This Week on One Detroit:

Preserving Detroits vanished Chinatowns: A journey through 150 years of Chinese American history

Unveiling a tapestry of forgotten tales, the Detroit Historical Museum’s latest exhibit, “Detroit’s Chinatowns,” navigates the 150-year journey of the city’s Chinese community. Assistant Curator Lily Chen and Chief Exhibitions Officer Tracy Irwin have woven together the narrative of a once-thriving but now vanished community in the heart of Detroit. The exhibit, on display in the Community Gallery through January 7, 2024, chronicles the immigrant experience from Ah-Chee’s arrival in 1872 to the vibrant businesses and communal life that characterized the 1970s and 80s. 

Visitors can interact with artifacts, photos, videos, and oral histories that vividly recreate the restaurants, laundries, and stores that once flourished there. Attendees can engage with a Chinese mahjong table, mark their family’s roots on a world map, and delve into the Detroit Historical Society’s video collection in a dedicated screening area. The exhibit not only traces the geographical evolution from the original enclave on 3rd Avenue to the relocation in the Cass Corridor, but also delves into the daily lives of immigrant families who built a bustling community. 

From church and Chinese school attendance to weekend picnics on Belle Isle, the exhibition captures the rich traditions and challenges faced by Detroit’s Chinese residents. The exhibit serves as a poignant testament to resilience, illuminating overcoming adversity, cherished traditions, and the profound sense of home within Detroit’s Chinatowns. One Detroit contributor Chien-An Yuan talked with Chen and Irwin about how the exhibit connects the Chinese immigrant community to Detroit’s larger history.

20 Contemporary artists create masterful tapestry of Black life at new Cranbrook Art Museum exhibit

In a celebration of Detroit’s diverse artistic heritage, the Cranbrook Art Museum has unveiled a new exhibit, “Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit.” The exhibit, on display at the museum through March 3, 2024, spotlights a community of 20 contemporary artists who have devoted the past decade to redefining the representation of the Black body in art. Rejecting stereotypical depictions, these artists explore the nuanced spectrum of Black life, capturing moments of joy, intimacy, reverie, danger and tension through their unique approaches and inspirations. 

“Skilled labor” also takes on new meaning at the exhibit as it poetically refers to these Detroit artists who engage in the process of artmaking. Reflecting a rigorous intellectual process, the exhibition draws a parallel between the artists’ technical prowess and the legacy of generations of skilled Black labor workers who have left an indelible mark on the city of Detroit. Co-curated by Detroit artist Mario Moore, the exhibit not only rethinks art history and culture but also highlights the unique sense of place, community, and networks of support found in Detroit.  

One Detroit contributor Sarah Zientarski sat down with artists Ijania Cortez, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Mario Moore and Conrad Egyir to talk about how the exhibit explores the portrayal of the Black body, what the term “skilled labor” means to them, and why it’s important to showcase African American representation in this way. Plus, they share what they each bring to Detroit and delve into the creative process behind their artwork.

Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter exhibits Black Panther, Wakanda Forever costumes at The Wright Museum

Two-time Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter, renowned for her work on iconic films like Black Panther, Malcolm X and Roots, has delved into the artistry of her designs in a new exhibit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The exhibit, “Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design,” is on display through March 31, 2024. It showcases the power of storytelling through costume design and honors ancient African cultures through Afrofuturistic pieces. 

Carter’s star-studded career spans over three decades in film, television and theater, and her impressive portfolio of seventy credits bears testament to her talent and dedication. Collaborating with directors such as Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, Ava DuVernay, and Ryan Coogler, Carter’s costume designs have helped to shape the narratives of African Americans on the big screen. From “Do The Right Thing” to the groundbreaking “Black Panther” and its sequel, “Wakanda Forever,” her costume design work has cemented her status as an expert on period genres and Afro aesthetics. 

Her deep-rooted connection to Afrofuturism, which she defines as the fusion of technology with imagination, self-expression, and entrepreneurship, stands as a cornerstone of Carter’s remarkable career. Her designs bring to life the essence of Afrofuturism, promoting a philosophy that liberates Black Americans, Africans, and Indigenous people from the constraints of slavery and colonialism. Through her exhibit, she showcases her outstanding work but also sheds light on the transcendent impact of representation through costume design in cinema.  

One Detroit contributor Stephen Henderson, host of “American Black Journal,” sat down with Carter at The Wright Museum to talk about her illustrious career and her exhibit on display. They discuss how she became interested in sewing and designing, the inspiration behind her costume designs, and becoming the first African American woman to win multiple Academy Awards. 

One Detroit Weekend: November 24, 2023 

Celebrate the holiday season with ornament painting at Art in Motion, a production of “A Christmas Carol” at Meadow Brook Theatre, and “Frozen” at Detroit Opera. For those looking to light up their evenings, visit the 2nd annual “Light Up Main Street” along East Grand Boulevard in Detroit. See what else is coming up this weekend around Southeast Michigan with contributors Cecelia Sharpe and Dave Wagner of 90.9 WRCJ on “One Detroit Weekend.” 

List of Upcoming Events:  

  • Don’t miss legendary soul singer Al Green for his “Still In Love With You” tour at the Fox Theatre on Nov. 24. Green’s highly successful recording and touring career spans more than five decades, and he’s one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. 
  • Avoid the holiday shopping sprees and instead get crafty at Art in Motion’s Black Friday Clay Day on Nov. 24, where families can create their own ornaments out of clay and decorate them after. 
  • Spend Small Business Saturday at the Crafts-n-Beer Indie Arts & Crafts Fest for a day of holiday shopping and seasonal sipping. The festival takes place on Nov. 25 at the Motor City Brewing Works warehouse, and will feature handmade crafts, craft beers, holiday decorations and more. 
  • Through Dec. 16, peruse through more than 130 miniature pieces of art at the Small Works All-Media Exhibition. The juried exhibit features more than 70 artists showcasing diminutive creations that are no larger than 16 inches in any direction. 
  • Get into the Christmas spirit with the classic Charles Dicken’s story, “A Christmas Carol” at Meadow Brook Theatre. The production runs through Dec. 24. 
  • Watch violin virtuoso Maxim Vengerov and pianist Polina Osetinskaya perform at Hill Auditorium on Nov. 26. The duo will perform scores written by Clara and Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Sergei Prokofiev. 
  • Broadway in Detroit brings the Tony Award-nominated musical Frozen to the Detroit Opera House through Dec. 17. The musical features the songs from the original Oscar-winning film, plus an expanded score with a dozen new numbers by the film’s songwriters. 
  • Celebrate the holidays at the 2nd annual Light Up Main Street holiday event hosted by the Vanguard Community Development on Nov. 25. The event will also feature 20 local vendors and businesses in the North End/Milwaukee Junction Business District to shop from. 

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