With no real plan for the day we headed downtown, we know we can count on the city to provide us with interesting things to see and do. The Scarab Club hosted an opening reception the night before, so we thought it would be fun to see the latest exhibit. Located across John R from the DIA, the Scarab Club has been at this location since 1928. The structure itself is a combination of Italian Renaissance Revival and Arts and Crafts; dark brick, leaded glass windows, and painted tiles make for an attractive exterior. The entrance is on Farnsworth, once inside you go up a short flight of stairs to the first floor. This is the main exhibit space; stark white walls and ceiling are warmed by the hardwood floor, captivating art work hangs on the walls. This area hosts changing exhibits throughout the year. Up another flight of stairs to the second level lounge area. Though the space is large it feels cozy; dark wood walls and floors, triple light fixtures give the room a golden glow. A large fireplace rests at the far end of the room with seating arranged nearby. The most interesting feature of the room are the ceiling beams. Large wooden beams are decoratively painted referencing events that have taken place at the club. The sides of the wood are covered in signatures of club members, this tradition began in 1932 when Diego Rivera signed his name. Norman Rockwell followed in 1946, they are joined by many other noteworthy names such as: Elmore Leonard, Eliel Sarrinen, George Booth, Marshall Fredericks and Isamu Noguchi. Along with thought provoking art, the building itself is worth a visit; I love the sound of the creaking stairs as I step from level to level. The ceilings at the top of the stairs are decoratively painted in rich colors with gold leaf; gorgeous. Artist studios occupy the third floor, occasionally they are open to the public. The club hosts exhibitions, workshops and events for artists and art lovers alike.
Just a short walk away is the College for Creative Studies’ Center Galleries, located inside the Manoogian Visual Resource Center. Here you will find art both traditional and cutting edge. Displays start as soon as you come in the door, the current exhibit is divided into different mediums: Glass, Sculpture, Illustration and Painting. The talent level is staggering, which is part of the reason the art scene in Detroit is so lively. The cool thing about this gallery is it really gives you a sense of what is going on in the world; from car design and furniture to new ways to package things, it’s like looking into the future.
For the lunch portion of the day we continued the gallery theme and ate at Cass Cafe. A long-time neighborhood fixture, having a meal or a drink at Cass is like sitting in the center of an art gallery with table service. Exhibits change routinely and feature everything from local to nationally known artists. The front section of the restaurant offers seating at round multicolored tables with vintage style chairs, giving it a retro feel. A stairway leads to an upper level reserved for special events. The menu runs the gamut from Asian chicken wings and a hummus plate to vegetarian lasagna and an Ahi Tuna steak. The crowd varies from Wayne State students to hipsters and suburbanites. Ordering was easy, I love the lentil walnut burger, paired with a large salad it’s enough for two. They make their own “veggie” burger here and it is way superior to store bought versions in flavor and texture, topped with some honey-mustard, delicious.
The day was still young and I felt like doing a little shopping, fortunately a pair of unique boutiques reside just around the corner on W Canfield. City Bird has been around for just over two years now, the small space is packed tight with goodies from both local artists and designers and work from other Rust Belt cities. The variety is great; jewelry, clothing, bags, paper goods and accessories, many of them Detroit-themed. They even have a small section of vintage clothing. There’s something new each time I come in, so I always look forward to stopping by.
Right next door is NEST, owned and operated by the same siblings as City Bird, this shop focuses mainly on housewares. The small modern storefront has plenty of appeal; items are artfully placed about on tables and shelves making you want to stop and look at everything. Just inside the door are dozens of glass balls hanging in front of the window, each one contains a tiny plant creating a kind of air terrarium. Stacks of plates and glassware rest on shelves, they have linens and candles too. My favorite find of the day was an ice cube tray that produces ice in the shape of both Michigan peninsulas, the tray is even produced in Michigan using Michigan materials, I love it! Andy and Emily Linn have done a wonderful job with both places, it’s nice to see independent retail coming back into Detroit. Next time you are looking for a unique gift or just something for yourself be sure and visit.