Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

Culture Lab Detroit

An annual design and urbanism symposium begins tonight in Detroit. 

The focus of Culture Lab Detroit is to look at the city's 23 square miles of vacant land and figure out how to use that land in ways that enrich the lives of long-time and new residents.

For decades, volunteers have been stepping up to battle the blight in Detroit
flickr user Charlie Wollborg /

Since Detroit emerged from its history-making bankruptcy, much of the city’s attention has been focused on blight.

The city is making efforts to reduce blight by knocking down or rehabilitating derelict buildings, and by finding creative uses for the growing amount of empty land in Detroit’s 140 square miles.

At last count, we’re up to 23.4 square miles of vacant land, more than the size of the entire island of Manhattan.

But for John George, the battle against blight began in 1988.

Efrain Zamudio in front of his backyard coop in Allen Park. The Mexican community in Metro Detroit might help carry on the tradition of pigeon racing.
Michael Jackman

That question might surprise those who didn't realize pigeons are "a thing" in the Metro Detroit area.

Immigrants from Belgium came to Detroit and brought their national passion of pigeon racing with them and it spread from there.

See this clip of an old pigeon race from the Detroit News:


In our selfie-happy world where we can take a photo anytime of anything we want, it’s difficult to conceive of life in which photography is completely banned.

No photographs, ever – or face severe punishment.

From 1996 to 2001, that was life in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

After the Taliban fell from power, free press and photojournalism were born.

Chick. Woman. Lady. Gal. Kitten. Doll. It seems like there are over a hundred names for the opposite of the male sex! I call my mom a woman and my sister a girl. Both are over the age of 25. Why is it so difficult to decide what to call women? I mean girls. I mean …females?

Whether to say girl or woman could depend on who is using the term, says University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan.  

Martin McClain

The recent demolition of Detroit's Park Avenue Hotel to make way for the Red Wings arena put the historic preservation community in the spotlight as they fought to save the hotel.

That preservation battle got writer Amy Elliott Bragg thinking about the woman hailed as the founder of Detroit's historic preservation movement, Beulah Groehn Croxford.

The Detroit Institute of Arts
flickr user Quick fix /

The Detroit Institute of Arts made fresh headlines late last month with the announcement that its three top executives, including newly retired director Graham Beal, are in line for bonuses and pay hikes topping $600,000.

The Go Rounds

The Go Rounds have a new album out today. It’s called, “dont go not changin.” The album features layered vocals, a strong rhythm section, stylish guitar riffs and some recorded natural sound (think rain, birds, a crowd at a bar.)

Flickr user audreyjm529 /

If you count yourself among those who cannot imagine life without your faithful dog by your side, you would have been a pretty rare breed a century or two ago.

That’s when packs of feral dogs were roaming the streets of Detroit.

People lived in fear of rabies, and the dog catcher prowled the streets scooping up the many strays.

Bill Loomis has tracked the history of dogs in Detroit for The Detroit News.

People sometimes get fussy with University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan for saying that the English language is always changing. But why does the English language constantly change? Is there a schedule out there somewhere saying how fast it will change? Why can’t we all keep saying the same things, all the time, forever?

But change is progress, says Curzan, and the language cannot simply stay still, for several reasons. 

Benjamin Foote

The band members of The Crane Wives quit their day jobs this year and are making the jump from being a West Michigan band, to trying to make their mark on the national music scene. Their new album, Coyote Stories, is being released August 29.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio


This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. But the end of slavery in the United States wasn’t official until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in December of 1865. The end of slavery also meant the end of the Underground Railroad. Detroit was one of the last stops before freedom for thousands of former slaves. 

We read your emails, and we're proving it today by talking about pinkies, other fingers, and humerus bones.

One of you asked about the pinky finger.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan discovered the pinky finger comes from the adjective “pinky,” which meant small.

“It at first referred to eyes,” Curzan explains. “So people with pinky eyes … like little squinty eyes.”  

But eventually its meaning moved from our eyes to our little fingers and made its way to the United States at the end of the 19th century.

Southern Poverty Law Center

The State Bar of Michigan is apologizing for honoring a short story with "racist" symbolism.

The bar association has offered Michigan lawyers a chance to flex their literary skills with a biennial short story contest for the past eight years.

Linda Tellis is known as Lady Ace Boogie in west Michigan’s hip hop scene. She is a community activist and is trying to change what she calls the “broken” world of hip hop.

Tellis turned her life around five years ago. She used to be involved in gangs.

“I didn’t have anybody to look up to. All I had was what was in front of me and unfortunately that was the streets and that’s it," Tellis said.

That’s all behind her now. In her latest album, Feel Good Music, she takes a stab at the hip hop industry and how rappers and artists are focused on fame and material things.

Fowling Warehouse / Facebook

For Chris Hutt, a long tradition of tailgating and camping at the same lot at the Indianapolis 500 has led to creating a sport and a business.

This new activity is called “fowling.”

And the business is the Fowling Warehouse in Detroit, where players gather to toss footballs at bowling pins.

“Fowling is a combination of football, bowling and a little bit of horseshoes in there as well," said Hutt.

Faisal Akram/flickr /

It turns out that in France the role of the sommelier is more limited than here in the U.S., according to Christopher Cook, HOUR Detroit's chief wine critic.

"In France, the sommelier does not buy the wine for the restaurant. That's usually done by the owner in conjunction with the chef," said Cook. 


This summer marks the 10th anniversary of a very special summer camp program at Oakland University in Rochester.

It’s the annual film camp for young people on the autism spectrum. Campers from ages 10 to 20 write, direct, edit and star in a short film. It’s followed by a red carpet premiere for attendees and their families in October.

Courtesy of the artist

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Chenille Sisters. Cheryl Dawdy, Grace Morand and Connie Huber formed the group in 1985 in Ann Arbor and they’ve been harmonizing together ever since.

  Originally, Morand and Huber were in a band together. Dawdy attended their shows and was recruited to round out the group.

"Pretty soon Cheryl would come to our gigs and we would tell the guys in the band to take a break and just do things as a trio and it dawned on us that we didn’t need the band," Morand says.

Marcelo Lopez-Dinardi

The big thing you need to know about Afrofuturism is that it is joyous and fun and a celebration of the past, present, and future.

Late last month, three young artists road-tripped from Toronto to Detroit for a weekend festival called Sigi Fest that celebrated Afrofuturism. And they were certainly joyful. 

Elaine Roach via Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Classical music lovers can now watch the Detroit Symphony Orchestra perform as often as they want, from the comfort of their living rooms.

The DSO is launching an online, on-demand archive of about 100 works, originally performed on its "Live from Orchestra Hall" series.

Performances run the gamut of classical music tastes, including works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin.

Content will be updated throughout the year.

Brian Kelly

Marsha Music is the daughter of a pre-Motown record producer. She’s a writer, blogger and activist. Music tells the story of how she lost her job because of struggles with alcohol.

Failure:Lab Detroit was recorded on November 21, 2013. You can find out more about Failure:Lab and hear more stories on their website.

Wikimedia Commons


For artists, making work they are proud of is only the first step. They still have to market their art, and themselves as artists, to attract potential buyers.

Painter, sculptor and dean of instruction at Wayne County Community College Jocelyn Rainey will be a panelist for The Business of Art. She also founded a non-profit community arts program called Finding Mona Lisa.

Rainey says she hopes the event will help artists understand how to become self-sufficient.

Milo Birch of Marquette is an improvisational keyboardist. He’s 11 years old and has recently finished his third album, Stepping Up.

Birch worked with some top-notch Michigan musicians for this album including people like Tyler Duncan, May Erlewine, Mike Lynch, Seth Bernard and more. 

For more on Birch's music, shows and up coming events you can visit his website

Courtesy of the author

That writing major you took in college could become the lifeline that helps you cope with loss and pain years later.

That's what Gabriella Burman of Huntington Woods is finding.

Juan Beltran


Tunde Olaniran’s music has been reviewed and featured across the nation on NPR, the New York Times and Pitchfork Magazine. People are paying attention to his music coming out of Flint.


He’s not only a singer and songwriter, he’s a producer, designs his own costumes, and choreographs his own shows (accompanied by backup dancers). By day, Olaniran is an outreach manager for Planned Parenthood. This past year, he’s spent his free time creating a new album.

Flint Institute of Arts
Sarah Razak / Creative Commons

Several Flint cultural institutions are getting a big boost, thanks to the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation 

The Flint Cultural Center Corporation, Flint Institute of Music and Flint Institute of Arts will share nearly $5 million in grants.

Courtesy of the author

The power of forgiveness. The power of trust. The often-complicated, sometimes-thorny relationship between a mother and a daughter.

Those are some of the themes that Lansing's Lori Nelson Spielman explores in her latest novel Sweet Forgiveness.

Logging camp near Cadillac, MI, ca. 1904
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration /

There’s a new living history park in Whitehall that’s giving visitors a unique way to discover the history of Michigan.

Michigan’s Heritage Park is part of the Lakeshore Museum Center in Muskegon.

By White House photo by Eric Draper via Wikimedia Commons

The legions of readers who love and cherish Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” were stunned and then excited at the prospect of reading her long-lost manuscript, “Go Set a Watchman.”

The story centers on Scout as a grown woman: Jean Louise Finch. Once eager readers clamped their eyes on the story, the shockwaves hit.

The beloved character of Atticus had become a bigot.

“Go Set a Watchman” was not an extension of “To Kill a Mockingbird” after all.