Best of Detroit 2012
Public Square - Staff Picks
Our staff picks for Metro Detroit
Published: April 25, 2012
Best Arts Campaign
Fela! at Music Hall
It was audacious in the first place for Music Hall to bring the Broadway show Fela! here for a three-week run — a $1.6 million gamble. But Music Hall Prexy and Artistic Director Vince Paul and his crew went beyond traditional marketing and fundraising in cobbling together a web of more than 40 collaborators: philanthropic souls, corporations and institutions. There were presentations in schools (tying the Nigerian activist-musician's Afro-beat to hip hop), Fela-related exhibits at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, etc. The show more than broke even dollar-wise, but in bringing disparate Detroiters together around a timely message, Fela! was a smash.
Best Poet for Busy People
Not that he can't stretch out, but Mikolowski's poems can make haikus seem long-winded by 10, 15, even 16 syllables. Even as he cuts down the reading time, the reader still needs to have time to ponder, and if you can't give even that, you're too busy for poetry or art and can skip a couple items down the list. If you're still with us, we'll note that the poem titled "THINGS TO DO IN AN ECONOMIC CRISIS" advises "Buy low / stay high." "WAY TO GO" cuts to the quick: "Gone." Mikolowski, who is a lecturer in the University of Michigan's Residential College, tells us he recently completed a 75-poem — two-lines max — manuscript for a new book of poetry titled THAT THAT. Here's a preview: The poem "REALITY" reads "not really."
Best Hope for the Detroit Institute of Arts
Visit the DIA's website and you'll see the latest on great goings-on. Free Friday night music, award-winning films, world-renowned offerings from the standing collection (such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder's "The Wedding Dance" and the Rivera murals). What you don't get is the sense of how precarious it all is. With the city and state support now zeroed out, the museum is throwing a hail Mary pass by seeking a 0.2 mill property tax in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Without that kind of a cash infusion, museum Director Graham Beal foresees an institution open only for limited weekend hours, a rump institution. Wayne County Commissioners have OK'd a ballot measure, which would raise an annual $9 million if passed. Oakland County is still undecided on authorizing a ballot measure to raise an estimated $11 million; Macomb commissioners nixed and at press time were reconsidering a ballot measure to raise $3 million. Residents of counties passing millages would get free admission and bragging rights as arts patrons and saviors. Past efforts for cultural taxes have had mixed success (no to a 16-institution cultural tax, no to an earlier DIA proposal, yes to the Detroit Zoo). Could energizing the base of artists and arts lovers make a crucial difference for the DIA this time?
Best Art Idea to Steal
Lansing's Old Town Scrapfest
This isn't a big-purse undertaking like Grand Rapids' ArtPrize, and it doesn't generate international waves, but it is modest in size, cool and easy to replicate. Sculpture teams get one hour to grab as much as 500 pounds of junk of their choosing at a scrap yard, then two weeks to build sculptures that are displayed during outdoor events, voted on by the public and finally auctioned off to raise money for ... more public arts projects. It's now entering its fourth year in Lansing. Let's see, we have scrap yards, artists, art-appreciative audiences and plenty of public arts projects that need funding. Let's have fun like they do in Lansing.
Best New Pro Sports Team
American Ultimate Disc League's Detroit Mechanix
Go ahead and laugh at the American Ultimate Disc League. But the professional Ultimate Frisbee organization kicked off this month, and its Detroit-based team, the Detroit Mechanix, is ready for action. And the Pontiac Silverdome is going to see some consistent action again courtesy of the Mechanix home games. It's a bit like soccer, or maybe basketball, only with a Frisbee! Fans of ultimate, take note, as well: The sport's longstanding tradition, commonly referred to as "Spirit of the Game" — of leaving it up to players to make calls on the field — has been tossed out the window. The league is using refs, and, as AUDL founder and president Josh Moore recently told Slate, this will probably get more people to take the sport seriously. The Silverdome will also play host to the AUDL's first championship game on Aug. 11.
Best Creative Class Mingle
Drinks x Design
We're reluctant to blow our own horn, but you might think we're holding back if you haven't gotten word already. Once a month, Metro Times teams up with Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) and Quicken Loans — plus other outfits such as CCS and AIGA Detroit — to corral a local design shop to open its doors for a happy hour, typically followed by cocktails at a nearby bar or restaurant. It's an opportunity to hang out, network and talk up Detroit as a burgeoning center for design and creative innovation. It happens the second Thursday of the month. Past mingles have included Skidmore Design Studios, Digitas and Signal-Return. On May 10, we're at Kraemer Design Group, (1420 Broadway, downtown Detroit; thekraemeredge.com). Watch for Drinks X Design updates at MT's Facebook page (you like us already, right?) or e-mail email@example.com.
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