Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Check out Jazz Fest this Labor Day weekend

Sticking around town this Labor Day weekend?

If so, consider checking out
Detroit's 26th annual International Jazz Festival: it's a free, annual music festival complete with great tunes, excellent food, a street fair and lots of fun.

Campus Martius Park joins this year's festival, along with the area near the Spirit of Detroit

The festival, which is produced by Music Hall, is considered by many as the country's largest free jazz festival; attendance topped 600,000 last year.

Thanks in large part to Mack Avenue Records of Grosse Pointe - this year's main sponsor - the event will once again fill the streets of downtown Detroit with a variety of sounds from a number of different musical genres.

Although festivities will once again take place at Hart Plaza, the waterfront area beyond the intersection of Woodward and Jefferson avenues won't be the only place to see the local and visiting jazz masters; new stage locations at both Campus Martius Park and on Woodward near the Spirit of Detroit will play host to jazz-spawned genres including roots, R&B and blues.

Musical highlights of the 2005 Jazz Fest - which runs from Friday, September 2 through Monday, September 5 - include performances by T.S. Monk, McCuy Tyner (former pianist of John Coltrane Quartet), the Regal Brass Band of New Orleans, bebop legend Charles McPherson, and a tribute to Ray Charles by David "Fathead" Newman.

In addition to the big names, there are many other national and local musicians representing modern jazz, big band, post-bop, soul/funk, soul-bop, R & B and roots. The
Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association's website has a nice synopsis on the musicians representing each of these genres.

Lastly, make sure to check out at least one of the nightly after-parties at Bert's on Broadway; local jazz musicians will face-off with visiting musicians in old-fashioned jam sessions that are sure to be a blast.

For a complete schedule of performances and stage locations, please click

Visit the
Jazz Fest website or call Music Hall at 313.887.8501 for more information.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Detroit's Pewabic Pottery

Anyone that has spent time looking around and exploring Detroit will tell you that this Midwestern metropolis is full of hidden treasures.

From the Dequindre Cut, to the mansions of the Boston-Edison district, to the old Piquette Plant, and many others in between, Detroit is more than just a spot on the map - it's a 304-year-old city bursting with fascinating things to see and do.

One such place,
Pewabic Pottery, is the spotlight of today's post.

The idea for Pewabic Pottery came about in the early 1900s after two Detroit neighbors - Mary Chase Perry, an artist, and Horace James Caulkins, a businessman - started an unlikely partnership.

Upon meeting and discussing their careers, Caulkins discovered that Perry, a well-respected china painter, was just the person to market his latest invention, the Revelation Kiln.

Although she certainly wasn't a dentist, Perry's art form did require heat, and having a portable form of it would make the traveling demonstrations of china painting she had been performing easier.

And, with that, it was settled - Perry would go to different cities and towns doing her demonstrations, and she would take Caulkins' kiln with her, showing others how to use it and then taking purchase orders for those interested in buying one.

In her new role as salesperson/demonstrator, Perry was extremely successful, as were sales of the kilns.

Art in the People Mover Station tile

This success continued for a few more years, but ended after Perry - who was spending all of her time either producing, instructing, or talking about china painting - grew tired of the artform, and decided to look for a new challenge. She found it a short time later when she chose to pursue ceramics.

Caulkins, who was now a close friend of Perry's, supported his business partner's decision to change her focus, and worked alongside her as she began experimenting with clay and glazing in a small stable on John R. in Detroit.

Pewabic Pottery is located on East Jefferson Avenue and Cadillac

It was in this small space that Perry began developing the unique, iridescent sheens that later become her, and Pewabic Pottery's, signature characteristic.

The beautiful, original glazes, coupled with the rapid growth of the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States, brought Perry local and national acclaim. Before long, she was hired to produce tile installations and building ornamentations for structures throughout the city of Detroit, including the Guardian building, the DIA, the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Detroit Yacht Club, and countless others.

In addition, many notable members of society showcased Perry's tiles in their homes, especially those living in the Indian Village and Grosse Pointe communities.

Caulkins, thrilled with his partner's rapid success, suggested they find a local designer to create a building where Perry could produce, display, and train other artists in replicating her ceramic pieces.

Deeply involved with the newly-formed Society of Arts and Crafts that manifested in Detroit in 1906, Perry and Caulkins enlisted William Stratton, a notable Detroit architect and the Vice President of the Society at the time, to design their new place. Upon completion in 1907, the beautiful Tudor Revival style building on East Jefferson became the new home of Perry's ceramic works, and the soon-to-be Pewabic Pottery.

Pewabic Pottery

Pewabic, which is a Chippewa word meaning clay with a copper color, was the chosen name of the pottery company.

The years following the creation of the Pewabic Pottery Company saw an increased public interest in the Arts and Crafts style, a phenomenon that put Perry's unique tiles, vessels, and ornamentations in even higher demand.

In 1917, Ms. Perry - a graduate of the Cincinnati Art Academy - married William Stratton, the architect of the Pewabic building. She furthered her career in ceramics, and worked as a ceramicist and teacher at Pewabic, which - unlike the Arts and Crafts movement - had not suffered a decline. Perry Stratton's career continued to grow and, with the $100 sale of a vase to Detroit philanthropist Charles Freer in 1909, the Michigan native's career reached another peak - one that symbolized her immense craftsmanship and talent within the ceramics field.

Pewabic tiles were installed in this mural at the Times Square People Mover station in 1989

Continuing as an artist at the Detroit Pewabic Pottery Company into her later years, Mary Chase Perry Stratton expanded her roles as both instructor and leader when she began teaching at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. She is credited with starting the ceramics department at U of M.

With the vast and numerous contributions she made to her field, it is no surprise that Perry Stratton was the recipient of the Charles Fergus Binns Medal in 1947, which is the highest honor one can receive in the ceramics field.

When she died in 1961, Mary Chase Perry Stratton was 94. Her business partner, Horace Caulkins, had been dead for a few years, as had his wife, which made Caulkins' son, Henry, the heir of Pewabic. Wanting to maintain and further Perry's life-long work, Henry deeded both the pottery and its grounds to Michigan State University, who ran the pottery as a teaching organization until the end of the 1970s.

The fireplace at the old children's library in the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library is made of Pewabic Pottery. The ten squares going around the fireplace's edge each depict characters from popular children's stories, such as Hantzel and Gretel and Alice in Wonderland.

In 1981, a non-profit group was formed to take control of the pottery from MSU. Pewabic Pottery, Inc., still runs the pottery to this day, and has spent the last two and a half decades expanding the pottery's programs and defining its focus. Today, Pewabic Pottery is a working pottery that includes a museum, teaching exhibitions, and a small for-profit operation that sells reproductions of Perry's original ceramic works.

Mary Chase Stratton Perry was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1986 and Pewabic was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

Besides the numerous places in and around the Detroit area that display Pewabic tiles and ornamentations, the famous pieces can be seen around the United States in places such as the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. and Rice University's Science Building in Houston.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

All-Star Game survey reveals economic, perceptual impacts on Detroit

A study released today by the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitor's Bureau found that All-Star Game events in Detroit last month brought $42 million into Detroit's tri-county area. Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties make up the tri-county area.

In addition, the study - which was performed by Patrick Rishe, an associate professor of Economics at Webster University in St. Louis - found that 78.4% of the non-locals surveyed stated they had a "more favorable" perception of Detroit from being at 2005 All-Star activities. Non-locals surveyed also said they were "more likely" to visit the Detroit area in the next two years.

Rishe and his research team got the data for their report by distributing 525 random surveys to non-locals that attended All-Star Game events in Detroit on July 11 and 12. Of the total surveys given out, nearly 500 of them were usable in the analysis.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Riff 2: Music Made In Detroit

Are you tired of listening to the same Top 40 hits played over and over on the radio? If you hear "Sugar" by Trick Daddy, or Hoobastank's "The Reason" one more time are you going to scream?

If you answered an overwhelming "yes!" to either of these questions, there's a new music channel in the D that may cure your suffering; that channel is RIFF2.

Launched a few weeks ago by Greater Media Detroit - the parent company of Detroit radio stations WRIF, WCSX, and WMGC - RIFF2: Made in Detroit is a fresh, innovative channel that won't drive you insane with its lack of playlist variety. It also won't remind you of any other metro-area stations, because RIFF2 seeks to provide its listeners with the sounds of indie rock, hip hop, and punk from local artists and musicians, those talented men and women that often don't make it to the airwaves.

Even better, the fledgling station is asking for your help in finding the best local Detroit talent in the alt rock and indie rock music scenes. Send an e-mail to and you may just hear the sounds of your fav Detroit band broadcast on the station.

The only caveat with RIFF2 is that is an HD radio station, meaning that you can't just turn on any old radio and get the channel; you have to have an HD radio.

HD radio, which recently made its entrance on the market, is a relatively new technology. It is similar to satellite radio, except the price for the HD radio - $259 for an inexpensive stereo tabletop version, and pricier for an auto version - is the only thing the consumer has to pay for; there are no monthly subscription fees like there are with XM or Sirius.

The Metro Detroit area has several retailers that sell HD radios, and they are listed on RIFF2's website.

RIFF2 expects the prices for HD radios to come down as the product penetrates the market.

Before shelling out more money for another tech gadget, though, please note that since it is a digital station, RIFF2 can be listened to without interruption over the Internet. Just go to, and click on "listen".

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Road to Detroit Project

Jamie Henn and May Boeve have not spent their summer vacations hanging out at the beach or lounging around with friends.

Instead, these two college students - both undergraduates at Middlebury, a small, liberal-arts college in Vermont - have spent their time planning, organizing, and preparing for a national outreach campaign that is set to culminate in Detroit this weekend.

The focus of the summer-long endeavor, called
Road to Detroit (RTD), is two-fold: the first goal is to educate America's youth about the negative by-products of oil consumption - pollution, loss of American jobs, shaky foreign relations, and increasing costs - and the second is to motivate this same group, the youth of America, to join with thousands of their peers in demanding that U.S. automakers step-up production of more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles.

General Motors, the world's largest automaker, is rapidly losing marketshare to Toyota. Would a plunge into more fuel-efficient vehicles help cure its woes?

"The foreign automakers are already way ahead of the American ones in terms of producing fuel-efficient cars and trucks," Boeve says. "The Detroit automakers need to recognize that...they also need to recognize that today's youth are aware of the importance of finding a less expensive, more efficient fuel source, and if Detroit is still making cars that only run on gasoline, they will lose us as customers."

Henn agrees, and points out that Detroit automakers are taking a major risk if they ignore the needs and wants of the 22 million individuals that make up the American youth population. This is largely because many of them will be purchasing cars for the first time in the next few years.

With these ideas in mind, the core members of the Road To Detroit team - 15 individuals, most of whom are college students - decided to target America's youth, an age group that the RTD members believe are often the most innovative, visionary members of a society.

So, how is the Road to Detroit campaign faring so far?

To date, the project has gotten the support of more than 11,000 people - all of whom have signed the Clean Car Pledge.

This document, which is being circulated by the RTD Outreach Bus Tour and is also available to sign online, is a personal statement that calls on auto manufacturers to begin the immediate mass-production of zero-emissions vehicles, and sets forth the promise that the next car purchase each pledge-signer makes will be for a vehicle that meets three items: fuel-emissions standards set forth by the state of California, a mileage per gallon ratio of at least 40, and product manufacturing that is done solely by union workers.

Henn, Boeve, and the rest of the Road to Detroit team aren't stopping at 11,000 signatures, though; they have an entire 3-day roster of activities set up this weekend in Detroit to encourage more youth to get involved with their campaign for cleaner cars.

* * *
The Drive the Future festivities begin on Saturday, when the Road to Detroit Bus makes an appearance in suburban Detroit's Woodward Dream Cruise, an annual event that showcases classic and unique automobiles on America's first highway, Woodward Avenue.

The RTD Bus, which has transported 7 of the project's members across more than 12,000 miles this summer, has been powered solely by biodiesel, and will certainly make a splash in this year's Cruise.

The annual Dream Cruise, which draws over one and a half million people, will be followed up with a BBQ at Royal Oak's Memorial Park, where the RTD crew and its supporters will celebrate the Motor City's innovative nature with food and fun.

Sunday is education day for the Road to Detroit crew, who will gather at Detroit's First Unitarian-Universalist Church, along with local and national environmental, academic, religious, and business leaders to inform the Detroit public about their mission, and how Detroit can play a major part in it.

Activities scheduled for Sunday include teach-ins, public seminars, theater performances, and activities centering around the country's immediate need for cleaner cars and alternative fuels.

Also on the agenda are discussions about Detroit's history of innovation, and how the Motor City can continue its legacy of invention by choosing to play a prominent role in the research and production of fuel-efficient vehicles. Sunday's events are scheduled to run from 10 am - 8 pm.

Henry Ford's Model T is considered by many as the greatest invention of the 20th century. The creation of a vehicle not dependent on fossil fuels would banish the country's reliance on oil, and reaffirm Detroit's role as the powerhouse of the auto industry.

The third, and final, day of the Road to Detroit's Drive the Future events is scheduled for Monday.

RTD team members and supporters will gather at downtown Detroit's Piquette Plant at 5 pm, where they will deliver the thousands of signatures they have collected to the automakers themselves, showing them that there is a demand for cleaner cars, and that the demand can be filled: right here in Detroit.

* * *

The Road to Detroit Dream Cruise events are scheduled from 10 am - 8 pm on Saturday, followed by a two-hour after-party, which starts at 8 pm. The BBQ will be held at Memorial Park, which is located at 13 Mile Woodward in Royal Oak.

Sunday's events run from 10 am - 8 pm at Detroit's
First Unitarian-Universalist Church on Cass and Forest.

Monday's Pledge Rally and delivery of signatures is at 5 pm at the Ford Piquette Plant in downtown Detroit. It is located three blocks east of Woodward on the corner of Piquette and Beaubien.

For more information on the Road to Detroit or the Drive the Future events in Detroit this weekend, please contact May Boeve.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

OSLO Gets Transformed

OSLO, the local nightspot known for its fabulous sushi and eclectic ambiance, is about to get made over - and, by made over, I'm not talking about a new coat of paint.

OSLO is located on Woodward Avenue, a few blocks north of Campus Martius Park

Next Friday evening, August 19, when the transformation gets under way, you won't see a group of construction workers tearing down walls, and you certainly won't witness a handful of carpenters turning two-by-fours into new bookcases. What you will see, however, is a different form of change; one that will transform OSLO: the sushi bar and lounge, into OSLO: the work of art.

Using the distinct talents of seven area artists, FREE OSLO - the name given to the collective work - will combine several different forms of artistic expression - video installation, live audio, sculpture, and performance art, to name a few - to create an all-encompassing, interactive, one-of-a-kind experience.

Image courtesy of Mare Costello

Mare Costello, the project's curator and headline artist, calls the multimedia event an artistic extravaganza. "FREE OSLO is an event that will allow viewers the opportunity to watch OSLO take on the persona of a giant, living, breathing work of art," she says.

No stranger to the elements of multi-medium - she's worked as a promoter, DJ, steel sculptor, painter, designer, curator, and more - Costello's boredom with the normality and politics that often encumber traditional art galleries, along with her self-proclaimed ability to "think outside the box", led her to create FREE Multi-Medium, Inc., the entity presenting Costello's newest show.

FREE OSLO, which runs from 10 pm - 3 AM, will feature three separate works. Of these three, two of them - Brighton-By The Sea, by artist Chris Macnamara, and Curves and Cubes, by Jon Hudson, will be displayed on OSLO's upper level. Brighton is a video installation with sound, and Hudson's Curves is a video and sculpture installation.

Optimism, the headline piece of the show, will be on the main floor of the hybrid-style restaurant/lounge. It will start about an hour after FREE OSLO begins.

Photo courtesy of Mare Costello

Inspired by Costello's personal focus on balance and the positive things in life, the components of Optimism - video, sound, and performance - are meant, in Costello's words, "To challenge the pessimistic viewer to seek within to the possibilities that are available to us all."

The multi-medium performance piece, which combines sound, video, and dance, will be the product of four of the seven artists at FREE OSLO. All seven of them are members of the Free Project Players, a group of 20+ artists that contributed to The Free Project, a successful multimedia event held in Detroit in 2003 that Costello also served as curator and headline artist to.

Costello's video, sound, and dance performance will be at the core of Optimism, and two separate, additional performances - by Virginia Zuverza-Chavarria and Jonny Victor - along with a soundscape collaboration by Ben Cyllus, will serve to highlight and support it.

Following the completion of Optimism's performances, Jan D, local DJ-extraordinaire, will pump her fresh mix of electro - electronic music mixed with hip-hop, disco, or anything else that'll get the audience moving - through the speakers, creating an environment that'll keep OSLO-goers dancing all night long.

There is one more element to the night, but Costello says it is a surprise. "They'll have to come see the show to figure out what it is."

FREE OSLO will be presented by
FREE Multi-Medium, Inc., on Friday, August 19, 2005, from 10 PM - 3 AM. There is a $10 cover.

OSLO is located at 1456 Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit.
Visit for more information.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Royal Oak company uses its creativity to promote Detroit

Tim Smith is tired of hearing the person on the other end of the phone line groan when he tells them that his company, Skidmore Inc., is located in Royal Oak, Michigan - a city just outside of Detroit.

"As soon as you mention the word 'Detroit', the negative comments start," Smith says.

"We were always getting reactions like, 'Detroit is dirty', or 'It's dangerous', or 'It doesn't have any creative people', and we were tired of hearing it," he recalls. "People that live here know about the positive things going on in the city, but we wanted to find a way to get people outside of Detroit to realize those things, too."

But trying to change a person's long-standing perception about an entire city is not an easy task; simply refuting negative comments about Detroit, or stating that the Motor City has a lot to offer, isn't enough to get the attention of most people - let alone cause them to change their opinions about it.

Gideon and Blair show off their new BigLoveDetroit t-shirts
at Bookies Tavern in downtown Detroit

Luckily, though, the clever folks over at Skidmore didn't let the forecasted difficulty of the project sway them from going up against it. They knew the complaints weren't going to magically disappear - and neither was the panging sense of civic duty they felt.

Prompted by the ideas of Mae Skidmore - President and Creative Director of the firm - who believes that Detroit is often misunderstood by outsiders - and is "way beyond the Rust Belt" image it is often associated with, Skidmore and Smith decided that the way they could best help Detroit with its image problem was not by denying the negatives; but, instead, by focusing on the positives - or, in Smith's words, "By celebrating all that is cool and unique in Detroit."

To transform the idea from a mere vision into an actual workable project, Skidmore and Smith created a separate entity, which they labeled BigLoveDetroit (BLD) - a name that is indicative of the enterprise's mission: To give the Motor City some love.

By tapping into the creative talent at Skidmore, Inc., BLD created something unique and on-target - a line of originally-designed t-shirts, whose individual messages parallel those of BLD's ultimate purpose - to pay homage to a city, that, according to Mae Skidmore, "deserves better".

The creative designs of the shirts - which contain catchy, Detroit-esque phrases like Machine Shop Fabulous and On and Poppin' - along with the high-quality threads they are printed on, typify exactly the type of Detroit excellence that BigLoveDetroit was created to promote.

The t-shirts, which can be purchased securely from, are available in a handful of different designs, in styles for both Men and Women. While they feature similar design themes, the Men's and Women's shirts vary in both shirt-style and color.

Me, in my BigLoveDetroit t-shirt

At $25 each, a BigLoveDetroit t-shirt is a great way to show your love for Detroit, while also giving some of your own love to the Motor City. That's because a sizable portion of the profits from each BigLoveDetroit t-shirt go directly to the fabulous Detroit non-profit group, Alternatives for Girls.

For more information on BigLoveDetroit, please visit the contact page at

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

National Real Estate Investment Firm Signs Deal to Acquire 400 Residential Properties in Detroit

Yesterday, Houston-based Hilton Head Properties, Inc., signed a contract with Detroit's Neighborhood Development Corporation to acquire 400 single family homes within the city of Detroit.

The properties, which are spread out within the city, will be fixed-up by Hilton Head Properties and then resold.

Buyers of the single-family residential houses will need little cash down to purchase a home, but will be required to make their own home repairs - a trade-off that may allow individuals not normally able to qualify for government financing the ability to purchase a home.

According to
its press release on the subject, Hilton Head - a national real estate investment firm - seeks to clean up its recently-acquired 400 Detroit properties "as soon as possible".

Nate Volk, Director and VP of Hilton Head Properties, also stated that the company plans to assist in cleaning up the neighborhoods that its houses are located in.

In addition to its acquisition of 400 Detroit homes, Hilton Head plans to open a new Detroit-based office, and is also working on a separate deal with an unknown third-party to acquire 600 more properties in Detroit.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Free concert tonight at Hard Rock Cafe

As part of its Thursday evening concert series, Detroit's Hard Rock Cafe welcomes Charlie Martin and his band tonight at its downtown location.

Detroit's Hard Rock Cafe

The show - which is set to run from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm - is free, and is one of a multitude of summer events being held at Detroit's infant gathering spot,
Campus Martius Park.

Martin, the former drummer of Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band, is considered by many to be one of the best drummers of all time. He is also a successful vocalist.

A member of the Silver Bullet from 1974 to 1978, Martin unexpectantly left his fellow bandmates in the late 1970s after he was struck by a car and, tragically, paralyzed from the waist down. His accident has not kept him from his love of music, though; he continues to play area establishments, such as his stint at the Hard Rock tonight.

The Hard Rock Cafe is located at 45 Monroe Street in downtown Detroit. Visit the
Hard Rock's website for dinner and drink specials, or for more information on its Thursday summer concert series.