Hidden Detroit – Museums & Culture


Part of our 2017 City Guide, Hidden Detroit

Photograph by Nick Hagen

A ‘Closed’ Church That’s Still Open

Sure there are pop-up food and retail events. And there are even spontaneous art events. But not many can boast as much history and beauty as the 1885-era St. Albertus Roman Catholic Church in the Forest Park neighborhood just north of Eastern Market.

Since it closed in 1990 as an active parish, St. Albertus was “adopted” by the nonprofit Polish American Historic Site Association to be a source of Polish history and culture.

Matt Baka, president of the PAHSA, says the group is largely run by former parishioners (four generations of his family were parish members). Baka lived in the rectory as a caretaker for some 15 years. To make ends meet and pay for upkeep, restoration, and repairs, some 400 members donate regularly to the nonprofit. Brick pavers and pew plaques are also offered.

The church is also available for rentals for weddings, and they hold occasional Mass in Latin, Polish, and English. This year’s schedule includes Easter Sunday, April 16, plus a feast day of St. Albertus on April 23 with a Polish food menu.

And yes, they hold art events, too.

An “Art Show and Biergarden” scheduled for July 1 will be held inside and out of the rectory, with art and food vendors, live music, and tours of the ornate church. Can’t make it then? There’s an annual  Pierogi Festival in August, so that weekend, they’ll be open for tours on Saturday, and will celebrate Mass that Sunday. (Hint: an approximately 2,000-strong “Mass Mob” once descended on the church for one of these events.)

Oh, and don’t let its relatively plain red brick exterior fool you. Once inside, you’ll marvel at the ornately painted ceilings, beautiful stained glass windows, and marble communion rails.  — Steve Wilke

St. Albertus, 4231 St. Aubin St., Detroit.

The Urban Consulate

Museums & Cultural Centers

El Museo Del Norte
This Mexican cultural center aims to document the historical presence of Latinos in Michigan. The Boulevard House hosts gallery shows about the Latino experience in Michigan and partners with other cultural centers to host events around the city. El Museo Del Norte, 412 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit.

Urban Consulate
This “parlor for urban exchange” opened in April 2016 next to the Green Garage in the Cass Corridor. It’s part of a Knight Foundation-supported group piloting conversations in three cities: Detroit, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. They host “parlor talks” on topics ranging from how Detroit can welcome immigrants and refugees to a conversation about race and Detroit’s restaurant boom. Earlier this year, a crew from “Story Corps” (heard on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition”) used the consulate as a mobile studio to record conversations with Detroiters. Urban Consulate4470 Second Ave., Detroit.

International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit
In 1919 a group of YWCA volunteers founded the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit. The goal was to help immigrants learn English, become assimilated citizens, and to understand each other’s cultures. The Institute (located just north of the DIA) still provides immigration services and more. It houses an “International Café” restaurant, a Hall of Nations auditorium with flags from 82 countries, the Ethel Averbach International Doll Collection, (over 2,500 dolls dressed in native costumes from 150 countries), and the Wilkinson Model Ship Collection of vessels that brought immigrants to the U.S. International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit111 E. Kirby St., Detroit. 313-871-8600

An October 2016 performance at the Damned IX Masquerade Ball in the Tangent Gallery/Hastings Street Ballroom. Photograph by Ed Ballots.

Art Galleries & Organizations

The Tangent Gallery/Milwaukee Junction
Want to check out an independent art show? Or maybe you have a vision for a DIY event. The gritty Tangent Gallery/Hastings Street Ballroom holds art exhibitions, musical performances, events for community-based organizations, or can be rented to rehearse, film, and more. Plus, sitting at the bar sculpted from recycled steel is worth the visit all by itself. Tangent Gallery, 715 E. Milwaukee Ave., Detroit.

Art in Motion/Avenue of Fashion
Before there were “malls,” there was the Avenue of Fashion. Today, the area around Livernois and Seven Mile Road is bounding back with fashion, of course, plus food (1917 American Bistro, Kuzzo’s, Bucharest Grill) and art. Art in Motion is a ceramic studio and gallery that shares a space with Love Travels Imports. The location is one of a handful of art-based stores that dot the Livernois corridor, including the longstanding Jo’s Gallery and the Sherwood Forest Art Gallery. Art in Motion, 19452 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-980-1265.
Find other businesses at shoplivernois.com

O.N.E. Mile/North End
This collective of community artists and activists are restoring a mile of an old entertainment district in Detroit’s North End. They’re out to recover sites and activate them with installations, performances, and events. This March and April, several members of the collective traveled to France for the 10th edition of Saint-Etienne Design Biennale.
O.N.E. Mile/North End, 7615 Oakland Ave., Detroit.


Cranbrook Open Studios
Date: April 30
Tour the studios of Cranbrook’s graduate artists in 2-D and 3-D design, architecture, ceramics, fiber, metalsmithing, sculpture, and more. This free event features artist’s talks and lectures.

Kensington Metropark Art Fair
Dates: Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-29
This new juried fair plans to attract 75 artists from across the country. Plus, there will be food trucks, demonstrations, and more.

Belle Isle Art Fair
Dates: Aug. 5-6
Last year’s inaugural event was a hit. The encore is billed as a “fine art event focused on peace and happiness.” It takes place on Belle Isle, across from the Scott Fountain.