Ever since last Tuesday morning, metro Detroit, like the rest of the nation, has ground to a halt. In the aftermath of the horrific tragedy our country has suffered, Americans are slowly struggling to work their way back into the daily tasks of life and go about their business. But the movements are blank and mechanical, as we sleepwalk through our days in a foggy haze, attempting to understand the incomprehensible.
That said, I too needed to return to my daily tasks — and writing a fluffy, bubbly, upbeat gossip column isn’t so easy when all of metro Detroit is feeling distinctly unfluffy, unbubbly, and most assuredly not upbeat.
To put it in Bill-and-Ted speak, the weekend was most nontriumphant.
However, many locals still headed out to the bars and the clubs and the festivals, desperate for some sort of human contact; all weekend, through the corner of my eye, I caught glimpses of extended, intense hugs and hushed inquiries of concern.
Perhaps one of the most touching moments came with the kickoff of the annual Detroit Festival of the Arts. The free, three-day multicultural celebration of art, music and diversity opened with an interfaith service at the Center Stage. After several prayers administered by local religious figures, the members of the audience were asked to stand, turn and greet each other.
After Tuesday’s attacks, there was some question as to whether the festival should continue as scheduled. I spoke briefly with Sue Mosey, president of the University Cultural Center Association, who said after quite a bit of discussion with the festival board, sponsors and the city, it was decided that the festival would still go forth. The association posted a statement on the festival’s Web site: “While understanding the strong emotions that Americans are experiencing regarding the recent tragedy, we feel that our tradition of celebrating community, the arts and our multiculturalism is more important now than ever before.”
However, there was one more problem; because of the hold on air travel, many out-of-town performers were forced to cancel. Fortunately, the spots were quickly filled with a bevy of talented local musicians who were eager to help.
Despite the slightly chilly, windy weather, the festival still drew a large number of patrons, and everybody seemed generally glad to unglue themselves from the TV set, get out, and just be around their fellow Americans. I think I can speak for everyone in attendance when I say I’m very glad the festival directors decided to move forward with the event.
At dusk, when it got a wee bit too chilly, it was off to check out the Ritual opening at the Detroit Artists Market on Woodward. The eclectic show featured works from local artists including Phaedra Robinson, Jason Knapp, Jose Antion Gomez and Bill Sanders, as well as on-site tattoo demonstrations. As the curious looked on with morbid fascination, ink collector Tim Formaz winced and grimaced his way through an ouchy tattoo on his wrist, which was administered by Bill Pogue, Dr. Pogue from the World’s Only Tattoo School. Later on, Tony Formaz, a tattoo artist from Tattoo Paradise in Madison Heights, provided an option for those craving a little skin art but wary of the commitment: He whipped out a collection of colorful Sharpie markers and executed some astoundingly beautiful free-form drawings on several patrons. Local artist Slaw garnered a nifty flaming martini, and I received an intricate devil girl, which was so realistic I was able to fool several people.
After an amusing conversation with exhibiting Canadian artist John-Erik Kroon about the finer intricacies of Canadian dialect, I spotted a few members of the Detroit car club, the Draggins, including Rob Montgomery. Along with his souped-up Ford T-Bucket, Montgomery was once photographed by Royal Oak artist Martha Berriman, who was also exhibiting at the show. Berriman did a series of striking black-and-white portraits of hot-rod owners and their cars, which allow a lovely peek into the culture of the neo-1950s greasers and kittens of today.
Also seen on the scene: photographer Chris Scalise, Gustav “Maximum Leader” Sallas and Gale “Miss Anthrope” Rich, artist Mark Arminsky, Gabby Robertson and Petra King.
Still riding on the art kick, I also put in a visit to detroit contemporary, for a sort of after-party for an opening at MONA, the Museum of New Art located in the Book Building. At “det contemp” I encountered Carleton S. Gholz and Shannon O’Neill on the gallery lawn where movies were being shown. I also bumped into John Cottos of Robb Roy, who was still riding high after his band won the Oven Fresh award from MuchMusic in Canada. I also got to check out the new “adjunct” galleries — two trailers built on a platform and decorated with a variety of interesting pieces. They rock — check them out.
On a final note, I’d like to extend my condolences to everyone who was personally touched by the terrorist attacks. As anger, fear and frustration mount, unfortunately some of us are beginning to turn against one another, as we bitterly argue over war and politics. Additionally, racial tension has increased, and tragically some Arab-Americans have been the subject of shockingly ignorant and cruel harassment. At the risk of sounding hopelessly hokey, this is not the answer, folks. Instead of sprinting off to Wal-Mart to buy an American flag, why not extend some of your patriotic spirit through acts of kindness and assistance to your fellow Americans, regardless of their skin color? People who live in this country do so because they want to be here. Instead of turning against each other in this time of crisis, draw on the American spirit of solidarity, strength and resistance. You don’t have to run out and hug a random stranger on the street — just be a good person right now.
At the very least, it couldn’t hurt.Sarah Klein writes here every other week. Got gossip, essential factoids or party invites? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the tip line at 313-962-5281. Press * then dial