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Arts : Detroit Development News

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Large mural celebrating Bangladeshi history and culture planned for Hamtramck

A state-sponsored placemaking initiative is helping raise funds for a public art project in the city of Hamtramck.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is partnering with Peace Action Education Fund and OneHamtramck on the "Bangladesh: Coming to America" mural project in Hamtramck. Organizers will commission muralist MARKA27 to paint a large mural on the east wall of the Bridge Academy West school on the Hamtramck-Detroit border.

The "Bangladesh: Coming to America" mural will be a tribute to Bangladeshi history and culture. Organizers say that the mural will be the first large outdoor Bangladesh-themed mural in the United States. The targeted wall measures 55 by 45 feet.

"OneHamtramck is proud to once again produce a large mural for a community of people who deserve more attention and respect," said OneHamtramck executive director Bill Meyer. "Our previous mural has become a symbol for the Yemeni Arab Muslims that have been severely marginalized since their arrival to the area in the 1950s. It has become a beacon drawing world attention to the existence of a proud and productive community."

The mural project has been announced as part of Public Spaces Community Places, a placemaking program from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity. As a part of the program, mural organizers have until April 15 to raise $22,000 through the Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity. Should they succeed in their fundraising goal, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will then contribute an additional $22,000 matching grant.

Click here to view the status of the "Bangladesh: Coming to America" crowdfunding campaign.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

New art and design gallery to open on Woodward Avenue

They're stacking art galleries on top of each other in Midtown these days. The Corridor Gallery is preparing to open its doors for its first exhibition, right above the Woodward Gallery. Each are part of Lawrence Technological University's Detroit Center for Design + Technology (DCDT) on Woodward Avenue.

The "Datum: Detroit" exhibition opens in the new second-floor Corridor Gallery on Thursday, Feb. 8, with the gallery reception scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 15. The exhibition documents and examines the work of Detroit-based furniture designers. Produced by NEXT:SPACE, the exhibition has the stated intent of defining the next generation of local furniture designers, while also reinforcing Detroit's role as an international center of design. Heather Saunders is the photographer.

Datum: Detroit runs through April 25.

"The creation of the Corridor Gallery is an effort to expand our ability to host local artists and designers at the DCDT, further exposing the public, LTU students and our partner organizations to the innovative work being done right here in Detroit," Christopher Stefani, associate director of Detroit Center for Design + Technology, said in a statement.

"This gallery will take on smaller, salon-style shows that look to curate an intellectual conversation around local design professions and their corresponding economy. It is also meant to showcase the work of our own economy initiatives."

The DCDT's exhibition season kicked off earlier this year with the opening of "Intersections: The City Through Cartography," in the first-floor Woodward Gallery. The exhibition features contemporary maps made by Detroiters and runs through March 30.

In addition to its art and design galleries, the DCDT is the home of LTU's College of Architecture and Design's Detroit programs, a co-working space, business incubator, and more. It opened in 2016.

Woodward Gallery and Corridor Gallery are located on the first and second floors, respectively, of the Detroit Center for Design + Technology at 4219 Woodward Ave. in Detroit.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Renovations and expansion planned for African Bead Museum

Unmistakable from both Grand River Avenue and I-96, the reflective exterior of Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum has been the catching eyes of passers-by and drawing in visitors since 1994. Home to the African Bead Gallery, N'kisi House, and African Language Wall, as well as 18 outdoor installations, the African Bead Museum stands to receive significant renovations, this thanks to the announcement of its inclusion in the state's placemaking initiative.

Facing a Dec. 31 deadline, the African Bead Museum must raise at least $50,000 via the Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity. If successful, the Michigan Economic Development Corportation will contribute a $50,000 matching grant to the project.

The matching grant is made possible by the state's placemaking initiative, Public Spaces Community Places. That program is a collaboration between MEDC, the Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity.

"One way to do effective placemaking is to build on existing assets," says Dan Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League. "Dabls' MBAD African Bead Museum is certainly an amazing asset in Detroit. With the public's support, an expanded Dabls will allow it to continue to be a source of community pride for years to come."

The African Bead Museum receives 35,000 visitors each year.

With the money, African Bead Museum founder Olayami Dabls will renovate the buildings that make up the museum campus, which consist of nearly an entire block. A renovated rowhouse will feature free rotating exhibitions of African beads and artifacts, as well as a public gathering place and events space. In partnership with schools and museums, Dabls will also use the renovated space to grow African-based education programs.

Physical improvements will include repairing and refinishing interiors, building new gallery spaces, the installation of an ADA access ramp, and basement storage for his collection.

To view the crowdfunding campaign, visit Patronicity online.

Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum is located at 6559 Grand River Ave. in Detroit.


Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Electric Park Tattoo to celebrate Eastern Market grand opening

Though they've been friends for years and share the same profession, Josh Barg and Joe Destefano have never really worked together. That is, until now.

Barg and Destefano have opened their own tattoo shop in Eastern Market. It's been operating under a soft opening for the past couple of weeks and now, this Saturday, Oct. 28, Electric Park Tattoo will celebrate its official grand opening with an open house, $60 flash tattoos, and a $200 gift certificate giveaway.

Both Barg and Destafano have each worked at various area tattoo shops for the past eight years. Electric Park is an opportunity to do things their own way. They call it a street shop, one where you can walk right up and get a tattoo the same day.

The artists specialize in the American Traditional style, though they say they're capable of most others.

"We didn't really feel like there was a shop that we aspired to work at. We didn't want to settle for what was available," says Destefano. "We wanted to create something that we could actually be stoked about."

In opening their dream shop, the duo first looked at locations in Corktown and Midtown, but city ordinances and a lack of vacancies stymied those hopes. So Barg and Destafano took to the streets of Eastern Market, knocking on doors and introducing themselves to local business owners, asking if any spaces were available nearby.

They found the old Palazzolo and Sons produce warehouse and renovated the space, installing framing, drywall, electricity, and plumbing as they built the future home of Electric Park.

"It's cool because the neighborhood is so tight-knit. Everybody knows everybody," says Barg. "We found the place by word of mouth."

"It's an area that's for everybody: City, 'burbs, whatever," says Destefano. "No matter how good or bad the times, people will always come to Eastern Market."

The Electric Park Tattoo grand opening celebration is Saturday, Oct. 28, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Standard hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Electric Park Tattoo is located at 1350 Adelaide St. in Eastern Market.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Hamtramck performance space and bar turns to crowdfunding for key renovations

Public Spaces Community Places, a state-sponsored placemaking initiative operated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has set out to raise funds for a Hamtramck-based project. The campaign's focus is Planet Ant Hall, a performance and social complex located across the street from the original Planet Ant Theatre.

Planet Ant and MEDC have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to help finish and repair Planet Ant Hall. Should the crowdfunding campaign successfully raise $35,000 by Nov. 1, the MEDC will kick in an addtional $35,000 as a matching grant.

The campaign is being hosted on the Michigan-based Patronicity crowdfunding platform.

Though Planet Ant Hall opened earlier this year, organizers say that there is still much work to be done. The group plans on using its crowdfunding and matching grant money, a total of $70,000, toward a new HVAC system, an improved facade, a build out of the back stage area, roof repairs, an upgraded lighting grid, and new techinical equipment.

According to Planet Ant Executive Director Darren Shelton, "Planet Ant Theatre was founded 25 years ago on the core principles of artistic freedom and experimentation, and the belief that these principles are fundamental to the spirit of community, creative fulfillment, and success. The completion of Ant Hall will accelerate the pursuit of this mission by expanding our space and resources and thus, our overall impact."

The original Planet Ant, which is still open today, debuted across the street in 1993. Originally a coffee shop, the storefront became a small black box theater in 1996, and has been putting on scripted and improv productions ever since. Among its famous alums include Keegan-Michael Key, co-creator of Comedy Central's "Key and Peele."

The new Planet Ant Hall includes a 470 capacity performance space and the attached Ghost Light Bar, and features music, comedy, films, karaoke, and more.

Click here to view the status of the crowdfunding campaign.

Planet Ant Hall is located at 2320 Caniff St. in Hamtramck.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Groups seeks to improve North Rosedale Park through public art projects

Prominent Detroit artists, neighborhood schoolchildren, and community boosters have teamed together to bring two pieces of public art to the North Rosedale Park neighborhood in northwest Detroit.

Having already won a $76,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, the Legacy Project is nearing its goal in improving public spaces through art. There is a catch to the Knight grant, however, and for the Legacy Project to receive the money, they must first raise a matching $76,000 of their own, which would bring the grand total to $152,000 to go toward the project.

Marsha Bruhn is chair of the Legacy Project, a group started to improve the North Rosedale Park Community House and its surrounding park. Bruhn says that they have entered the final leg of fundraising for the project, and need to raise just $20,000 to receive their $76,000 Knight grant.

The group has turned to Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity to do just that. The project, titled Great Art! Great Park!, has until 10:30 a.m. on Sep. 30 to raise the $20,000.

"Public art signals to the community that art is important, that the creative process is important. Creativity stimulates thinking," says Bruhn. "And it's another reason for people to come to the neighborhood. This will be the quality of art that is found in museums and galleries."

Two pieces of art are planned for North Rosedale Park. The first is a 25-foot metal sculpture designed by Detroit's Charles McGee, a well-renowned artist and decades-long resident of the neighborhood.

The second is a mosaic from Kresge Fine Arts Fellow Hubert Massey. In addition to his own mosaic, the artist is working with third and fifth-graders at the neighborhood's Cooke STEM Academy to help them design and construct their own mosaics, which will also be completed and installed.

Approximately $8,000 has been raised at press time. Click here to see the fundraiser's current status.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Black arts criticism journal to host book fair and fundraiser to help publish in Detroit

Taylor Renee Aldridge and Jessica Lynne, of Detroit and New York City, respectively, are bringing their internationally renowned arts criticism journal ARTS.BLACK to life in Detroit this August.

Recipients of the 2016 the John S. and James L. Knight Arts Challenge award, the co-founders of ARTS.BLACK are holding a Book Fair and "Friendrasier" at Good Lab in Detroit's Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood. The event takes place Saturday, Aug. 26, from 1 to 5 p.m.

The Knight Arts Challenge award is contingent on the recipients raising matching funds and the book fair is an opportunity for Aldridge and Lynne to do just that. Funds raised from the award and book fair will cover publication costs, payments for writers, and continued operations for the journal, which provides art criticism from a Black perspective.

"We operate online and we're constantly interacting with the different communities there. The book fair is an opportunity to take a step back and interface more intimately with each other," says Aldridge. "It's an opportunity to talk about critical literature that isn't off-putting or intimidating. It'll open it up to people."

The ARTS.BLACK Book Fair and Friendraiser features books that focus on issues of art, labor, or both. New and used catalogs, zines, history books, and more will be on hand. Many of the books have been donated by Detroiters like Janet Webster Jones, owner of Source Booksellers.

ARTS.BLACK t-shirts and totes will also be for sale at the event. Music, refreshments, and snacks may also be part of the day's festivities.

"In our research, we've found that labor is an essential theme of an artist's practice in Detroit," says Aldridge.

"We really want to examine that and explore those themes."

Good Lab is located at 14720 E. Jefferson Ave. in Detroit. Click here for more information on the ARTS.BLACK Book Fair and Friendraiser.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Art, design, and urbanism combine for 'groundbreaking' MFA program in Midtown

A confluence of art, design, and urbanism is coming to Detroit thanks to a new master's degree program at Lawrence Technological University's Detroit Center for Technology + Design in Midtown. Officials are touting the Master of Fine Arts program as groundbreaking and a first for the region.

The Social Practice master's degree looks at how art and design can positively impact public space in our communities, says Steve Coy, the Lawrence Tech assistant professor who developed the program.

Coy estimates there are only eleven such programs in the United States, with the first known Social Practice program developed at the California College of the Arts in 2005. Most other Social Practice programs are located on the east and west coasts of the country, with the nearest known program being offered at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

While Coy says that people have been using art, design, and urbanism to affect positive change in Detroit for years, a more formal and institutional approach can further enhance such efforts.

"This will allow us to connect people so that conversations and movements can unify, to give us a point to rally around," says Coy. "Universities are open source networks. We can share what works, what doesn't work, and make it better so people aren't acting in isolated pockets."

The program will cover a broad spectrum of ideas, from city planning and tactical urbanism to street art and public persuasion. It's a win-win, says Coy, as communities get well-thought out solutions to planning issues while students get on-the-ground training for future professions.

He adds that the program should appeal to those interested in planning, design, and the arts.

Coy first started teaching at Lawrence Tech in 2011, though he's probably best known for the Hygienic Dress League, the public art project he co-founded with his wife Dorota. The Coys also co-founded Wolf Moon Mixers.

Enrollment for the Social Practice MFA program is now open. More information is available online.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

New guitars made from pieces of the former Detroit Fire Department Headquarters

In some sense, the guitars made by Wallace Detroit Guitars are over 300 years old. 

Since 2014, Wallace Detroit Guitars has been transforming salvaged wood into electric guitars. The company recently released the Firehouse Series, a new limited-edition line of guitars made of maple and pine from the old Detroit Fire Department Headquarters downtown. Mark Wallace, president of the instrument maker, estimates that the wood comes from trees that were growing in Detroit as far back as the 1700s.

Wallace has used wood from the David Whitney Building, the Theodore Levin Courthouse, and the Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center to build his guitars. A call from his friends at the Architectural Salvage Warehouse tipped him off about a new load of wood that arrived from the former Detroit Fire Department Headquarters.

"These guitars have a great story and they look great, but they're also great to play," says Wallace. "It's like a Cadillac. They're great to look at but they're also great to drive."

The building at 250 W. Larned St. downtown was built in 1929, though the Detroit Fire Department had operated at the site since the 1840s. In 2013, DFD left their longtime home to share a headquarters with the Detroit Police Department on the western edge of downtown.

The wood reclaimed from the old headquarters is a result of it being converted into the Detroit Foundation Hotel, a boutique hotel complete with over 100 rooms, a bar, restaurant, and even a "podcast studio." The hotel purchased one of the Firehouse Series guitars for display.

The limited edition series features twelve guitars, ten of the company's flagship single-cutaway design and two of its new offset body shape design. The guitars are built by hand; even the electric pick-ups are hand-wound.

"We want to be part of the city's long history of people that know how to make things," says Wallace.

The Firehouse Series guitars can be found online.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Detroit to be celebrated at international design festival in Saint-Étienne, France

Having stolen away for a fifteen minute phone call from Saint-Étienne, France, Anya Sirota says she's glad for a brief respite from the noise that accompanies the preliminary stages of the Saint-Étienne Design Biennale. A lot of work goes into setting up the a month-long international design festival that welcomed more than 250,000 visitors last year.

The City of Detroit has been named Guest of Honor for the festival, which has invited three Detroit-based design groups to showcase their works and their city to international audiences. Detroit design groups Creative Many, Detroit Creative Corridor Center, and Akoaki have each brought their installations, ideas, and people to the festival, which takes place March 9 through April 9.

Detroit was made Guest of Honor as a result of it being named the first and only American UNESCO Creative City of Design in 2015.

"It's a huge honor for us," says Sirota, a principal at the architecture and design firm Akoaki and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. "So much of what we're doing has been off the radar. It's not institutional work, it's in local fields and garages."

The Akoaki team works in the city's North End. And not only are they bringing the installations they've created throughout the neighborhood, they're bringing part of the neighborhood itself. Nearly 30 participants in the installations, from local builders to musicians, are traveling to take part in the festival.

Fundraising efforts as well as help from organizations like the Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation have made it possible for so many to travel to Saint-Étienne. It's been no small feat. For a number of the travelers, the trip marks the first time that they've received passports or set foot on a plane, says Sirota.

"There are lots of times where 'experts' descend into Detroit, but we wanted to turn to the experts in the neighborhoods."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Free after-school program for Detroit poets to expand and enhance services with sixth site

Detroit's Martin Luther King, Jr. High School, located at the intersection of McDougall and Larned streets on the city's east side, will soon receive a Citywide Poets site. The InsideOut Literary Arts Project's Citywide Poets is a free after-school program for teens.

Citywide Poets uses the written and spoken word to encourage teens to tell their story, examine the challenges they face, and explore solutions, says the organization. The program offers students relationships with artistic mentors and the opportunity for performances and publication.

According to InsideOut Literary Arts Project (iO), over 90 percent of students participating in the program go on to attend post-secondary institutions.

The new Citywide Poets site is the sixth for iO. It was made possible by a recently-announced $150,000 three-year grant from the Dresner Foundation.

Suma Rosen, iO Executive Director, says the organization is thrilled to have the support of the Dresner Foundation.

"Aside from improving literary skills and boosting college readiness, this program gives participants the space to embody their full selves; the power that comes from discovering one's voice through poetry and performance is truly transformational."

In addition to the new Citywide Poets site, the Dresner grant will enable iO to improve and expand other components of its creative arts programming. Among the improvements include the planned bolstering of the Youth Poet Laureate and Ambassadors program, which nurtures both creative and civic engagement. The statewide and Detroit-based youth poetry festival Louder than a Bomb will also be expanded.

Other Citywide Poets locations include the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, Detroit School for the Arts, Communication & Media Arts High School, Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody, and Detroit International Academy for Young Women.

"Citywide Poets fosters artistic excellence for youth, offers pathways for personal and professional development, and utilizes writing and performance as a method for community engagement," says Associate Director Alise Alousi.

Registration for the Citywide Poets program can be completed in person, by mail, and online.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Art and coffee collide in Hamtramck with the opening of Oloman Cafe

A new cafe and gallery has opened in Hamtramck. And for owner Zlatan Sadikovic, it's an opportunity to combine many of his loves.

Oloman Cafe opened to steady crowds on the morning of Monday, December 5th. The cafe, which is part coffee shop, part art gallery, and part photography studio, is located in the former space of the Belmont Bar.

The Belmont spent most of its life as a music venue, though in its latter couple of years new ownership had turned it into a sports bar. Vacant for several years, Sadikovic obtained the venue and began working on it in 2014. Originally planning on using the space for a photography studio, the infrastructure of the building sparked Sadikovic's coffee shop idea. So he combined the two visions, spending the last few years working on an exhaustive overhaul of the building.

Sadikovic and his son Igor, who manages the business, did much of the work themselves, tearing up a floor left rotted by a badly leaking roof and coming up with their own interior designs. The old bar remains, though sharply redesigned, and a small portrait studio occupies the space of the old stage. Out on the back patio, which Sadikovic is outfitting with plants and flowers, is the old Belmont sign, something Sadikovic plans on displaying.

"I kept the sign," says Sadikovic. "People have an emotional attachment to old places."

Sadikovic is one of those people. A native Bosnian, Sadikovic and his wife left for the United States after the war of the 1990s ravaged their country. They've named the Oloman Cafe after one of their favorite cafes in downtown Sarajevo, a place where the city's artists would gather and drink espresso on the sidewalk patio. Zlatan and his wife Indira met at that cafe, which would come to be damaged and demolished over the course of the war.

"That place disappeared. We decided to create something on the other side of the world with the same feel," says Sadikovic. "It's maybe a sentimental type of thing but it is what it is. We come back to things from our past."

The Oloman Cafe has a good chance at becoming a spot where artists congregate. In addition to the coffee and food, which is purchased from local makers Golden Wheat and Guerilla Food, Oloman will have once-a-month art openings in the gallery.

Sadikovic also purchased the building next door, which he has turned into Lint Silver and Sawdust, a rentable co-working space for artists.

Oloman Cafe is located at 10215 Joseph Campau Ave. in Hamtramck.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

The Craft Cafe Detroit thrives on city's lower east side

The Craft Cafe Detroit is off to a fast start. The "sip and paint" party venue opened last June on Mack Avenue, just blocks from city's eastern border with Grosse Pointe Park, and it's already turning away customers as some parties reach capacity. But that's a good problem to have.

While owner Candice Meeks is considering a move to a bigger location, she says she wants to keep the Craft Cafe in the neighborhood. Its location is part of the reason for its success.

"The location at Mack and Phillip, there's nothing like this in our community," says Meeks. "You have to drive downtown and pay for parking or drive out to the suburbs for this kind of fun. We need to keep something like this in the neighborhood."

Craft Cafe Detroit hosts a wide variety of celebrations, from birthdays to bachelorette parties. Guests can bring their own food and drinks while Meeks leads the party through a painting session. Subjects are pre-sketched onto each person's canvas, allowing them to paint along while Meeks teaches different techniques like blending colors. She also offers vision mirrors, where guests create collages on mirrors and then seal them with a clear coat finish.

Other parties include Eat | Paint | Drink, where refreshments are provided, and monthly date nights, where couples paint together.

Meeks credits a number of small business programs that helped her get off the ground. She graduated from ProsperUs Detroit, where she met her current landlord. Meeks was also the recipient of a $4,000 technical assistance grant from Motor City Match. She says she plans on using the grant money to help with marketing and website construction costs.

"Going through those programs really gave me a platform to open my own business."

The Craft Cafe Detroit is located at 14600 Mack Ave. It's open Tuesday through Friday, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

'Impromptu performance space' to open along Dequindre Cut

The Dequindre Cut, that two mile-long stretch of paved greenway connecting Eastern Market with the Detroit riverfront, was designed with bicyclists and pedestrians in mind. And while movement motivates much of its usage, it's a stationary feature that will soon be celebrated.

The Campbell Memorial Terrace, an outdoor performance space, will officially be unveiled this Thursday, October 13. A children's concert, its first scheduled programming, will occur during the Harvestfest Detroit celebration on Saturday, October 22.

Located at the base of the Lafayette Street ramp between Orleans and St. Aubin streets, the Terrace includes a covered stage for performances and tiered seating walls for spectators.

The Terrace was designed with the community in mind. While there will be the occasional scheduled performance, its real function will be determined by those who use it. The space has a come-what-may policyno permits or reservations required. Whether it's working musicians wanting to put on an impromptu performance, local poets wanting to give readings, or neighborhood children coming up with their own fun and games, if the stage is open, the community is encouraged to use it.

Spontaneity is the name of the game here.

"We wanted to leave it flexible and see what the community comes up with," says Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. "We set the table and let the community bring the programming instead of us bringing the programming from the top down."

The Campbell Memorial Terrace is named after C. David Campbell, former president of the McGregor Fund and a founding member of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. A long-standing member of the Detroit non-profit community, Campbell passed away in 2014. The McGregor Fund presented the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy with a $1 million gift to honor Campbell. According to those responsible, the terrace, which incorporates all the things Campbell lovedthe outdoors, music, art, and, most of all, the communitydoes just that.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Planet Ant turns to crowdfunding to complete redevelopment of old Hamtramck banquet hall

Planet Ant Theatre is growing. Not just in the size of its audience, but physically. 

The theater that showcases Metro Detroit's longest running improv show has acquired a banquet hall kitty corner from its black box theater on Caniff Street, and is in the process of transforming it into Planet Ant Hall. While Planet Ant will continue to utilize its theatre for shows, the hall will allow Planet Ant to increase seating capacity for shows and also offer more improv comedy classes.

(Check out this Model D article on the local improv comedy scene)

Construction is already underway. The drop ceiling has been torn out but the air conditioning will remainan upgrade those familiar with Planet Ant might appreciate today. But a maxed out budget now has Planet Ant turning to the community to help finish the job. Planet Ant has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $55,000. An August 31 deadline has been extended by ten days to help Planet Ant reach its goal.

Michael Hovitch, managing director of Planet Ant, says the money raised will go toward things like sound and lighting equipment, seating, and a renovated floor. The goal is to complete construction by the end of October, the theater's 20th anniversary, and launch the new space with a popular show from Planet Ant's past.

"Planet Ant has been around for a long time and it's become a big part of the community," says Hovitch. "It's a small black box theater but we've been wanting to expand for a while. We've been having more and more success with our classes and want to grow, offer more opportunities for our performers."

It's an impressive list of actors, comedians, and musicians that have come through Planet Ant's doors. Two of the most famous include Jack White, who performed at the Planet Ant Coffee House open mic night, and Keegan-Michael Key, who was a founding member of Planet Ant Theatre and its comedy group.

Planet Ant Coffee House opened in 1993. It transitioned to being a theater three years later.

The Planet Ant Hall crowdfunding campaign is being hosted on Indiegogo.

Planet Ant Hall is located at 2320 Caniff St. in Hamtramck.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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