Tag Archives: MOCAD

DETROIT: Recycled

16 Sep

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Beauty can be found everywhere. From the most obvious places like Detroit’s riverfront and Belle Isle to the less conspicuous alley or neighborhood garden. Today we are visiting places off the beaten path, the nooks and crannies of the city. Lincoln Street Art Park and Sculpture Garden is just a short distance from New Center; murals, sculptures, a fire pit and gardens all reside in the shadow of the iconic Fisher Building. We park on the side of Lincoln St, walk over to the low-cut lawn and have a look. 

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With curiosity as our compass we walk through the park, on the backside of an old industrial building, boarded up windows are decorated with murals, Lincoln is spelled out over several. Graffiti, street art and elaborate scenes cover concrete surfaces, we recognize certain artists work from other places in the city; the owl is one of my favorites. Over to the left a field of painted poppies covers a wall. In a mulched garden daylilies are out of bloom but lovely metal-sculpture flowers bloom year-round.

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The dinosaur sculpture is imposing; a closer look reveals chairs, a cart, step stool and a bevy of salvaged materials used in the construction, he’s huge and seems to patrol the park, keeping watch. It’s like visiting an art gallery, we wander from piece to piece, me going one way, Kris the other; each fascinated by what we see. A rusty metal sculpture reminds me of a rainbow, Kris admires the vintage steering wheel. Discarded items are put together in unusual and pleasing ways, the gypsy with wings, the combination of fluted sheets of plastic and metal rods, old pieces of wood. 

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We walk Lincoln St to the underpass, more artwork by well-known artists. In the center brick pathways lead in both directions along the elevated train tracks, I wonder what they were used for. The golden tower of the Fisher building seems as though it’s only a stone’s throw away, the U-Haul building is visible too. The entire expanse of concrete before us is a collection of colors, forms, letters, designs, all mashed together; the face of the American Indian is captivating. We climb the elevation to the train tracks and get an entirely different perspective on our surroundings; the sculpture park below us looks small, contained. Train tracks stretch out for miles in opposite directions, one way leads to the city, the other looks so rural. Walking further we pass ancient looking lampposts, an old water tower watches over us, we reach the next overpass, cars whoosh by below us on Trumbull, a train rumbles by the next track over, my heart pounds with excitement.

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Investigating the underpasses reveals a wonderful collection of characters; storm troopers, panda’s, a flamingo, a doughnut with a cigarette sipping a juice box. Arches create frames, every surface is considered a blank canvas. Fel 3000 ft has created an amazing scene of buildings, bridges, skyscrapers; a city in motion. An image of a child all in blue on one side, on the other, a letter begins Dear Dad. The next underpass is completely covered in primary-colored cubes, the way the sun is lighting them is extraordinary.

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Recycle Here! on Holden resides in a huge building built by the Warren Motor Car Company in 1909. The company folded pretty quickly, the Lozier Motor Company moved in. During WWI the building was acquired by Henry Leland (creator of Cadillac) for airplane engine production, he then used it in the manufacturing of Lincoln automobiles. Dietrich Inc was the next to inhabit the structure. In 1926 Dietrich was the largest semi-custom production-body business in the country, producing 16-25 bodies a week for customers such as Chrysler, Packard, Lincoln and Pierce Arrow. Though all details are fuzzy there’s a big chunk missing in the timeline after Dietrich left; eventually a grocery distribution company bought the building which brings us to current owner, who purchased the building and turned it into the recycling center.

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Detroit artist Carl Oxley is responsible for the Recycle Here! signature bumble bee, you will see the bee everywhere throughout the premises. The building’s walls are a continuation of the art we’ve seen in the park, artists have used their imaginations creating characters and scenes from silly to scary. The art carries us right inside the building. The interior is like some kind of funky gallery you take your garbage to, sort and dispose of it. Everything here is fair game; walls, dumpsters and vehicles are covered in colorful designs, a portrait of Bozo hangs next to one of a sunglass-wearing Yoda, Mc5 and Elvira are close by.

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Huge cardboard boxes overflow with empty glass bottles, there’s a place for newspapers, magazines, plastics and batteries. A tangle of mufflers and exhaust pipes are the beginnings of a sculpture, paintings hang throughout the center. An endless stream of residents show up with bags and boxes of recyclables, music plays in the background, children are having a blast throwing things into their proper containers, neighbors and friends exchange friendly conversation. Outside used tires are stacked and used as planters, we walk around the immediate area, a manhole cover for the public lighting commission is dated 1916, buildings and bridges look long forgotten, a giant rat made from old pallets is situated on the lawn; artists have left there mark all over the district.

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Tucked inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is Cafe 78, a collaboration between Wright & Company and MOCAD, the dining space serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. We park in the lot and enter the building, people are milling about, an event has just finished. The museum is closed while the work on Woodward continues, the cafe remains open. The bar is the focal point of the wide-open space. We sit at the counter and sip on icy-cold water waiting for our food to arrive. The super creamy Mac and Cheese is served in a small ceramic bowl, corn and thinly sliced scallions are mixed in, a shredded cheese and breadcrumb topping add flavor and texture. The peameal bacon sliders are served on brioche buns with a honey mustard sauce, it’s a great flavor combination. The tomato mozzarella salad was larger than expected; a rainbow of summer’s juiciest tomatoes and red onions sit atop creamy pesto, topped with fresh herbs, sunflower shoots and olive oil–Delicious.

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8 Degrees Plato Beer Company on Cass had their soft opening Friday, we’re checking it out. The bar and bottle shop sells craft beer, mead, cider and has an area dedicated as the tap room. The building was most recently home to Mantra and Showcase Collectibles in the old Chinatown neighborhood; after a great deal of hard work, time and renovation the building looks amazing! The exterior features large windows surrounded by stone, old lettering on the building remains intact, inside they were able to keep the original tin ceiling and terrazzo floors. The reclaimed mahogany tables came from the former Agave restaurant as did the bar top, the bar back was constructed with oak from Cass Tech bookcases, shelving is made from old bleachers and antique bakers racks, old subway tiles and windows all work together creating a quaint, cool atmosphere.

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The 16 tap bar allows for a wonderful selection, we order 3 small pours: Oddside Mayan Mocha, Starcut Squishy and Right Brain Beaubiens Ribbon Farm sour mash red ale. Honestly, they were all great, but the Starcut Squishy semi-sweet cider with cherries really hit the spot, so we ordered another, full-size this time. It’s fascinating to just walk around looking at all the bottles; Michigan Craft Beers, regional beers, imports, Belgians, the list goes on. You can have a growler filled or pick up bottles, cans, 4 packs, 6 packs, cases– room temperature or ice cold. They sell snacks too, think Better Made chips, crackers, jam and jerky. 

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The transformation taking place in Detroit right now is incredible, astonishing. Buildings with impressive history or once beautiful facades and interiors, shuttered for years, are being uncovered, repurposed and used again. The recycling continues……..

 

DETROIT: This Is How We Roll

21 Jul

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In 2005 a group of high-spirited, hard-working, competitive women joined forces to form The Detroit Derby Girls, a women’s flat-track roller derby league based in Detroit. Through the years the league has grown to include more than 120 skaters, 5 home teams and 3 travel teams that compete inter-league. This is not the old-fashioned banked-track derby of the 1970’s where hair-pulling, tripping, punching and chair-throwing was the norm. Today skaters have backgrounds in speed skating, hockey, even figure skating; they are very athletic. These women pay-to-play; they spend their hard-earned dollars buying equipment, practice time, massage therapy, band-aids and ice packs. They practice several times a week, pay for their own travel expenses and manage the league. Players come in all shapes and sizes; during the day they work as doctors, teachers, lawyers, mothers and shop-keepers. 2009 was an amazing year; Drew Barrymore arrived in Detroit to film “Whip It“, many of our local skaters took part in the film, how cool is that? That same year the DDG were ranked #2 in the North Central Division and made a trip to the Nationals. Home bouts are played at the magnificent Masonic Temple; ticket cost is minimal, bouts offer everything: hard-hitting action, speed, competitiveness, live music and lots of fun. The girls still use great names such as Black Eyed Skeez, Ghetto Barbie, Cool Whip, Fatal Femme, Racer McChaseHer and Zooma Thurman, keeping the kitsch part of derby alive. It’s a blast!

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Today the DDG is having a FREE bout outdoors at Eastern Market, using the parking lot behind Shed 3. It’s one of those days when the weather changes every five minutes; we are flip-flopping between pouring rain and sunshine. When we arrive it’s pouring, spectators and skaters are gathered inside the shed waiting for the rain to stop. Today a mix of skaters from all home teams will make up the Motown Wreckers vs the Motor City Dis-assembly Line; dressed in blue and yellow jerseys they are ready to roll. The sun comes out, refs and skaters alike make short work of sweeping the puddles off the asphalt; the temperature hovers in the 80’s so it dries quickly. The track area is laid out with spray paint lines, rocks and debris are cleared and the pack lines up. One blow of the whistle and the jam begins; blockers, pivots and jammers whirl around the track, to say it’s a little tricky skating in a parking lot is an understatement, but the teams rise to the challenge. Spectators who planned ahead are sitting comfortably in lawn chairs, the crowd grows with passers-by checking out the action. Kris makes his way to the top of the parking structure to get a great overall view and take pictures, others are there just to watch. Rows of white folding chairs make up the team benches, the skyline of the city peeks out above the roof of Shed 2, the sky cannot make up it’s mind if it will rain again. It’s inevitable that skaters will fall, one good hip-check or shoulder is all it takes,  the parking lot surface is unforgiving; instead of sliding the surface grabs hold of both clothing and skin…ouch! Taking it in stride the two teams battle it out, the crowd loves it! Keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming bouts and events, the regular season usually begins in November.

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We are having lunch at Topsoil, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant located inside MOCAD on Woodward.  We enter the museum and hang a right down a short hallway to the restaurant/performance space; rectangular tables are pulled together creating long community tables, sunlight pours in through the glass roll-up door in an otherwise dim space. I walk to the counter to check out the menu and place our order. It’s really hot outside so we’re looking for something cold, something light; the cold sesame udon, blk seed, sea salt, carrot salad  and the kale, Farro, lemon and evoo salad fit the bill. Everybody who eats here tells us we have to try the hot dogs, well, Tofu dogs, so I ask the gent behind the counter which one he likes best, ‘Zombie’ is his reply, Zombie it is. I join Kris at the table while our food is being prepared in the open kitchen, before I know it a tray is placed on the counter and my name is called. I am sure to grab silverware and plenty of napkins, we’re sharing everything. The first thing we dive into, of course, is the Zombie, a tofu dog tucked into a bun topped with house-made peanut butter and house-made vegan kimchi………..it is soooo good! The dog tastes like a regular hot dog, no funny texture or anything like that, the combination of flavors is excellent! Both salads are generous portions and quite tasty; when all the food is gone, Kris says, we should have gotten 2 hot dogs!

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The museum is still open, so we have a look around. MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) is a non-collecting institution, its purpose is to explore emerging ideas in the contemporary arts. The 22,000 sq. ft. building is a former auto dealership; the huge open spaces are perfect for art exhibitions. In addition MOCAD hosts lectures, musical performances, films, literary readings and educational activities for children in the historic space. Today the main exhibit is a show called La Bella Crisis by Jose Lerma, a Puerto Rican artist. The gallery is transformed into an art fair; Lerma created a ‘booth’ a day for 30 days, now complete, the floor is covered in a silver tarp, canvasses hang at different levels, each space is unique. Detroit Native Steve Locke has an exhibit in one of the smaller galleries; “There is no one left to blame” is a series of male portraits on canvas. Midwestern Voices and Visions showcases the work of highly talented artists of color in Midwestern residency programs. Along the back wall is Dana Friedman’s video installation “Projecting”. We like that the museum is ever-changing, there’s always something new to see anytime we pop in. If you’d like to check it out you don’t have much time, the museum and restaurant will be closed from July 28 through September 11 for renovations, so get there soon!

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DETROIT: Art X

15 Apr

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Detroit has always had a deep connection to the arts; much attention has been paid to the city in recent years from both artists and art lovers alike. On any given weekend Detroit is buzzing with opening exhibits, music performances and panel discussions. This week the Kresge Foundation hosted Art X Detroit; a free 5-day, 60 event happening taking place at twelve venues celebrating art and culture in Detroit.

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It is Wednesday, opening night  of Art X, as we near Midtown Woodward comes alive with hot pink X’s, pedestrians, art installations and cars making a second and third trip around the block looking for a parking space. We stop to view the new mural on the side of the WSU Press Building: The People’s Vision by Hubert Massey. We park a few blocks away; though it is cold and raining we don’t mind the walk, the city feels vibrant, alive! We arrive at the Historic First Congregational Church, the building is stunning; terracotta colored stone, beautiful archways and colorful detail. Only a few other people are inside, Kris gets busy taking photos, I walk around the perimeter of the sanctuary, eyes glued first to the spectacular domed ceiling; divided into four sections each features a medallion with a different scene, a pair of angels flank each side. Arches are found throughout the space, the largest, the entrance to the altar area. The half-domed space is a wonder of gold-painted design, tonight it takes on an entirely different mood with its concert-style lighting and instruments in waiting. I take a seat in one of the beautiful wooden pews, the top and sides handsomely carved, each time I come here I notice something I hadn’t before. Brass wall sconces jut out from painted arched sections of the wall like spiny arms holding up the light, large rosette windows let light in from each side, a series of pipes border the organ loft at the back of the church. My attention is diverted by the sound of percussion instruments in the distance, Kris hears it too and takes his seat next to me.

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The sound grows louder, the doors of the church open, the Detroit Party Marching Band begins to file into the sanctuary. Pedestrians filter into the church and fill the pews as the band takes up residence at the back of the room. A woman enters wearing black and glittering gold, her hat is majorette-style with a large black plume shooting up from front and center, this is Shara Worden, lead singer and songwriter for My Brightest Diamond. The marching band continues to play a piece written especially for this occasion, it is rhythmic, contagious. Shara and her band members take the stage, the music stops, the marching band recedes from the church. The singer is greeted with loud applause, a Detroit resident we welcome her home. The music begins…….Shara has done it all; traveled the world, studied multiple instruments, voice, opera and composition, she takes all of her experiences and rolls it into an amazing performance. Her voice is clear and beautiful, makes me think Annie Lennox, she becomes characters telling a story, singing a lullaby. At times the music is Folk with a trombone part thrown in. The ensemble is an interesting combination of trumpet, flute, guitar, trombone, 2 saxophones, drums and keyboard played by the lady herself. It is eclectic, experimental and at times rocks! 

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Next we venture over to MOCAD, this is the hub for the event, there is constant activity in the building. The current exhibition is made up of works by 2011-2012 Kresge Fellows. We come through the door, the place is packed, the sweet sound of Jazz hangs in the air; Kris Johnson & Friends are performing. We drift into the crowd and make our way to the music, we recognize the melodies, standards that have been around for generations. The trumpet player is magnificent, the band, spectacular, we see them often at Northern Lights Lounge. We snatch cupcakes from a tray then wander through the galleries, the art is amazing.

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 Art X features Kresge’s Eminent Artists and Artist Fellows working in the visual, performing and literary arts. A tidbit about the Kresge Foundation:  In 1912 Sebastian Spering (SS) Kresge opened the first 5 &10 cent store in Detroit, he went on to build a chain of stores, S S Kresge, which in turn became K Mart, the guy was loaded! In 1924 he established the Kresge Foundation in Detroit, his goal was to create opportunity for low-income people and to promote the integration of arts and culture in community revitalization. Since that time the foundation has provided continuous philanthropic support to the area’s non-profit organizations and community initiatives, in 2012 it paid out $150.3 million dollars to 410 grants. Today it is a $3.1 billion dollar private national foundation; quite impressive! Good things happen when you buy local!

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We decide to end the evening with a nightcap, everything in the Sugar Hill Arts District is crowded, we walk back to the car and drive over to Traffic Jam and Snug on Canfield and Second. We pull up a couple of chairs to the bar, it’s a weeknight, so it’s quiet. Kris orders his ‘usual’ while I read the menu of hot drinks, the cold and wet have gotten to me. On the bartender’s advice I choose the Nutty Irishman, good decision! We sit back and enjoy our drinks, the vibe is laid back, we make some new friends. Travis put it best, to those that know Detroit the problem isn’t finding something to do, it’s wondering what  you’re missing out on….yep. I flip through the Art X program and realize there is still much to see, we’ll be back.