Culture Calendar: Shows at Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center & Playground Detroit

Ryan Patrick Hooper, host of ’CultureShift’ on 101.9 WDET, curates your guide to the month in arts and entertainment
Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center
“Frank Ocean,” by St. Clair Shores artist Libby Anderson, is among nearly 90 works by Midwest artists now on view at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center. // Image courtesy of Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center

40-year-old juried art exhibit crowns a winner

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center is displaying work from a wide range of Midwest artists as part of its 40th annual Michigan Fine Arts Competition. The regional nonprofit art center has already crowned Candice Grieve of Oak Park the winner, putting her figurative pastel paintings onto a pedestal all their own — figuratively speaking. In total, this massive show brings together 88 works by 81 artists (more than 450 entries were received from five states). The most thrilling thing about this show is viewing works by artists who might not otherwise be seen in Detroit’s hypercompetitive contemporary art scene. Discover your new favorite local artist at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center before this show wraps on Aug. 19. 1516 S. Cranbrook Road, Birmingham; 248-644-0866; bbartcenter.org

A young adult stunner lands in Detroit

The award-winning poetry of Colby Cedar Smith has found its way into a debut novel, Call Me Athena: Girl From Detroit ($22, Andrews McMeel Publishing). Set in the city in the 1930s, the novel in verse explores the life of a young woman named Mary, born to Greek and French immigrants, struggling to find her identity and independence. Smith’s style — loose, fluid, and descriptive without lofty word choices — blends with historically accurate details, bringing to life the immigrant experience in Detroit through the Great Depression, violent labor riots, and hunger strikes. Weaving in Mary’s parents’ narratives and perspectives on their childhoods in Greece and northern France, the book explores how cultural traditions travel with us overseas and in our hearts. Call Me Athena: Girl From Detroit will be available Aug. 17.

Playground Detroit
Chicago artist Adeshola Makinde’s first solo show, Relevant, explores what has and hasn’t changed in the social justice movement since the ’60s. // Image courtesy of Playground Detroit

Civil rights redux at Playground Detroit

Chicago-based artist Adeshola Makinde makes his debut solo exhibition at Playground Detroit on the city’s east side this month in Relevant, a show curated by noted Detroit curator/writer Juana Williams. In it, Makinde explores two eras of the U.S. civil rights movement — the activism of the mid-20th century and the current push for social justice. Makinde uses a minimalist, white-type-on-black approach to creating protest signs bearing the messages of both eras. It’s within that space that Makinde thrives, implicitly making clear what has changed (our font choices and language) and what hasn’t (systemic racism). “The social justice themes found throughout my work [are] my way of advocating for those without a voice,” Makinde writes. Limited viewing hours and viewings by appointment are available through Aug. 28. 2845 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-649-7741; playgrounddetroit.com 

Detroit indie rockers Handgrenades are ready to explode

Detroit indie rock stalwarts Handgrenades have put that end-of-summer feeling into song form with the single “I’m Away,” a radio-ready pop jam that will get stuck in your head until the end of days. It’s the second piece of music from the band since 2018. Handgrenades are no doubt locals by ZIP code, but they’re rock stars in their minds, on stage (a kick-ass show to catch if you enjoy the idea of supporting local musicians — which, of course, you should), and in the studio. In other words, we can probably count on one hand the years it’ll take them to find a larger national audience. In the meantime … “I’m Away” listening to their latest gem. Hear them through Spotify, Bandcamp, and other streaming services.


Ryan Patrick Hooper is the host of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET Detroit’s NPR station (weekdays from noon to 2 p.m.).

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