This Week on One Detroit:

Pewabic: One of the nation’s oldest pottery and ceramics factories

Over in Detroit’s East Village, a neighborhood down by the river on the city’s east side, you’ll find a working piece of machinery that’s been operating since the time of Henry Ford’s Model TThe Pewabic Pottery ceramics factory has been running its antiquated clay mixing machine since 1912. 

Pewabic makes vases, decorative and architectural tiles that emerged as part of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 1800s. You can find Pewabic’s ceramic work in buildings like the Guardian Building, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Comerica Park, and other places around the city. 

“We started at a time when this was really popular throughout the United States,” Pewabic Education Director Annie Dennis said, “We were really one of the oldest continuously operated historic potteries so there are not many more left like us.” 

The original driving force behind Pewabic was Mary Chase Perry Stratton, who worked with other Detroit artisans and designers when the city started to grow as a manufacturing powerhouse. Dennis has been looking into Stratton’s past. “We are finding she had connections to the Detroit suffrage movement,” Dennis said, “I think it was really inspiring for women artists to find a woman-run organization and that’s no different today.” 

One Detroit Senior Producer Bill Kubota visits Pewabic to learn about its storied past in ceramic art and design and how it’s still going strong today.

4th Annual Obsidian Theatre Festival in Detroit highlights Black stories and storytellers

The 4th annual Obsidian Theatre Festival returns to Detroit from June 27-30, bringing a diverse array of original plays, a musical, and a cabaret to various downtown locations. Founded in 2020, the festival was created to uplift Black stories and storytellers, providing a powerful platform for artists to share their experiences and perspectives. 

This year’s event, produced by GhostLight Creative Productions in collaboration with Nicely Theatre Group, features four plays, a new musical, and a special cabaret fundraiser. Since its inception, the Obsidian Theatre Festival has produced over 100 pieces of content, all reflecting the beautiful diversity of humanity. The festival provides opportunities for audience participation and will be available to stream online. 

“American Black Journal” guest host Trudy Gallant-Stokes talks with John Sloan III, CEO & Artistic Director of GhostLight Creative Productions, about this year’s festival and the additional activities taking place this month. Plus, Sloan discusses the festival’s origins and its mission to uplift Black stories and storytellers. 

Birdie’s Bookmobile spreads the joy of reading to Detroit children

Birdie’s Bookmobile hopes to inspire the next generation of readers. Launched in 2022, the literacy organization provides hundreds of books to schools, after-school programs and nonprofits across Detroit. Many of the books are written by Black, Indigenous and People of Color authors or feature Black and brown characters. 

“I want children here in the city to really enjoy reading as much as I did,” said Alyce Hartman, the founder of Birdie’s Bookmobile. As school librarians and school libraries have begun to disappear, Hartman fills a resource gap. Her efforts increase children’s access to physical books and promote the pleasures of reading, which could shape a student’s future success beyond classroom walls.  

Since Birdie’s Bookmobile was launched, Hartman said she’s distributed more than 16,000 books. Hartman, a 55-year-old STEM and drama teacher at Detroit Prep, hopes to spark magical thinking in young readers, believing books are portals to creativity, cultures across time and place and potential careers.

One Detroit and BridgeDetroit contributor Eleanore Catolico shadowed Hartman as she delivered books and organized a mini-book fair at Voyageur Academy, a K-12 charter school in Southwest Detroit. Plus, Catolico tags along during Hartman’s book shopping trip at 27th Letter Books.

One Detroit Weekend: June 28, 2024 

Fourth of July may be next weekend, but Independence Day celebrations in and around Detroit are kicking off this week. Visit the Salute to America commemoration at Greenfield Village in Dearborn or head to downtown Highland for the Red, White and Blues Festival.  

Plus, the summer festivities continue with the Taylor Summer Festival, the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest and more. Contributor Peter Whorf of 90.9 WRCJ shares some more events coming up this weekend and beyond on “One Detroit Weekend.”

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