DETROIT: Gallery Hopping Eastern Market

16 Nov

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Things are moving quickly in Detroit these days; Pop-up businesses are popping up all over. Temporary shops open in a building or space that has been vacant or forgotten; the lease is short-term anywhere from a day to a month; restaurants, bakeries and retail all give it a go. Today we are checking out Cafe Con Leche del Este in the Lafayette Park neighborhood. Being regular patrons of Cafe con Leche in southwest Detroit, we were anxious to see what Jordi’s new space had to offer. We are big fans of the architecture of the neighborhood; designed by Mies van der Rohe in the early 1960’s, it was an urban renewal project consisting of townhouses, highrises and a shopping center adjacent to a 19 acre public park. Some storefronts in the shopping center have been vacant for years; densely populated, area residents have been longing for a local coffee shop where they could grab their morning cup of joe, or hang out with friends over a cubano. The project came together with a combined effort from the community; the furniture was donated by neighbors and friends, the bold yellow curtain dividing the space was made by the local knitting club, someone even loaned the large fluorescent MIES sign that hangs in the front window. The space is fabulous; the front wall, all glass. Inside the walls are painted charcoal grey, bursts of color in orange and yellow bring the place to life. The coffee menu has something for everyone from a basic pour-over to specialty drinks. We ordered at the counter and then took a look around. The furniture is ultra cool modern, the artwork Spanish-influenced, the coffee, delicious! Kris was feeling daring so he chose La Lumbre del Diablo (the devil’s fire), made with espresso, Habanero, cinnamon, honey and milk it is excellent, not too much heat, and an excellent combination of flavors. I had the Don Bigote, espresso, chipolte, chocolate and milk, I can’t wait to have another! The shop is only here till December 8th, so stop by soon.

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In the mood to do a little browsing, we drove north and landed in Eastern Market. Our first stop was Red Bull House of Art on Winder street, we were there for the Detroit Design Fest, but wanted to have another look without the crowds. A chalkboard on the sidewalk informs us the gallery is open, a low metal sign introduces us to the House of Art, the windowless steel door is imposing. Inside, the main floor is studio space for the next eight artists who will be featured in the upcoming exhibit. We walk around the studios, turpentine scents the air. The work of each artist is vastly different, incomplete pieces are intriguing. We descend the stairs to the gallery, the artwork a stark contrast to the bright white walls.  I remember many of the pieces, others I am seeing for the first time; panels featuring the name and background of each artist hang on the wall, benches encourage you to sit and ponder. We took one more look around before heading out, looking forward to the next exhibit.

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Over on the service drive of the Fisher Freeway is a collective of arts designers and musicians called Michigan-Artisans. You may recognize the building, it was the home of Germack for many, many years before they moved to Russell St. The gallery features high quality products from Michigan artists; photography, jewelry, clothing, glass, you name it, music too. The boutique was busy with shoppers, though I hate to admit it, the holidays will be here before we know it. The selection of items is huge, prices are good and range from a few dollars to a few hundred. Displays are eye-pleasing and draw you from one to the other. Many objects feature the mitten state; bags and purses are decorated with the upper and lower peninsulas, T-shirts feature local sayings, the Detroit skyline graces multiple pieces. 

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Deeper into the market district is Signal-Return Press on Division Street, make it a point to stop in. The store is a combination retail store and workshop featuring traditional (old-fashioned) forms of printing. We used to come to this building when it was the Johanson-Charles Gallery, it has undergone an extensive renovation leaving the space bright and airy; structural beams are a sunny yellow, giving the white ceiling and walls a warm glow. House printed posters hang everywhere, they are gorgeous, there is no mistaking this for some laser-printed image. Antique-looking hand-crank presses rest in the open workshop area, we ask permission to get a closer look, they remind us of something we have seen in Greenfield Village or other historical museums. Yet, here they are rolling out beautiful modern images created with letterpress and typesetting techniques, all done by young people! Posters and cards are  for sale, or take a workshop and make your own. 

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We seem to be meandering from district to district, we find ourselves in Greektown with growling stomachs. We heard a new restaurant was opening; we’re in luck, a front row parking space and an open sign. Somehow, over the years, Greek restaurants have become the minority in what was once an entirely Grecian area, Santorini  is bringing  Greece back in a beautiful way. The former Mosiac has undergone a complete make-over; a pair of statues flank the entrance, once inside we find ourselves on what appears to be the deck of a yacht. The floors are polished hardwood, brick walls are white-washed, scenes straight out of Santorini make us feel we are sailing past enchanted villages on the island, it’s so pretty. The menu stretches from traditional to more daring Greek dishes, if you can’t pronounce it, just point. We went the appetizer route and ordered several dishes; yes, we had the flaming cheese, and you know what? It was excellent. In fact, everything we had was, from the bread to the vegetarian grape leaves. It’s good to see some Greek back in Greektown.

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