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Art Bar

Last Thursday, a conversation with Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick at Detroit’s GR N’Namdi Gallery opened with the announcement of plans for a new art center in the Wayne State University cultural district. The 50,000-square-foot space, featuring 20 to 30 commercial galleries, a small theater and performing arts spaces, will focus on representing African-American arts and artists. In conjunction, George N’Namdi announced that he would be expanding his gallery space. It was glitzy beginning for the event.

Kilpatrick spoke of changing the way we think about the arts here, suggesting we market it as a “creative industry.” One of his goals, should he be re-elected, is to boost the film industry here. What about preserving Detroit’s character — namely, historic buildings? He said the Fine Arts Building in downtown’s Grand Circus Park is indeed on the list to be demolished (you heard it from News Hits first).

The evening’s dialogue paused on some long-winded sob stories and mayoral testimonials. But one point was made several times: The city has suffered without a Cultural Affairs Department. Some suggestions seemed viable. Artist Mitch Cope suggested that Kilpatrick invite proposals for workers who want to refurbish and use abandoned buildings in local neighborhoods, bringing art and programming to back yards. Someone who had worked in Mayor Coleman A. Young’s administration suggested that local government initiate a community volunteer group. The Scarab Club was offered as a place to meet in the upcoming weeks to keep the conversation going, and Kilpatrick made sure we understood that his team was writing these ideas down.

Sometimes he seemed to mean what he said.

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