Arts & Culture

Arts and culture


150 years ago this night, the 16th President of the United States decided that an evening at the theater was just what he needed.

As we all know, Abraham Lincoln’s night at Ford’s Theatre in Washington ended with a bullet fired by assassin John Wilkes Booth. The bullet lodged in his brain, right behind his left ear.

Today on Stateside:

  • Elizabeth Campbell with the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School and Judge Charles Pope of Ypsilanti’s 14B District Court join us to discuss the Human Trafficking Court in Washtenaw County, the first of its kind in Michigan.
  • Barbara Rylko-Bauer discusses her new book, A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Campus, which is about her mother, Dr. Jadwiga Lenartowicz Rylko, a former Nazi prisoner who later worked as a nurse’s aide at Henry Ford Hospital.

Dr. Jadwiga Lenartowicz Rylko was a Nazi prisoner for 15 months. She endured a women's prison, three concentration camps, four slave labor camps and a death march.

She and her fellow prisoners were liberated by the U.S. 87th Infantry Division 70 years ago this week.

After the war, she came to Michigan with her husband and daughter, seeking a new life.

She found that new life, but her Polish medical credentials had been lost in the war and she was never able to practice medicine in America. Instead, she worked as a nurse's aide at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Given how common the compound word "child care" is, you would think we could agree on whether to spell it as one word or two.

And that's just the tip of the compound iceberg.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan says That's What They Say listener Adam e-mailed a question about "fundraise."  

Catherine Shaffer

 The University of Michigan student group Fashion for Freedom staged a mock fashion show on campus Friday to protest the sexualization of women's bodies in advertising, which the group believes promotes sexual violence and human trafficking.

The group then marched on downtown Ann Arbor retailers, applauding those with respectful advertising and protesting stores with ad campaigns it believes objectify women, including American Apparel.


The robin became the official bird of Michigan 84 years ago today, and that decision stirred up a lasting controversy. 

Dan Austin of the Detroit Free Press and, said the process to elect the robin as the state bird was a democratic one.

The Michigan Audubon Society held a contest in 1929 and almost 200,000 Michiganders voted. The final runners in the election? The robin and the chickadee.

In the end, though, the robin came out on top and became out state bird officially in 1931.


In the pantheon of great American designers, the name Eames is one of the best-known. Charles Eames and his wife Ray made their creative mark in modern architecture, furniture, graphic design, industrial design, fine art, textile design and film.

The Henry Ford Museum has acquired a permanent Eames exhibition, called “Mathematica.” It was first seen over 50 years ago, at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City.

It’s National Poetry Month and in its honor, we are exploring the work and styles of Michigan poets.

Ken Mikolowski, a poet and poetry professor at the University of Michigan, has just released his fifth book, ThatThat. It’s a book that reveals this poet’s mastery of the short poem – no poem within the book is longer than three short lines.

“Haiku is much too long for me,” Mikolowski said.

Stateside celebrates National Poetry Month with a special month-long series on poetry in Michigan.

We'll be talking with Michigan poets about their new work, about poetry in the 21st century and about why poetry continues to inspire.

outside of hitsville usa and motown museum building
Flickr user Ted Eytan / Flickr

Many of Motown's greatest hits were written at a little house on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, the house known as Hitsville USA.

ipad using point of sale application
Flickr user Nicolas Nova / Flickr

Technology invades the restaurant dining experience. No, not diners posting photos of their food to Facebook or Instagram, but restaurants in Michigan are replacing their old-school paper menus with iPads.

Chief wine and restaurant critic for Hour Detroit Magazine Chris Cook says, "I haven't seen too many around Southeast Michigan, but I think it's going to become a growing trend."

DisArt festival

A major art show opens in Grand Rapids on Friday.

The DisArt festival features the work of roughly 50 disabled artists, film makers and others. 

“What the whole festival is doing is flipping our expectations of disability on its head,” says festival director Christopher Smit. 

Today on Stateside:

  • John Austin, president of the State Board of Education, joins us to discuss how teachers in Michigan should be evaluated.
  •  Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush and MI Curious question-asker Jeff Salisbury talk about the number of Michigan lawmakers with kids enrolled in traditional public schools.


Many years ago, I was having lunch at the old London Chop House in Detroit. I was there with a very erudite Frenchman from one of the great wine families.

The host asked the entire table to name the best wine we had ever had. After some awkward answers and evasions, our French guest simply raised a finger and announced “I have one.”

It seems that his parents, wanting him to have a truly international education, sent him off to Harvard Business School in the 1950s.

He arrived here shy, with English as his second language, and felt very out of place.

Erna Roberts has had a full life. As a survivor of the WWII Nazi takeover of her homeland, Latvia, as well as two separate Russian occupations, still living on her own at the age of 97 is the least of her feats.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan has been thinking about diminutives lately, particularly "ette."

"The word 'cigarette' is clearly more diminutive than 'bullet,' but they actually share the same diminutive suffix," Curzan says. 

"I did an interview recently about suffixes for women – like 'ess,' 'ette,' and 'trix,' and it had me thinking about some etymological facts that not everyone is aware of about the history of 'ette.'

Detroit native Steffanie Christi’an is a musician and writer. She has collaborated with some of the top producers in New York City, including Big Proof of D12 and Emanuel (Eman) Kiriakou.


There’s a delicious backstory to how the Michigan sparkling wine, “Sex,” sold under the M. Lawrence brand, got its head-turning name.

It happened during the 1980s, Hour Detroit magazine’s chief wine and restaurant critic Chris Cook said, when Larry Mawby, owner of the Mawby winery was “fretting around for names for certain things.”

In that day, the trick was getting names and images for wine labels approved by the somewhat “prudish” Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

“At that time, they were being very picky about certain things,” Cook said.

Overdrive Interactive

Senior technology writer for Slate, Will Oremus, has a hard time “getting” Snapchat. He says the app makes him feel old, and recently wrote an article about his struggle.

Oremus is 32 years old.

Snapchat is one of the fastest-growing social apps in the world. So this raises the question: Are newer apps trying to keep older users out of the loop?

Kimberly Springer, Michigan Radio’s social media producer, doesn’t think so.

The U.S. National Archives on Flickr / Flickr

Patricia Majher's book Great Girls in Michigan History profiles 20 girls in Michigan who accomplished great feats before the age of 20.

Majher says while the girls were from all over the state with different areas of expertise, they all shared some personality traits. She describes them as precocious, self-driven, and not allowing obstacles to stand in their way.

The book includes stories of Betty Ford's dedication to dance at a young age. Ford founded her own dance studio in Grand Rapids at the age of 15, where she taught little girls and their mothers too.  Her career eventually led her to dance at Carnegie Hall.

Flickr user Chris Smith / Flickr

The Detroit Public Library turns 150 years old this week and will be celebrating Wednesday with an event that includes architectural tours of the historic main branch. The 1921 building is an architectural wonder, and is the fourth-largest library in the nation, with more than 7 million books.

Detroit choir heading to the Vatican

Mar 24, 2015
Wolfgang Stuck

Pope Francis may not have plans to stop in Michigan when he visits the U.S. next fall, but a Detroit choir is planning to go see him.

The Archdiocesan Chorus of Detroit already had plans to visit Rome in January when they received an invitation to sing in a mass at the Vatican.

And yes, His Holiness will definitely be there.

Today on Stateside:

  • Charlie Moret, president of Invest Michigan, talks about his “fresh view” on the Michigan startup community in The Next Idea.
  • Randy Olson, a computer science doctoral candidate from Michigan State University, joins us to describe his “Pure Michigan Road Trip, Optimized.”

  • Finland Calling, the nation’s only Finnish-language program in the United States, is coming to an end, and host Carl Pellonpaa is here to talk.


The Upper Peninsula is facing the end of an era. After 53 years, Finland Calling, the only Finnish-language program in the United States, is coming to an end.

Marking the retirement of host Carl Pellonpaa, the final show will be on March 29.

Bruce Giffin / Courtesy of the Sphinx Organization

Aaron Dworkin, founder of the nationally recognized Sphinx organization – which runs scholarships and competitions for black and Latino students in classical music – is leaving to become the new dean of the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theater & Dance. 

"Sphinx has really been my life's work," says Dworkin, who's passing the baton to his wife and Sphinx's current artistic director, Afa Dworkin. 

"Even the most euphemistic terms we have for where the toilet is, can sometimes not feel quite euphemistic enough."

That's what University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan said on "That's What They Say." 

And it's true: We have lots of different names for the place where we perform that private function. 

LEG Management

The first federally-funded housing projects for African-American families were built in Detroit in the 1930s. They were the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects, located on Detroit’s near-east side.

If you want to hear why they were built, listen to our recent story here. Mary Wilson from The Supremes tells us about what she learned from growing up in the projects, in a story you can listen to here

For the most part, former residents who lived in the area in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s speak highly of their time in the projects. But life in the Brewsters got much tougher in the 1970s and '80s.

FLICKR USER HEINRICH KLAFFS / FLICKR / Yusef Lateef visualized his music in his drawings, said Alhena Katsof, curator of "Yusef Lateef: Towards the Unknown."

Yusef Lateef – a master musician, composer, writer and artist – died in 2013. However, his history lives on in Detroit, the city where he came of age musically and otherwise. He went on to become one of the first artists to combine jazz with world music.

This Friday, an exhibition called Yusef Lateef: Towards the Unknown will open in the Trinosophes art space on Gratiot in Detroit. It will run through May 10. 

Rebecca Mazzei, co-owner of Trinosophes, thinks the exhibition will be important for all people to see – whether they’re familiar with Lateef’s work or not. She said the exhibit will speak to “why he was so important to the city and why the city was so important to him,” though she added that he also brought some “important cultural movements to the national scene as well.”

Nationaal Archief (Dutch National Archives)

Today on Stateside, we’re getting the inside scoop from former residents of the Brewster-Douglass housing projects about what it was like growing up in the Detroit projects. 

Their answers are overwhelmingly positive.

Ruby Straughter lived in the Brewster-Douglass projects from 1957 to 1972. She remembers people in the projects taking good care of each other.

“If a family couldn’t pay rent, neighbors would throw a rent party and they’d give the money to whomever needed the rent paid.”

She says no one ever went hungry or made fun of anyone else for being poor. Straughter remembers parents were strict with their own kids, and looked out for other people’s children as well.

There was also lots and lots of singing in the Brewsters. People sang four-part harmonies on street corners, in the parks, on porches and in the stairwells, where the echo was best.

But why was music such a huge part of living there? 

"Let's Review": Are celebrities obligated to be role models?

Mar 18, 2015

Let’s Review is a new podcast from Michigan Radio focused on current events, pop culture, identity, and the tricky art of navigating life.

Your hosts are All Things Considered host, Jenn White and Michigan Radio's social media producer, Kim Springer.