Tag Archives: Midtown

DETROIT: Dlectricity

31 Oct

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The buzz had begun months earlier; articles in local publications, postcards on counters, something new was coming to Detroit. We were about to find out what happens when you combine 35 local, national and international artists with the historic architecture of Midtown Detroit; throw in a few projectors, lots of extension cords, and there you have it: Dlectricity!  Billed as Detroit’s nighttime exhibition of Art and Light we couldn’t wait to see what it was all about.

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As soon as we approached Midtown we could feel the excitement; none of our usual parking spaces were available, the sidewalks were packed with people all headed towards Woodward; word had gotten out. Finally parked, we joined the crowds walking towards the light; it was everywhere! Coming up Hancock we encountered our first group of displays; Frontier Town created a camp of illuminated tents, children flocked inside playing with the effects of light, a little further up a small park of glowing amber light flowers sprouted from the ground. We were drawn closer to Woodward by the maze of thin light sticks that resembled glowing blue cattails. We paused on the sidewalk for a moment to decide what direction to walk; I was astounded by the number of human beings walking around the streets of Detroit on a crisp fall evening, and in the dark no less… I have to say I was totally impressed by the attendance at this inaugural exhibition. Further North on Woodward we stopped to check out a cool installation; a string structure located inside Wayne States Welcome Center reacts to motions made by passers-by through interactive light projection, just around the corner in a series of windows, screens displaying classic films are the backdrop to live performances. Something big was going on at the Detroit Public Library, we were about to see for ourselves.

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As we walked along the lively avenue we could hear music in the distance, bunches of people were gathered in front of the Detroit Public Library watching what appeared to be a movie projected onto the facade. In a technique known as Projection-Mapped 3D Animation, the artists are able to create a film that actually ‘fits’ an individual building, it’s incredible! “Knowledge Is Power” tells the human story of knowledge from cave painting to the invention of books, the age of electricity all the way to the rise of the internet. We stood at the library gates as images of fire crept up the building, suddenly it was a sea and a boat sailed by, the building was transformed into an ancient greek structure, then a library stacked with huge volumes of books, all the while music played creating the mood, it was fantastic. The DIA was simply lit and elegant as pedestrians flocked to her steps and stood on the porch. In front of the Rackham Building on Farnsworth a series of lit up bicycles tell the story of a bike ride gone terribly wrong, the Michigan Science Center was turned into a canvas for a video projection called Whale; taking up three panels on the exterior you feel as if you are underwater viewing an enormous whale. 

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Turning south on Woodward there was much more to see. The top three floors of the Garfield building were illuminated with random images and multi-color designs while word messages travel across the top edge. Earlier in the evening a Light Bike Workshop was held, followed by a bike parade, many of the participants could be spotted riding around Midtown. The former Agave restaurant, vacant for years, was brought to life with images of people going about their business projected onto the windows. Everywhere you looked there was light, movement and activity. An astronaut wearing a Red Wings jersey floated up high on a structure, the entire side of a steam plant was aglow in text messages generated by attendees. Orchestra Hall and the Max Fisher Music Center building was glowing in red, pink, blue and yellow; architectural details that may be overlooked were now distinctly apparent. One of the coolest exhibits took place on the side of Orchestra Hall; in what was called “Max Cast” the south wall of the building was turned into a giant screen streaming the live performance going on inside, a show titled “Cirque de la Symphonie”. There we were, sitting on a curb in Detroit,watching and listening as the DSO played enchanting tunes and world-famous cirque acrobats bend and twist into seemingly impossible poses, those assembled around us gasped and applauded in unison. The night was a magical one, made up of sights straight out of artist’s imaginations and shared by thousands of folks eager to take part in what Detroit has to offer; I can hardly wait for the next Dlectricity…..

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It was late and we had yet to have our dinner, we had been meaning to get back to Small Plates since the ownership change and interior make-over, so that was the plan. We were lucky enough to score a table near the expansive front windows; greeted immediately by our waitress, we quickly scanned the menu. The premise of the restaurant is to promote communal dining by offering a wide selection of small sharable dishes or “plates”.  After we placed our order we had a chance to look around; the walls are painted black, several graffiti pieces by Shades decorate the walls along with work by other local artists. The bar extends further now and was busy with patrons both eating and drinking, the place has a great vibe. Our small plates began arriving, first to hit the table was the hand-cut fries, served with sides of malt vinegar and a spicy aioli, they were really good. Thankfully the Pretzel Sliders and Hudson’s Maurice salad followed quickly along with the skillet cornbread. The sliders were wonderful, I especially like the pretzel buns. The salad was unique in that the greens were dressed and the other items were cut in chunks and lined the side of the good-sized bowl. The cornbread had just the right amount of crunch on the outside and was still moist inside, served with a side of black beans it made for a tasty combination. We ate and we drank, our waitress was a delightful mix of friendliness and great service. I couldn’t help but inquire about dessert; while I was longing for the Key Lime pie, I just couldn’t do it. We’ll have to come back soon and give the desserts a try!

Shopping Pure Detroit, Midtown, West Willis

16 May

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The day began with a trip to the Guardian Building, originally known as The Union Trust Company, it opened in 1929. Designed by Wirt Rowland and costing $12 million dollars this structure is a true work of art.  With it’s combination of exotic marble, Pewabic and Rookwood tile, Monel metal and stone it is a true Art Deco Masterpiece. We stopped in at Pure Detroit to have a look around, we have been regular patrons since the opening of their very first store back in 1998. Owners Shawn and Kevin are dedicated to Detroit, and that is clearly reflected in their stores. The products they sell all represent the city, everything from T-shirts and hats to local food products, books and gifts. We then proceeded to have a coffee in the cafe, this is truly one of our favorite buildings, I never tire of  staring at the intricate Aztec design, but more on that another time.

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Our minds were set on lunch at Mid-town Shangri- La, a fabulous Chinese restaurant on Cass near Wayne State’s Old Main. We’ve had the Chinese, it is very good, but we come for the Dim Sum, you MUST try it sometime.  I had never tried it before I had it here, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Basically it is small portions of food served in steamer baskets or on small plates, think appetizers, lots to choose from here. Depending on when you arrive, they may have the Dim Sum cart from which you can select the dishes you’d like, or they  can be made to order. I would highly recommend the Shrimp Kau, fresh shrimp steamed in a soft noodle like wrapper, so simple, and so delicious. We also had the Curry Chicken Pastry, so good, I’ve never had such flaky pastry before, the Deep Fried Squid with Spicy Salt, I actually crave this dish, the most tender squid you will ever eat, and of course the Shiu Mai. A friend got this one day when we had lunch together, and it’s been a staple for us ever since. I can’t forget the Bubble Tea, it may look strange if you’ve not had it before, there are large dark colored Tapioca balls sitting in the bottom just waiting to be sucked up the oversized straw. Be sure to chew them! The Mango is my favorite.

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There’s a great little up and coming district over on W Willis, also in Midtown, where Avalon International Breads resides. This is one of those places that once you discover it, you’ll wonder how you lived without it. Walk in the door and enjoy the scent of fresh baked goods, the industrial looking space is warmed up with walls painted the golden color of crusty bread. Large menu signs are suspended from the ceiling, and shelves of large chrome racks are filledwith items fresh from the oven; focaccia, loaves of Motown Multigrain, Poletown Rye, Greektown Olive and baguettes. The mouthwatering counter display of cookies, scones, Amazing Amazon Brownies, and Seriously Sticky Buns are all tempting, and make it nearly impossible to decide. Coffee, espresso drinks, hot chocolate, and smoothies are also available. Avalon has grown through the years, they also offer breakfast, homemade soup, grab and go sandwiches and salads. There are a few tables and limited counter space inside, when weather permits the patio offers multiple tables for outdoor dining. Everything is made with organic flour and tastes divine.

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Joining Avalon on W Willis is Goodwells Natural Food Market, with fresh organic produce, pre-made salads and sandwiches, beverages, and supplements, it is a nice addition to the neighborhood. Next door is Flo Boutique offering womens clothing and accessories. On the corner is Spiral Collective, they sell works by local artists, and have a lovely selection of gifts, and books,  Del Pryor gallery has a space inside too. I love to browse in this store, the selection of items is always changing, and is always top quality merchandise. Rounding out the district is the Willys Overland Loft project. The historic building has been converted to beautiful lofts, exposed brick and excellent views of the city come standard. We were lucky enough to get a personal tour of several different floor plans, 15 of the units have been sold so far.  Right around the corner on Cass is the Curl Up & Dye Salon offering all types of hair and nail services, this part of Midtown continues to thrive, that’s good to see.

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