Saturday, September 10, 2011

Detroit Institute of Arts Friday Night Live!

Kalamazoo, MI is located exactly halfway between Detroit, MI and Chicago, IL. Despite having grown up in Kalamazoo, I never visited Detroit as a child. For school field trips, we went to the museums of Chicago, not Detroit. I was rather under the impression while in my youth that Detroit was a vast wasteland of concrete, twisted metal, and guns. It was definitely something to be feared and sane persons did NOT drive east of Ann Arbor if they wanted to remain healthy and whole, unless it was to speed on to the safe harbor of Canada.

Turns out all the wild tales of lawless Detroit weren't exactly true. I've been there a few times for classical concerts (mostly of video game music), and once I started dating my boyfriend, Greg, I met up with him for that Marche du Nain Rouge in March through the Cass Corridor, and a few times for crepes at Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes near the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). Yet in all that time, the DIA itself eluded me, though Greg has suggested going there a number of times.

That finally changed on September 9th, which I requested off work so that I could attend a show at the DIA via their Friday Night Live! weekly event. The group playing was Fishtank Ensemble, "high energy gypsy music for your entertainment." The show was free with museum entry, which was also free because my awesome boyfriend had a free pass good for up to four people.

After having lunch at Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes, we headed over to the DIA to spend the afternoon before the show. I was impressed. The architecture is elaborate and beautiful, just the kind of old style that I enjoy. We stopped for drinks in an interesting inner courtyard of the museum that looked like it had once been outside, but had a translucent roof put over top to make it all-weather friendly.

I found the selection of Renaissance art quite excellent, and the indigenous peoples galleries were pleasantly extensive and interesting. I was admittedly disappointed by the lack of East Asian art, but I noted long ago that most general art museums are, alas, decidedly Eurocentric. Even the Native American offerings were put in contrast to the European invaders. But the quality and variety of art showcased at the DIA makes it totally worth a trip. In fact, I am hoping to make it back again in the near future so that I can take my roommate.

As for the musical performance, Fishtank Ensemble is pretty badass. As Ursula Knudson (saw, voice, and violin) pointed out, it isn't every museum that would offer a free concert every Friday night, which makes the DIA pretty badass in its own right for hosting them. The room in which they performed was very rectangular with an incredibly tall ceiling, resulting in interesting acoustics. The walls were covered in interesting murals, a mixture of homage and critique of industrialization in the United States, probably Detroit specifically. At least, this is what I got out of it as I gazed around during breaks in the performance.

If you ever catch wind that Fishtank Ensemble is coming your way, do yourself a favor and go see them. The group is full of energy, and I don't think I have heard a woman with more vocal range than Ursula Knudson. Fabrice Martinez is also the fastest violinist I've ever seen perform, hands down. Djordje Stijepovic obviously has tons of fun playing his stand-up bass, and Douglas "douje" Smolens plays one mean Spanish guitar.

All together, this was the most relaxing and fun day off I have had in recent memory. I look forward to exploring Detroit more in the future. Greg and I both have our eye on the Historical Museum next, which I am told includes recreations of old Detroit over the past century or so. Another adventure for all of us to look forward to!

1 comment:

  1. I am a big fan of the DIA. It also does a much better job explaining what you're seeing than many art museums I've been to. In recent years more museums have started to realize that explanations are important, but IMHO the DIA is still among the best for that.

    The Cleveland Museum of Art has excellent East Asian galleries — actually it doesn't even do "East Asian", it has separate sets of galleries for "Chinese", "Japanese", "Korean", etc. — but sadly they're all closed at the moment for the Renovation That Will Last Until The End Of Time. Once Time is over, you and Kimi should come see it.

    (You are, of course, also very much invited to come visit even while Time is still in progress. You'll enjoy it, I'm sure. You just won't see East Asian art.)