Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Ahya Simone doesn’t particularly like the word transition when she describes being a transgender woman.

Simone was born and raised in Detroit. From an early age she was drawn to the performing arts, singing in church choir and, eventually, while attending Cass Technical High School in Detroit, learning to play the harp.

But it wasn’t until she was in college at Wayne State University that Simone decided it was time to get real, and start living her truth.

Here's a video of Ahya Simone performing with her harp. 

Led by Dr. E. LaQuint Weaver, the Hallelujah Singers are a group of men and women singing together in an all-star community choir.
Andrew Sacks

The documentary film Let's Have Some Church Detroit Style was the Audience Choice winner at the second annual Freep Film Festival earlier this year.

And on June 20, it’s coming to Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater.

Andy Ryan

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

When Brad Meltzer sent his first novel to 20 publishers, he got 24 rejection letters.

His next novel became a New York Times bestseller.

Meltzer has lived at the top of the bestseller lists ever since, and he’s just released his newest political thriller: The President’s Shadow.

Success has not made Meltzer forget his past. In fact, he draws directly on his initial failure for inspiration to continue writing.

dream hampton

On October 23, 2011 a 19-year-old Detroiter named Shelly Hilliard was murdered and dismembered.

It happened just three days after she cooperated with suburban police, according to a civil suit filed by her family against the Madison Heights Police Department.

Willow Run Factory and B-24 bombers.
U.S. Army Signal Corps

YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP – A preserved section of a plant where Rosie the Riveter built World War II bombers has been rededicated.

The part of the old Willow Run Bomber Plant will become the home of the Yankee Air Museum.

Sarah Price's debut album "SarahTonin" comes out this week
Toko Shiiki

Sarah Price is the choir teacher at Saline High School, and this week she is releasing her debut CD, SarahTonin.

“Found missing.” “Gone missing.” “Went missing.” If you have ever seen the side of a milk carton you are familiar with these phrases. But these curious expressions just sound wrong … and British.

“This is a Briticism, and I think why Americans are noticing it is that it is absolutely on the increase in American English,” says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan.

“Over the last 15 years, the phrase 'go missing', 'went missing' has increased tenfold.”

Lance Kawas


Michigan filmmakers have their work cut out for them. Millions of dollars in annual state tax incentives are a certain target for cuts. And now, there's a move afoot in the Legislature to shut down the Michigan Film Office altogether.

Critics worry that the film and television industries are going to pass right by Michigan in favor of states with more generous incentives.

But filmmakers like Lance Kawas are still finding ways to make movies even while being based in Michigan.

The Alger Theater at present day on the corner of Warren and East Outer Drive.
Courtesy of Friends of the Alger

The Alger Theater on the corner of Warren and East Outer Drive in Detroit hasn't shown a movie for 30 years.

But come Sunday, members of the Friends of the Alger Theater will get the chance to watch Young Frankenstein inside the partially renovated theater as part of the groups' summer fundraising effort. The "Brew and View" series will offer a monthly screenings through August.

The theater is perhaps best known for its marquee, said Helen Broughton, president of the Friends of the Alger, a non-profit group that has been working to restore the space since 1986.

Benjamin Foote


When the Grand Rapids band Ghost Heart plays live, it’s a performance spectacle. They played in-studio at Michigan Radio as part of Songs from Studio East.


Diane DeCillis' premiere book of poems has been named a Michigan Notable Book for 2015
Diane DeCillis

As part of our series "Poetically Speaking," we're highlighting Michigan poets.

West Bloomfield’s Diane DeCillis’ first book of poetry, Strings Attached, has been named a Michigan Notable Book for 2015.

DeCillis draws on her past and her family in many of her poems, including the poem for which the book was named.

An entire generation of  fifth graders is contemplating a big decision as the school year comes to an end: "What instrument should I play next year in band?"

But plenty of kids don't even know what instruments they can choose from. They may have seen Kenny G jamming on a saxophone on TV, or heard about an instrument they think might be called the "ter-bon," but they've never had the chance to actually hold one (a trombone, that is) and try blowing into it.

That's where "instrument fittings" come in.

Susan Brewster

Eighty-nine years after being banned, John Herrmann’s first book What Happens is finally being published.

Arguably Lansing’s best forgotten writer, Herrmann was part of the famous expat American writers’ crowd in Paris in the 1920s and called Ernest Hemingway a friend.

All photos are from a collection from Susan Brewster, niece of John Herrmann, and have not been published until now.

Reality TV can be more than the Kardashians or the Real Housewives-of-Wherever.

It can be used to shed light, to build bridges, to increase understanding.

Cole Porter.
public domain / wikimedia commons

One of America’s supreme songwriters, his melodies and lyrics spoke of a lifestyle that was suave and elegant.

But five years after writing Night and Day, Cole Porter suffered an accident that transformed his debonair life into a constant battle with excruciating pain.

Hidden Kalamazoo

Jun 8, 2015
Michigan Municipal League /

There are few things more enticing than going "behind the scenes" and getting to explore something that's normally off-limits.

Add to that the chance to connect with the past, and you can see why the upcoming "Hidden Kalamazoo" tour is on its way to being another sell-out.

We all must learn to evolve with the times and begrudgingly accept that words like “ridic” and “selfie” are part of the lexicon. But must our beloved Scrabble be tainted as well? University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan explains Scrabbling in a post-selfie stick world.

"On May 21, 6,500 new words were announced that were going to be added to the Collins Official Scrabble word list and this made headlines in the news," Curzan says. "Including a headline like 'Scrabble Adds Even More Garbage Words to its Dictionary.'"


The LanSINGout Gay Men's Chorus has been part of mid-Michigan since 1989. From Christmas concerts to charity work, they're a community staple.

Michigan Radio's Rebecca Kruth sat down with director Peter Morse to talk about how the choir's direction has changed over the years. 

Orson Welles' 1938 broadcast of "War of the Worlds" certainly caused a stir, but newspapers of the time seem to have exaggerated that point.
user Curandera Vision / flickr

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the century's great creative minds: Orson Welles.

Director, actor, and writer, his "Citizen Kane" is widely regarded as the greatest film ever made.

And his 1938 Halloween Eve radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" was an early lesson in the power of viral media.

Cody LaRue

As part of our M I Curious project, Flint's Cody LaRue asked us the following question:

There is an old railroad bridge in Flint that has "grand funk railroad" on it. Did the band do this, or were they involved in some way?

The graffiti was painted over a “Grand Trunk Western Railroad” bridge in Flint. We checked in with the band to find out.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It seems every new restaurant, bar, or national retail chain opening in Detroit generates excitement in the wake of the city’s bankruptcy. Most are owned or operated by white people.

But Detroit has many black-owned businesses that survived the worst of the city’s struggles. One of them has even become something of a landmark in the city.

A Minute with Mike: The Oracle

Jun 2, 2015
minute with mike logo
Vic Reyes

I've dusted off the old 8-ball Ouija-tron to find out what's happening in future Michigan.

Dateline: Lansing, December 2034

In what some describe as a desperate move, state officials will sell the naming rights to Michigan highways and byways as a way to generate money for road repair.

Lawmakers were proud to introduce the Roads Ain't Cheap Act.

Prosperity for the Prosperous spokesperson Renee Barbarella Jr. says it's a great move by Michigan, and taxpayers should be ecstatic with road funding shifting from John Q. Citizen to Big Corporate Brother.

Faisal Akram/flickr /

How much can you tell about a wine by its color?

According to Hour Detroit Magazine chief wine and restaurant critic Chris Cook, not as much as you used to.

“A lot of the flaws that used to exist in wine have been rectified by new technology and better wine-making,” Cook says.

DSO Festival dedicated to Marcus Belgrave

Jun 2, 2015
Courtesy of Marcus Belgrave

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is dedicating its 3-day festival to the late Marcus Belgrave.

Belgrave was a jazz trumpeter that spent much of his life in Detroit. He toured with Ray Charles band and worked with many other musicians. 

He died in Ann Arbor on May 24 from heart failure. 

Wayne State University Press

How long do we carry wounds that we suffer early in life?

Can you find a pathway to healing and wholeness after you're broken and damaged, whether by tragedy or neglectful, uncaring parenting?

Can you recover and rebuild after missed chances, poor choices?

These are some of the questions Kelly Fordon explores in her new collection of short stories Garden for the BlindIt's part of the Made In Michigan Writer's Series.

Valyrian Steel /

It is, hands down, the most popular show in HBO history: Game of Thrones, with its dragons, power-hungry families, Iron Throne, and lots and lots of swords!

And for the many who want their own replica of Jon Snow's sword, Longclaw, or Ice, the sword of Ser Eddard Stark, they turn to Chris Beasley.

His East Lansing company, Valyrian Steel, is the licensed official vendor of replica Game of Thrones weaponry and armor.


Sometimes it’s tricky to know if you are putting the right emPHASis on the right SylLAble. Even Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan has had her doubts when it comes to what syllable to stress and when.

“I, for much of my life, at least for as long as I've been using this word, have said “AFFluent.” But, at the university, I will go to talks and talk to colleagues and sometimes they will say “affLOOent,” Curzan says. 

Several historic Michigan lighthouses are up for grabs

May 30, 2015
Corey Seeman / Flickr

The U.S. General Services Administration is looking for stewards to take care of three historic lighthouses in Michigan.

Stewards can use the lighthouses for educational, cultural or preservation purposes in exchange for maintaining them.

Cat Langel, GSA spokeswoman, said stewards are typically state or local governments, non-profits, or historic preservation groups.

Desiree Duell

A Flint artist is creating installations around the city made out of the empty water bottles she and other residents have been drinking.

Desiree Duell says so far she’s collected some 1,500 water bottles from residents who still don’t trust Flint’s tap water.

Wayne State University Press

From 2000 to 2010, Michigan saw a 39% increase in its Asian population. That happened even while the state’s overall population was shrinking.

Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing racial/ethnic group in Detroit’s Tri-County area: Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

So what does it mean to be an Asian-American in Michigan, and how did immigrants from so many different Asian countries come to Michigan? These are some of the questions explored in the new book Asian Americans in Michigan: Voices from the Midwest.