Detroit’s community of creative offerings is varied, plentiful and, as we’ve discovered, on par with that of any other major city in the World. Yes, good purveyors of culture–despite rumor and innuendo–we are happy to inform you that Detroit is still a “major” city and one that is thriving creatively.
With the help of native Cultural Weekly’s Special Features Editor, Tod Hardin, a native Detroiter, and his minions on the ground in the Motor City, we’ve compiled this list of 25 cultural things worthy of your attention.
While it’s only a brief sip from the city’s kettle of artistry – with many more also deserving of the spotlight – take a moment to absorb what’s here and consider further exploration.
For over 25 years, this eclectic venue has operated as a multi-use, flexible black box theater to facilitate expression among diverse Detroiters. It serves as a theater, cafe, studio, coffee house, sound stage, bodega, meeting hall and a haven for community activists and artists.
African World Festival (August 16 – 18)
Now in its 31st year, this family-friendly event includes performances, poetry, arts and crafts, African drumming and dance, hundreds of vendors, ethnic foods, and events for all ages, including an expanded Watoto Village for the youngest among us.
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge
Not just a Detroit legend, but one the world over. Baker’s is the longest running jazz club on Earth. Since opening its doors in 1934, it has played host to a who’s who of the jazz world: Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, Charles Mingus, Cab Calloway and Nat “King” Cole – just to name a few. Oh, and a young Barbara Streisand in 1961. Enough said.
Charles Wright Museum of African-American History
Charles Wright Museum of African-American History
The world’s largest institution dedicated to the African-American experience. The museum provides learning opportunities, exhibitions, programs and events based on collections and research that explore the diverse history and culture of African-Americans and their African origins.
The Center of Music & Performing Arts Southwest (COMPÁS) provides high-quality performing arts training and cultural experiences with an emphasis on youth development. Our programming preserves the Latino/a heritage of Southwest Detroit and celebrates the diversity of our community through the arts.
Concert of Colors
The Concert of Colors has the whole world in its bands! This free event celebrates the diverse origins of metro Detroiters with live music representing cultures from around the world, as well as the indigenous sounds of our musically magical hometown.
Dally in the Ally (September 7)
Held in the burgeoning Midtown district of Detroit, the annual event attracts thousands of attendees, for its live music, DJs, art and food. It draws a colorful and diverse cross-section of Detroiters, who experience a unique party that has become one of the most loved festivals in Detroit.
Detroit Artist Market
The DAM fosters a vibrant and distinctive artistic community by promoting, exhibiting and selling the work of emerging and established artists, through educational programming and art exhibitions, and by serving as a resource to all who seek to expand their knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of art.
Detroit Film Theatre
The DFT series consists of the exhibition of new and classic motion pictures in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ magnificently restored 1,100-seat auditorium. Films of various genres from around the world are presented, and audiences are given both artistic and historical context for each film
Detroit Jazz Festival (August 30 – September 2)
The Festival is an independent, non-profit organization that presents jazz and educational workshops throughout the year. Recently voted number two in North America in a JazzTimes reader’s poll, it’s the largest free jazz festival in the world and a major tourist attraction for the City of Detroit.
Detroit Opera House/Michigan Opera Theatre
The Detroit Opera House serves as the world-class home for Michigan Opera Theatre. The MOT presents four operas in their original language and hosts dance companies with touring repertoire. It also presents musical theatre performances.
PuppetArt – Detroit Puppet Theater
Founded in 1998 by a group of puppeteers and artists trained in the former Soviet Union, PuppetART
offers a repertoire of eight productions, an intimate 70-person theater, a museum that accommodates a growing collection of puppets and a studio featuring various workshops.
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
The internationally acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in December 2012, is known for trailblazing performances, visionary maestros, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and an unwavering commitment to Detroit.
Free Art Friday Detroit
This free art scavenger hunt that was initiated in Detroit by Skidmore Studio in 2011. The mission of FAFDET is to promote creativity in the city, celebrate art in all its forms and encourage people to explore the great city of Detroit. The weekly public event is fueled by professional and amateur artists that donate their talents in support of this mission.
InsideOut Literary Art Project
By immersing students in the joy and power of poetry and literary self-expression, InsideOut inspires them to think broadly, create bravely and share their voices with the wider world.
LivingArts is dedicated to strengthening the neighborhoods of Southwest Detroit by cultivating an environment that sparks the imagination and fosters ingenuity through the arts and community development initiatives.
The Magic Stick
The Magic Stick has consistently been recognized as one of Detroit’s top live music venues. Critics from Rolling Stone to the Metro Times have designated it as the city’s best bet to see a live show. The Stick has played host to many acts in their early stages, including The White Stripes, Kings of Leon, Mudhoney and Jack Johnson.
View of Motown Hitsville USA
Motown Museum “Hitsville USA”
This iconic location is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Detroit. Visitors come from across America and throughout the world to stand in Studio A, where their favorite artists and groups recorded much-loved music, and to view the restored upper flat where Berry Gordy lived with his young family during the company’s earliest days.
Movement Electronic Music Festival
Originally founded in 2000 as a showcase for the techno music that Detroit gave birth to, this event has gone through several makeovers and name changes over the years, but continues on as one of the globe’s great annual events for fans of electronica.
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
The mission of the MOCAD is to present art at the forefront of contemporary culture. As a non-collecting institution, MOCAD is responsive to the cultural content of our time, fueling crucial dialogue, collaboration, and public engagement.
The Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts is a 1,731-seat theatre located in the city’s entertainment district. It was built in 1928, designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1976, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art
This non-profit Center is dedicated to enlightenment through the arts. The Center showcases national artists and provides emerging local artists with a home for their art. Programming includes curated and juried exhibitions, lectures, art invitationals, family events, performance art, experiential theater, and an Artist-in-Residence program.
This non-profit, internationally acclaimed ceramic design studio, education center and National Historic Landmark, welcomes over 40,000 visitors from around the world annually. Its mission is to engage people in learning experiences with contemporary ceramic art and artists and to promote and preserve their historic legacy.
With its historic original 3 manual, 10 rank Barton Theatre Pipe Organ, this gem has served as a Detroit entertainment center since it opened on January 27, 1928. The non-profit Motor City Theatre Organ Society owns and operates the venue, where you can enjoy classic films along with a 30-minute organ concert.
For over 100 years this venerable institution has strived to stimulate the artistic sense of the people in Michigan toward practical expression, to advance the knowledge and appreciation of creative artistic activity and assist other cultural institutions in the promotion of the arts.