Who We’re Watching


People watching is always a fascinating pastime. So who are the personalities metro Detroiters are talking about? Who’s new in town or new on the job? Which social activists/organizations continue to fight the good fight? Who do we follow, read, or “like” on social media? Inquiring minds want to know.

3 Social Activists/Organizations Making a Mark

Sue Mosey/Midtown Detroit Inc.

From preserving notable historic homes at the Inn on Ferry Street to becoming an anchor tenant in the Woodward Gardens development, Sue Mosey (right) and Midtown Detroit Inc. have helped lead the charge along Detroit’s main drag. While she’s not resting on her laurels, it must be satisfying to see three decades of community advocacy starting to bear fruit.

Forgotten Harvest

The little nonprofit that could started in the back of a woman’s Jeep. It’s become one of the nation’s largest food rescue operations, picking up about 49 million pounds from 800 food donors last year. They’re not done. New initiatives such as a Hopeful Harvest-branded product line will raise even more revenue.

Veronika Scott/ Empowerment Plan

Take one College of Creative Studies course assignment to design a humanitarian item.
Add a brilliant idea to make coats that transform into sleeping bags. Enlist the help of Carhartt, Ponyride, and more. The result: Veronika Scott’s nonprofit Empowerment Plan is helping and employing the homeless.

1 Mogul Leading Detroit’s Makeover

Someone should start a contest called “What Will Dan Buy Next?” At press time, Dan Gilbert (right) and his empire of Quicken Loans/Bedrock/Fathead/Bizdom/etc. have spent more than $1.7 billion on 70-plus properties in downtown Detroit. Then there’s that Brush Park development. So what’s next? The Fisher Building, the old Rogell Golf Course, the (please?) Michigan Central Station? There could also be side bets about who will be the target of his next angry tweet …

3 Politicians Working Toward Change

Stephanie Chang (above)

Can the first Asian-American woman to be elected state rep to the Michigan Legislature keep her grassroots, community organizer soul intact while striking political bargains?

Mike Duggan

Can the mayor of Detroit strike the classic neighborhood versus downtown development balancing act — all the while keeping the books balanced?

Mary Sheffield

Can the youngest person ever elected to the Detroit City Council hold her own? She’s got the pedigree: Her grandfather was legendary labor/civil rights activist Horace Sheffield Jr.

3 Cultural Organization Leaders to Watch

Within the last year, Detroit’s cultural institutions have seen many changes – the biggest one has been in leadership. Here are three to keep an eye on as they tune up and plug in to the scene.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

After a nationwide search, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra named Michelle Merrill (right) as assistant conductor last October. The Texas native says — in her southern accent — that the DSO was on her radar before she was invited to audition, and that Detroit is becoming a cultural hot spot. “I absolutely love what’s going on in Midtown. I think that there is a great theme in trying to bring a young crowd.” The DSO is making their own efforts to reach a younger crowd through their education programs. More than 50,000 young people watched Merrill’s education concert webcast last November — the first of its kind. “It’s really great they can have such a high-class organization like the DSO in their classrooms as far down as Florida and anywhere else,” she says. Merrill, 31, says she hopes to stay for a while. “I already feel like the orchestra is my family and that will be something I will always have a tie to.”

3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-576-5100; dso.org

Michigan Opera Theatre

Leaving Washington to return to Detroit, Wayne S. Brown became the president and CEO of the Michigan Opera Theatre in January 2014. Brown was on the road to retirement as director of Music and Opera for the National Endowment for the Arts when the MOT opportunity surfaced. “I thought the opportunity to work with David DiChiera and to contribute to a new narrative of Detroit was too compelling to pass up,” Brown says. For the coming year, Brown says there are plans to engage the community both locally and regionally, and develop large-scale productions through community-based partnerships. “I’m glad to be back and to witness this renewed momentum for the community,” he says. 1526 Broadway St., Detroit; 313-961-3500; michiganopera.org

Detroit Institute of Arts

After nearly 16 years at the DIA, Graham W.J. Beal has stepped down the stairs of the museum for the last time as director. The DIA has experienced many changes over the years — surviving the city’s bankruptcy and passing a millage to build an endowment, to name just two. The search to replace Beal has become international. “This is no longer a southeastern Michigan effort … it’s going to be a worldwide effort,” says Chairman of the Board and Search Committee Eugene Gargaro Jr. Over the next seven years and beyond, the new director will continue the mission that Beal has established. “The new director is going to have to be really involved in outreach and fundraising and in doing all those wonderful things that Graham has done so well to give our DIA an international recognition.” He says they hope to make a decision soon.

5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900; dia.org

3 Contract Negotiations to Watch

David Price, Detroit Tigers: If Rick Porcello got $20 million-plus from the Boston Red Sox, what will Price command?

Dennis Williams, UAW President: Veteran workers haven’t had a raise since 2005. This should get interesting for the new guy.

Steve Conn, Detroit Federation of Teachers President: How will the controversial union leader respond to reform proposals.

3 Local Music Acts Getting National Attention

Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas: Modern high-energy rock. Latest release: Secret Evil (2014).

Third Coast Kings: Deep funk and soul. Latest release: West Grand Boulevard (2014).

Rio Scafone and the Rockabilly Revival: “Not your grandpappy’s rockabilly.” Latest release: Testify (2015)

Social Media

3 Instagram Accounts to Follow

@camera_jesus: “Oh, my God!” is the reaction many have when they see Joe Gall’s incredible photos of Detroit architecture, rooftop adventures, and his skateboarding travels.



@thehungrydudes: For the ultimate foodie, this account is a go-to guide to what metro Detroit’s best restaurants are serving. “Real Talk” segments go behind the kitchen doors.



@puremichigan: You know the radio and TV commercials; your glimpse starts here with a look at Michigan nature and cities. Post your own photos or see what out-of-state fans like.

1 Influential Website

Curbed Detroit: This real estate blog has the latest updates on the hottest purchases and renovations of Detroit properties. detroit.curbed.com

3 Better Bloggers/Facebook Accounts

Motor City Muckraker: Steve Neavling sets out to improve lives through investigative journalism – and pisses off some movers and shakers along the way (including “1 Mogul” above). motorcitymuckraker.com

Megan Dekok: Take a Megabite of what she’s cooking as she posts on her blog and Instagram. The art director by day bakes up a storm, tastefully arranging everything from appetizers to desserts. takeamegabite.com

Cult of the Drunken Buddha: With their guidelines and code of ethics, the Cult achieves enlightenment through alcohol. There’s news, reviews, commentary, and jokes. facebook.com/cultofthedrunkenbuddha