Artists, musicians take over Hamtramck

Ah, Hamtramck, where all roads and rail lines lead (it is bound by iron on its western, southern and eastern borders), where people of all ages, of nearly all colors and ethnic groups, walk to shop, to school, to churches, mosques, Hindu temples and Buddhist centers. Or just walk around the city for fun, which I do all the time.

Bikes work, too, of course, and cars. Though there are good reasons to leave your car at home and save on gas when trying to reach your hyperlocal destination here. Everything is packed into a dense, hard-to-park-in 2.02 square mile neighborhood (roughly the same size as Brooklyn's Greenpoint and Montreal's Mile End; and almost exactly half the size as Berlin's Kreuzberg). No parking? That's a good thing, by the way. Welcome to city life, Pilgrim. (For those who must drive into the city there is plenty of public parking in lots behind Jos. Campau, in the central business district)

Hamtramck has drawn modest comparisons to all the places above: big city neighborhoods constantly refreshed by the micro-economic energy of immigrant entrepreneurs and artists, musicians and other creative risk takers. But Hamtramck, a destination for the international art and research scene? Why, yes. Just in the last year I have hosted scholars from Boston and New York; a visual artist from Northern California; a techno producer/journalist from Berlin; a photographer from Rome and a gallery owner from Warsaw (the latter the co-founder of Raster Gallery arguably Poland's freshest contemporary art space). 

The city's food culture -- a perfect complement to the art scene -- is rich with existing possibilities; even richer with the potential for higher quality markets and restaurants as more people jump into the competitive Hamtown food scene. There are dozens of Bangladeshi-owned food businesses on Conant; several owned by Yemeni Halal butchers, cooks and marketers mostly in the city's south end; and traditional Polish food businesses, which flourished here for close to a century, have seen renewal of culinary passions thanks to a new generation of shop and restaurant owners and operators (best examples are Srodek's and Polish Village).

Food, music, art, people: yep, the fundamentals for growth and development, all here. It's the recipe making Hamtramck hum. The city's first ever Food Week ended Saturday, and by all accounts successes were plenty. Two ambitious, modern, high-concept restaurant projects -- (revolver) and Rock City Eatery -- opened the same week; and HenriettaHaus coffee roasters, which made the Hatch Detroit contest final four earlier this year, partnered with organizers for a night of music and South Asian dessert (from Bonoful Sweets & Cafe). It was a tasty, multi-cultural, danceable collaboration.

Now a day filled with art -- studio drop-ins, gallery exhibits, special indoor and outdoor performances -- takes its turn this weekend. The fourth Hamtramck Neighborhood Arts Festival is this Saturday Oct. 5 in over 25 locations throughout the city and the adjoining Detroit neighborhood directly to the north.

Some anticipated highlights:

The festival opens at 1 p.m. at the aforementioned HenriettaHaus with a solo performance by modern horn classicist James Cornish, and a performance piece by visual artist Jessica Frelinghuysen. That's followed at the same location (8609 Jos. Campau) with a live performance by Scotty Karate.

Home movies of life in Hamtramck screen 1-4 pm. at the newly-opened Hamtramck Historical Museum (9525 Jos. Campau); violinist Amy Harrington performs on her front porch (2623 Holbrook) at 2:30 p.m.; dance, music, film and literary events are at 2739 Edwin, Hatch Headquarters, Planet Ant, Popps Packing, Public Pool; and buildings (including the Floating House, the Power House, the Sound House and the Play House) in the NoHam aka Banglatown neighborhood north of Carpenter are all part of an intense block of programing from 3:30 to 6 p.m.  

All the locations, times and program details are here. Maps will be available at various locations, including Public Pool, 3309 Caniff. Get all updates on Facebook here.

Walter Wasacz is managing editor for Model D.
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Walter Wasacz is a writer and the former managing editor of Model D. You can find more of his writings here.