has been donated by Foley & Lardner LLP.

  • Professional photo equipment has been donated by the family of Abby Kraftowitz.

  • We’ve received nonprofit status.

  • We’ve built a board of directors that is majority female, majority people of color, and includes representatives from Detroit’s literary, grassroots organizing, academic, and business communities.

  • We’ve established a student group and internship in partnership with Wayne State University to support the professional development of young people.

  • We’ve begun a speaker series, “Other People’s Words,” and brought over Amira Hanafi, a Cairo-based poet and artist, to read at a well-attended first event.

  • We’ve begun working to establish a City of Asylum Book Series.

March 3, 2020

  • Fundraiser begins.

April 19, 2020

  • We celebrate the conclusion of our fundraiser with tree-plantings in Pittsburgh and Detroit.

  • We begin reviewing applicants in collaboration with the International Cities of Refuge Network.

May 2020

  • We award the residency, begin the legal paperwork to bring over the resident, and purchase a plane ticket.

  • We will assist the fellow in applying for a stipend from the Artist Protection Fund to cover the second year of the fellowship.

  • We will recruit a local network of volunteers—doctors, academics, neighbors, artists, and writers—to surround the fellow with a robust and supportive community.

June 2020

  • We will attend the General Assembly in Berlin, where we’ll be officially welcomed as members of the International Cities of Refuge Network, and will learn from other cities of asylum around the world.

  • We’ll continue grant-writing, fundraising, and volunteer recruitment.

July 29, 2020

  • On Abby’s birthday, we will welcome our first Abby Kraftowitz Fellow to Detroit.

why we're doing it

We began working in earnest to build City of Asylum/Detroit shortly after the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. Our co-founder, Laura Kraftowitz, was devastated that her childhood community had been targeted directly because of its support for Pittsburgh's immigrant community through the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. We committed to uphold the spirit of HIAS by building on the Jewish and Arab tradition of welcoming the stranger.

City of Asylum/Detroit is a way for us to give back to our local community at the same time as we connect with our global one. We want to create thriving spaces for artists, writers, and neighbors in the North End of Detroit—a neighborhood pulled between gentrification initiatives by outside investors, and community initiatives put forth by residents. We created the Abby Kraftowitz Fellowship to support artists whose work is emblematic of Abby’s spirit of humanitarianism, internationalism, and beauty. Through the democratic dissemination of creative voices, we aim to support transformation that is grassroots, creative, and collaborative. Through our creative placemaking initiatives, we hope to have a transformative cultural impact where we live. 

We believe that success is not measured in money or possessions, but in the positive legacy left on the world. We’ve committed from day one never to charge admission, and to make all events free, accessible, and open to the public. In addition to our fellowship, we are working on a number of community initiatives. We’re seeking partners for the City of Asylum Book Series, which will feature literary and visual world voices. We’re also revitalizing the corner lot at St. Antoine and Horton, where we’ll make reading visible and communal by hosting public outdoor reading hours and events. We’ll keep a stack of picnic blankets and several little libraries, engage children from the neighborhood to set up lemonade and iced tea stands, and invite local food trucks to stop by.




TOTAL RAISED = $31,449.00
ioby Platform Fee $35.00
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $474.36


This fundraiser will provide City of Asylum/Detroit's first Abby Kraftowitz Photography Fellow with a 1-year stipend.

ioby Platform Fee     $35
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%)    $929
TOTAL TO RAISE =    $30,964


Goal Reached!

I hope you are healthy and keeping your loved ones close. In this intense time, it means more than ever to have a community come together around a project.

So, thank you (so, so much!) for donating to City of Asylum/Detroit's first ever fundraiser. Amidst the chaos of the moment, we still reached our goal of $30,964. That's enough to bring over our first Abby Kraftowitz Fellow and support them for a year. In terms of timing, we're still hoping for July 2020, but will adapt as needed.

When Abby passed this January, shortly before this pandemic, surrounded by family and friends, she left a photographic legacy that took a particular interest in end-of-life illness and its impact on families. Today, we're thinking of all those suffering alone or through glass, the patients and families grappling with COVID-19 or other critical conditions amidst shortages of equipment and personnel.

Despite this, I want to tell you how much it means to have a crowdfunding campaign succeed. Showing that a project has this level of community support helps down the line, when we ask foundations for grants. It helps us connect to our communities and to like-minded people. It helps us spread the word about the work we're doing. We're lucky to have received mentorship from ioby, and a challenge grant from Artists Lead! They're amazing to work with, and I'd be happy to discuss. If you're working on a community or creative placemaking project, please let me know.

Stay well. With gratitude,

Laura Kraftowitz


One week in, 60% raised

 Photo by Jess Cohlmeyer

Only a week into our fundraiser for the Abby Kraftowitz Fellowship, and we've aleady raised $18,370 thanks to overwhelming support from donors. You guys rock!

We have eleven days left to raise $12,594. If you are able to give, or to ask your networks to give, we'd be grateful. Many of you have already reached out to your networks, and we see the results. Thank you.

One of our donors, Helen Bartley, wrote:

"I was born in Detroit and grew up in the suburbs so my roots run deep there. I returned in 2011 after decades living nearly everywhere else and found the resurrection and evolution taking place in my home town to be beyond impressive. It’s the direct result of work being done by people like you and your sister, Abby, and organizations like City of Asylum/Detroit, who serve as examples of how change occurs in a place so many deemed hopeless."

Support and encouragement from Helen and others is what keeps us going. I'm so excited to bring over our first Abby Kraftowitz Fellow in July, and for them to become a part of the community has come together around this fellowship.

Please donate today, because in the midst of international pandemic and senile figureheads, we are a breath of fresh air <3

Our kind of public library

"House poems" at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh :)


Wow! Two days in, and 25% to our goal!

 Abby, portrait by Geoffrey Berliner

We opened our campaign on Tuesday not expecting it to push ahead this quickly, but here we are on day 2, already 25% of the way to raising the funds we need to bring over our first Abby Kraftowitz Fellow. Thank you so much to everyone who gave. Today we're canvassing the North End, where we live and where City of Asylum/Detroit will have its headquarters. We'll chat with neighbors, other nonprofit leaders, and small business owners to discuss how we can support each other and our community as we grow this project.

Very grateful to Geoffrey Berliner and Stephen Schaub for sending over this beautiful portrait of Abby today <3

If you have already given, I have a favor to ask. Can you please let 5 more people know about this project and ask if they would be willing to donate? For those of you who are a bit tired of politics right now, this is a way to contribute to real and sustainable change.


Images of the North End: "hope," a mural on a boarded-up home, and The Oakland Avenue Farmers' Market


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


  • Tim M.
  • Anonymous
  • Pam & Kathy
  • Louise and Bob M.
  • Lina J.
  • Faaz K.
  • Viridiana Homes
  • George S.
  • Damen S.
  • Susan S.
  • Anonymous
  • David G.
  • Gilbert and Ellen DeBenedetti
  • Katerina
  • Cliff and Megan Davidson
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  • Mary Y.
  • Katrina Solter
  • Evan Bachner
  • Jenna McGuire
  • Rebecca Delphia
  • Ellen and Jeffrey Halter
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  • Ruth and Sy Drescher
  • Nancy Levine
  • Richard L Weinberg
  • Melvin and Susan Melnick
  • M. Beattie
  • Judith
  • Amy C.
  • Ida Gordon
  • Sharon
  • Judith Yanowitz and Harry Hochheiser
  • Anonymous
  • ClaudiaMason
  • Helen Bartley
  • Carol
  • Amy Dunkin and Lawrence Kraftowitz
  • Jon N.
  • Melissa and Steve
  • Shannon Heffernan
  • Alexis Sheehan
  • Miri Rabinowitz
  • Pamina Ewing
  • Michael
  • Caroline M.
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  • Jon Jackson
  • Wendy Pearlman
  • Abby R.
  • Rachelle Gasparich
  • Carol McGorry
  • Joanie
  • Anonymous
  • Janice G.
  • Robert Kraftowitz
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