Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Naming Names

July 29, 2016


Jazz Ballrooms and Clubs: The  Graystone Ballroom, the New Arcadia Ballroom, the Vanity Ballroom, Danceland, the Eastwood Ballroom, Club Paradise, the Club Plantation, the Brown Bomber Chicken Shack, the Blue Bird Inn, Foster’s House of Jazz, the Frolic Bar, the Club Three Sixes, the Harlem Cave, Odum’s Cave, Cafe Bohemia, the Jazz Lab, the Mirror Ballroom, the Minor Key, Club Alamo, Club Basin Street, Club El Sino, Foster’s House of Jazz, the World Stage, the New World Stage, the Rappa House, Entropy Studios, the Serengeti Ballroom, the Detroit Art Space, the Bohemian National Home and more.

Specializing in the Blues: The Koppin Theatre, the Ebony Club, the Swamp Room (in the Mark Twain Hotel), the Forest Club, the Soup Kitchen and the Music Menu.

Taxi Dancing: Hollywood Ballroom, the Moulin Rouge, the Peppermint Lounge and more.

From the Collection of Lutz Bacher.

From the Collection of Lutz Bacher.

Nightclubs: Mr. Kelly’s, the Cedars, Club 509, Joe Bathey Club, the Falcon Dining Lounge, the Club Zombie, Duke’s Supper Club, the Harem Lounge, the Twenty Grand, the Book Show Bar, the Rhinocerous Club, the Poison Apple and the Willis Show Club.

Rock n’ Roll: the Grande, the Eastown, the Michigan Theatre, Olympia Stadium, the Ford Auditorium, Cobo Hall (still there but no more concerts), the Motor City Roller Skating Rink (formerly a movie theatre), Bookie’s Club 870 aka Bookie’s, Traxx, Todd’s (with two locations?), the Neon Pit, the Gold Dollar and more.

Some Detroit spots of renown: the Flame Show Bar, Club Alamo, the Chessmate, the Strata Concert Gallery (on Michigan Avenue), Cobb’s Corner, Alvin’s, the Catacombs Coffee House, the Women’s City Club, Zoot’s Coffee House, the Cup of Socrates Coffee House, the Bittersweet Coffee House, the Art Center Music School, 404 West Willis, the Hoe Hoe Inn aka the Grinning Duck Club, Watts Club Mozambique, the Freezer Theatre, the Park Avenue Club Ballroom and more.

Theatres: The Cass Theatre, the New Cass Theatre, the Riviera Theatre, the Wilson Theatre (it later became the Music Hall), the Shubert Lafayette, the Concept Theatre Club, the Un-Stabled, the Vest Pocket Theatre, the Walk & Squawk Performance Project and many more.

Alternative Movie Programs and a few select Theatres: Cass City Cinema, the Tele-Arts Theatre, the Studio 78, the Studio North, the Studio New Center, WSU’s Wayne Cinema Guild, the Concept East II, Naked Eye Cinema and the DFC/ Detroit Filmmaker’s Coalition.  From a bit out of town Kinotek and the Windsor Theatre in Canada, the Punch and Judy in Grosse Pointe and the Royal Oak Cinema Society. There are too many great lost “regular movie theatres” to mention here. We’re down from 150 of them to just 1 or 2.


Jerry Lee Lewis played here in 1966 and 1967.

Restaurants and Bars which included  some live entertainment: Backstage, Baja’s, the Brass Rail, the Tropicana Bar, Chin Tiki, the Club 12 Show Bar, the Empire, Nance’s Bar, Trent’s Lounge, the Music Bar, Sportree’s Music Bar (two different places?), the Empire Bar, the Grand Duchess, 1/2 Pints, the Mermaid’s Cave, Chesterfield Lounge, the Aquarium Seafood Restaurant, the Drumbeat Club, the Diplomat Cocktail Lounge, the Dream Bar, the Comet Bar and more.

Other restaurants of note: Little Harry’s, Victor Lim’s, the 2-Way Inn, the Thai House, Stanley Hong’s Mannia Cafe and more.

Art Galleries which featured live performances: the Willis Gallery, Urban Park in Trapper’s Alley (in Greektown), the Detroit Focus Gallery, the Zeitgeist, the Johanson Charles gallery, 2-South, the Redd Apple Gallery and more.

Outdoor Festivals and Annual Event’s: The Festival of the Arts, the Detroit version of the Michigan State Fair, New Center’s Taste Fest, the Fourth Street Fair, Casa de Unidad’s Unity in the Community Concert Series, Jefferson-Chalmer’s Concerts by the River, the Detroit Rock & Roll Revival, the Belle Isle Kite-In and the Goose Lake International Music Festival.

Noted: the Cass Corridor Food, Co-op, the  Campus Treasure Shop, Bird Town Pet Shop, the Odd Shop and Showcase Collectibles.



I might start a separate category for spots that were destroyed as part of the 1960’s destruction of the Black Bottom neighborhood. I might start a category for coffee houses. It’s good that I can go back into this and edit it and add things.

I’m not sure that I have everything here fitted into the proper category.  Some bars might be better described as nightclubs and vice versa.  Then I’m sure that there are great spots that I’ve missed or overlooked.  Any suggestions or observations would be appreciated.




As I said, Am I forgetting anything important?  Please Let me know.  I’ll keep adding to this.

Lost Spaces and Quiet Places

June 17, 2016

Two promos for The Mermaid’s Cave, an ad and a matchbook cover.


I’m currently organizing and installing an exhibition called Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Social Spaces and Playgrounds.

This has me thinking, poetically, about lost spaces and quiet places.  Many of the buildings which housed them have been torn down or are sitting empty.  Others are inhabited by other businesses.

The Tele-Arts Theatre is now a nightclub.  The Michigan Theatre is now a parking garage. The church in which the Catacombs Coffee House was held sits empty and may end up being demolished.

I’m thinking about Detroit, but not just Detroit.  There are lost and missing places all over the United States and all over the world.  Ghosts and history both linger in the rubble.


I think about all the old joints.  They’d get pretty noisy and lively.  Sometimes they’d be jam-packed.

You used to be able to smoke.  Some people had comments wondering “how can the horn players play without gas masks?”

Bars specialized in beer, wine and liquor.  Coffee Houses served coffee, tea and snacks. Restaurants or Supper Clubs would offer both of these, plus meals.  You could usually get snacks or meals in the taverns too.

The music was often sublime.  Great figures in jazz, soul, blues, rock and more performed. They played and sang, spinning magic.  It was pure gold.

There would be dancing.  Sometimes they were dance clubs.  Other times “discreet dancing” would be allowed in normal bars.  With some music you had to dance.

There was sweat, a lot of sweat, especially in the Summer.  In the Winter you could find a spot and get out  of the cold.

People fell in love.  They got together and they broke up.  Some stayed together.

Lovers, friends and acquaintances rubbed shoulders or elbows and shot the bull.  Largely, everyone got along.  Yet sometimes there’d be fights or arguments.  When these got out of hand it could lead to shootings, stabbings and murders.

Some places were safer than others.  Yet some of those with the greatest music were often a little risky.  Sometimes you’d want a quiet, low-key space.  Sometimes you’d want something lively and even rowdy.

Leaving home and going out “on the town” was always an adventure. For some it was a regular thing.  Others went out less regularly or just on special occasions.

It all comes back to love.  People thrive in friendly, magical and conducive spaces.  They go to spots that they connect with.  There’s something in the air.  People love good music, poetry, cinema and theatre.  They love good company.  Great spaces breed great culture.

This relates to the idea of the cafe too.  The Paris model is hard to replicate. There was a lively cafe scene in Vienna as well.  There was a golden age of culture in New York too, in its way.  People talk, get together and connections are made.

It usually happens accidentally and often doesn’t last for long.  Yet some of us keep searching for it and hoping for it.  There a sense of a lost Utopia. You can practically taste it, but it’s just out of reach.

A vibrant and powerful cultural scene can change and uplift human lives. It can also help and revive cities and neighborhoods.

I’ve experienced several such scenes in Detroit.  I’ve lived in the magic and dwelled in autonomous zones.

They’re long gone now.  I keep trying to find something similar.  I haven’t much luck. Detroit has a lively arts and music presence.  Yet it seems to be divided into cliques.  Some of these work better than others.  Everyone has their own tastes and preferences.  The little pockets of life and energy sometimes take on a life of their own.

There are two are three spots around here which intrigue me.  They’re already good.  They have, at least, the possibility of mutating into something truly special.  Hopefully there are others as well.


From the collection of Lutz Bacher.  Early 1960’s.

Post Script:

It would be great to have a time machine.  You could go see people like John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Cannonball Adderly, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Mary Lou Williams, Andrew Hill, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, the Velvet Underground, Griot Galaxy, the MC5 and on and on.

We have to settle for audio recording of films of concerts.  Some of us have our memories.  If we could replay our memories so clearly as if we were reliving them, than it would be like a real time machine.


Thanks to Dave Toorongian for the images here from matchbooks and old ads.

Thanks to Dave Toorongian and Lutz Bacher for loaning items for this exhibit.  

Thank you to library at the University of Detroit Mercy for continuing support of this and other exhibitions.





More information is on this accompanying facebook page, more images and related material:


Books That I’ve Read Recently/ Number 3

May 31, 2016


Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams by Linda Dahl c1999 463 pages

Soul on Soul: The life and Music of Mary Lou Williams  by Tammy L Kernodle c2004 328 pages.

My Ears Are Bent by Joseph Mitchell c1938 320 pages  Mitchell’ early writings.

Up In the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell  c1993 736 pages


Moondog: The Viking of 6th Avenue by Robert Scotto c2013 320pages

The Crazy Years: Paris in the Twenties by William Wiser c1983 266 pages

The Twilight Years: Paris in the 1930’s by William Wiser c2000 292 pages

The Surrealist Movement in England by Paul C. Rey c1971 331 pages

Novels in Three Lines by Felix Feneon. Translation and Introduction by Luc Sante, written 1906, translation 2007 174 pages

Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clébert c1952, 1981, 2016 315 pages

The Other Paris by Luc Sante c2015 306 pages

The Factory of Facts by Luc Sante  c1998 306 pages

Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante c1991  414 pages


Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journey by Harlan Lebo c2016 262 pages


Focus on Citizen Kane edited by Ronald Gottesman c1971 178 pages  This includes essays, reviews and a very good 1966 interview with Orson Welles

The Big Con by David W. Maurer c1940, 1968 315 pages

Whiz Mob by David W. Maurer c1964 216 pages

Kentucky Moonshine by David W. Maurer c1974 140 pages

The Comic Worlds of Peter Arno, William Steig, Charles Addams and Saul Steinberg by Iain Topliss c2005 325 pages

Notes to Make the Sound Come Right: Four Innovators of Jazz Poetry by T.J. Anderson III c2004 217 pages.  This focuses on favorites Jayne Cortez and Bob Kaufman (also Stephen Jonas and Nathanael Mackey).

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel García Márquez c1986 106 pages

Conversations with William S. Burroughs Edited by Allen Hibbard c1999 234 pages  Interviews with Burroughs from 1961 to 1996.

It’s been nearly a year and a half since my last book round-up. I’m sure that there are plenty that I’ve missed or forgotten. These are some of the more memorable books that I’ve been reading. It’s always surrealism, movies, music, poetry, comic strips, visual art and the occasional “classic novel.”  I’ve been enjoying browsing through a slang dictionary too.

1940’s Magazine Ads, Part Two

March 28, 2016
From a Cigarette Ad, 1930's.

From a Cigarette Ad, 1930’s.

This is part two of my exploration of vintage magazine advertisements.

In this detail, above, a yellow “devil figure” pokes an arrow toward a nervous hand.  The whole point of the ad is that smoking will calm you if you’re wound up or agitated.  The beneficial effects of tobacco, liquor and perfume are often proclaimed.

crowAnimals and cartoon characters are sometimes present.  Above, we see the gloomy-looking bird hawking cheap bourbon whiskey.  Below, two cheerful cartoon birds prepare to start a drinking party with a bottle of Schenley’s “Light-bodied whiskies.”  The ad includes the copy: SCHENLEY “SWALLOWS” SING: “A Highball Tastes up to the Minute; When You Put Better Spirits In It.”

schenleytoThen there’s this beer ad, featuring a cat.  Back in the 1940’s, people didn’t seem too concerned that ads featuring cartoons could sell adult products to children.

Purity, Body and Flavor.

Purity, Body and Flavor.

It’s interesting to compare the style and approach of these old ads with the ads of today.  Magazines aren’t the important force that they were 60 or 70 years ago.  Television and computers have changed things a lot.  In the 1930’s and 1940’s radio, the movies and the printed publications held wide interest and influence.  There were less distractions and (some would say) better distractions.

From an ad for Le Jon Brandy.

From an ad for Le Jon Brandy.

Some of the art in these ads is interesting.  The painting style in these last two examples ended up being parodied in MAD magazine by Bill Elder.

From a Whiskey Ad.

From a Whiskey Ad.

I prefer a lot of the old ads to the ones of today.  Partly, they’re just a reflection of their times.  Yet what seemed innocent or normal then, can seem to be a bit odd or twisted today.


1940’s Magazine Ads, Part One

February 29, 2016
From a "Sky Chief Luggage Ad.

From a “Sky Chief Luggage Ad.

I’ve been doing a study of magazine advertising from 1938 to 1946 or so.   Most of these are from the New Yorker.  I’ve also looked at LIFE, Saturday Evening Post and others.  Some of the details are really interesting.  I’ve been posting some scans on my facebook page.  I’ll share some here as well.  This is the first of two parts.  I may revisit this topic again in the future as well.  Ads of the 1950’s?


Some of the products and places being sold are no longer with us.  Do they still make  Allen’s toffee?

There was an ad for tourism in Cuba, back before the revolution. Then there’s this ad, making money out of misery:


It’s definitely strange and seems to be in poor taste, at the least. Then there’s this one.  A late World War Two airline ad seems to espouse a sense of a “One World” utopia:

Late 1944.

Late 1944.

There was a strange series of Elsie the Cow cheese ads.  Some ads were drawn by well-known cartoonists such as William Steig and Virgil Partch aka VIP.  Here’s a trio of aristocratic tomatoes:


I like the unusual design elements in many of these advertisements. By comparison, many of today’s print ads seem to be ugly or out-of-date even when they’re new.  Is the future here yet?


From a Sylvania Electronics Ad, circa mid 1940’s.

Watch the Skies, Part One

January 31, 2016

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I’ve been taking a lot of photos when I’m looking up.  The patterns of light, clouds and sky fascinate me.  Only a few seem to make an interesting photograph.   Yet I’m keep trying.  I keep looking and keep shooting.

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When walking,  I often watch the ground.  That way, I don’t trip or stumble.  Sometimes I find things too: debris, money and so on.  Yet the skies!  The air is wild.

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The first three here are from 2014.  The final image is from 2013.  All were shot in Detroit.

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Searching for Shadows

December 31, 2015


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New York City

I search for shapes in the shadows.

I love to see the silhouette of a tree projected onto the side of a building.

My own shadow is usually a friendly presence.

Photography is a method for capturing shadows, among other things.


Detroit, 2013.


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New York City.

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Detroit, 2014.



The World, As Reflected in Puddles

November 30, 2015

fo PICT0071In my photography, I’m always on the lookout for images reflected in puddles.  The still, standing water serves as a mirror which faces up. These are like small lakes.

This neighborhood parking lot was treacherous to drive through or to walk through.  They’ve since filled some of the holes with dirt and gravel.  It’s better now but still pretty bad.  Erosion does its work.

I’ve done a series of these puddle photos.  It’s hard to find any that are worth shooting but I keep looking for them.

These were all taken in Detroit in 2015.

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This one was in the rain under streetlight. It was raining, and the lights in the water looked like strange eyes.


Halloween Meets the Day of the Dead

October 30, 2015
Charles Addams books, a witch rattle and some Japanese skeleton art.

Charles Addams books, a witch rattle and some Japanese skeleton art.

Halloween and the Day of the Dead as Ritual and Festival

This is an exhibit at the Library of the McNichols Campus of the University of Detroit Mercy.

The display runs from October 30th to November 20th, 2015.

The library is currently open seven days a week.  Here are the hours:


It‘s on the west side of Detroit at McNichols and Livernois.  Here’s the location:


Both Halloween and the Day of the Dead celebrations go way back.  Halloween goes back to the Celtic harvest festivals in the 1500’s.

The Day of the Dead has roots connected with Aztec festivals even earlier than the Celtic harvest festivals.  In Spanish it is called El Día de los Muertos.  It used to be celebrated in the summer.  In the 1500’s, it was moved to the same autumn days as the Christian Allhallowtide.  It started as a harvest festival yet ended up as more of an an occasion to honor and remember those who’ve died.

José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) is an important figure in connection with this holiday.  His skeleton drawings have become iconic.

One major expression of the holiday is the ofrenda.  This is a sort of memorial altar which commemorates a specific person or a group of people.  Flowers, food, sugar skulls and mementos are items which are included in these ofrendas.

I made one when I was part of the Zeitgeist Detroit group, about ten years ago.  There are always enthusiastic Day of the Dead celebrations here in Detroit.  In the past few years, the Detroit Institute of Arts has celebrated the holiday by hosting a grouping of ofrendas

I think that it’s important to keep the Day of the Dead celebration separate from the Halloween holiday.  They both employ skeleton imagery.  Both involve the community.  Yet the Day of the Dead is about poetic imagery, memory and honoring those that we’ve lost.  Halloween seems to have become a sort of oddball party.  It’s focus is more wide-ranging.

Halloween goes back to the 1500’s.  It became a popular holiday in the United States around the mid 1800’s.  Before that, it was celebrated here only sporadically.

In America it started off as mainly a children’s holiday, but now Halloween’s become a big holiday for adults, as well.  It gives people and excuse to dress up and to socialize.  Of course, it’s also become big business. There’s money to be made from candy, drinks, food, costumes and decorations.

Kids still go from door to door begging for treats.  They’re usually in costume and collect candy in paper bags or pillow cases.  They ring door bells and yell Help the Poor or Trick or Treat to alert the households on their route.  Sometimes kids go out and play tricks on people, whether they get a treat or not.

There are massive Halloween parties for children or adults or for both.  There are “haunted houses” and Halloween themed concerts.  There are parades.  It’s an interesting holiday.  It’s all about ghosts, witches, goblins, fright and things that go bump in the night.

Halloween rarely seems to be a harvest festival or a time for memorials.  I think that there’s still a little of that though.  It seems to be more in the background.

I’ve seen attempts to commercialize the Day of the Dead as well.  I hope that it doesn’t happen.  We try to pay tribute those who we’ve lost in an honest and creative way.  It shouldn’t become just another way to make money.

A pumpkin, a gift and three masks.

A pumpkin, a gift and three masks.

The exhibit is on the first floor of the library.  In the farthest case, I’ve installed an exploration of the skeleton.  This is made up of quotations and of skeleton imagery.  In the nearby flat case, there a tribute to the Day of the Dead. This includes works by José Guadalupe Posada and Diego Rivera.  There’s a tribute to Frida Kahlo.  There’s also information and history related to this celebration.

In the lobby there’s a tribute to Halloween.  The first case is primarily a group of masks.  There are also a few toys and books.  The second case is a collection of Halloween themed children’s books.  There’s also an audio cassette of frightening sounds.  In the third case there are books on haunted houses, vampires, werewolves, ghosts and poltergeists.  There are also Crypt of Terror comic books and a few toys.  Case number four includes Charles Addams books and a witch toy.  Case five is a tribute to scary movies.  These are mostly older works from 1920 to 1980, including works by Harry Houdini, Alfred Hitchcock, Tod Browning, F.W. Murnau, Lon Chaney and others.  I hope that these displays give a good sense of the spirit of this holiday.

This case is in tribute to various scary motion pictures. Films featured here include The Haunted Castle, The Phantom of the Opera., Dracula, Freaks, Nosferatu and The Wicker Man.

This case is in tribute to various scary motion pictures. Films featured here include The Haunted Castle, The Phantom of the Opera., Dracula, Freaks, Nosferatu and The Wicker Man.

Further Information

Dia de los Muertos:


José Guadalupe Posada:





Ofrenda Altars:



Halloween “versus” Dia de los Muertos:




Harvest Festivals:






Devil’s Night:


My Library Exhibits at the University of Detroit Mercy

September 30, 2015
From a 2007 exhibit detailing the history of the art and theatre at Detroit's

From a 2007 exhibit detailing the history of the art and theatre at Detroit’s “Zeitgeist.” The painting here is by Jacques Karamanoukian.

I work at the library on the McNichols campus of the University of Detroit Mercy.  I’m responsible for a great many jobs, including book repair.  Since 2001 or 2002, I’ve assembled some 20 to 40 exhibitions here.  One of the “fun parts” of my work is to assemble and install these displays.

First I go through the collection here at the library.  I often find good materials there.  Then I also go through my own collections.  When I do that, I need to carry it all on the bus.  Once I had to spend thirty minutes standing up on a crowded bus with a heavy framed drawing.  I’ve had to lug a lot of books and other objects back and forth.

Sometimes I’ve borrowed materials from friends and acquaintances.

I loved doing the 2007 show on the history of the Detroit’s Zeitgeist art space.  It was a lot of work though.  I’ve had several art exhibits here including a strong group show and a solo exhibit by Jennifer Gariepy.

In 2002 I had a huge solo exhibit of my own work.  I had a concurrent solo exhibit at the Zeitgeist as well.  George Tysh came and interviewed me and I had a full-page article in the Detroit Metro Times.

Of all the exhibits I’ve done here, that was the most “press” I’ve received.

In 2002, my friend Jacques Karamanoukian died.  Later that year, I did a memorial show for him, including a lot of his artwork and writings by and about him.

Part of a

Part of a “Black History Month” display in 2007.

Most years, I’ve put together exhibits for Women’s History Month and African-American History Month.  We also do an annual exhibit for Constitution Day.

There have been a number of exhibits honoring Dudley Randall and Detroit’s Broadside Press.  Some of these I helped with and some I didn’t.  I remember Randall from when I was an undergraduate here.  He was a librarian at this library.

Recently, I did an exhibit of books from the library’s collection.  Here, I tried to include books from nearly every category and interest.  In the past, I’ve done exhibits of art books, of photography books and of children’s books.

Early on, I did an exhibit on what not to do to books.  I included nearly everything bad which can happen to a book.  There were books that had been damaged by water.  There were books attacked by pets and by children.  There were examples of underlining and dog-earing.  One book had been ripped into two pieces and was captioned The Complete Edgar Allan Poe, in Two Parts.

I did a generic all music exhibit, including a lot of album covers.  I did a wide-ranging cinema exhibit too.  It got a nice write-up in the events listings at the Detroit Metro Times.

From my 2008 Puppet Exhibit.

From my 2008 Puppet Exhibit.

One of my favorite exhibits was my puppet exhibit.  I showed most of my personal puppet collection.  There were also books, articles and pictures which explored the history of puppetry.


Another detailed and expansive exhibit was The Wild Imagination at Play from 2010.  This dealt with overlaps and intersections between newspaper cartoons and film animation.  It featured such favorite as Popeye and Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland.  Though there, it went into the history and methods of both printed and cinematic cartoons.


From a 2008 Exhibit.

From a 2008 Exhibit.

There was an interesting chemistry exhibit which I put together with the UDM chemistry department.

There was an exhibition remembering the events of September 11, 2001.

I’m sure that there were interesting shows that I’m just not remembering.  I’m trying to assemble a complete chronological listing.

I’ve started a series of exhibits detailing Detroit’s cultural history.  In 2014 I did a history of Detroit’s visual arts scene.  This was fairly extensive and expanded into a facebook page and a series of blog posts.


This was the first of a series.  This year I had a 3 month-long Summer show celebrating the Detroit poetry scene and my own poetry and art zine, The Poetic Express.


It’s hard to get people out to see a Summer show, even if it’s up for three or four months.  Next year I plan on doing a history of Detroit’s cinema/motion picture scene including the Detroit Film Theatre, Jam Handy, Cass City Cinema and more.

Also in the works are show on Detroit music and a further exploration of Detroit’s poetry scene.  Get by if you can.


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