Culture Calendar: ‘The New Black Vanguard,’ My Brightest Diamond, & More

Ryan Patrick Hooper, host of ’CultureShift’ on 101.9 WDET, curates your guide to the month in arts and entertainment
new black vanguard
The work of emerging Black photographers from across the country, including Detroit, is now on display at the DIA. // Photograph courtesy of the DIA

Art and Fashion Invade the Detroit Institute of Arts

Fashion and photography has been in focus at Detroit’s premier arts institute, lately. The touring exhibition of Kwame Brathwaite’s Black Is Beautiful photography wraps up this month, highlighting his role in bringing Black models into the mainstream, via large-scale photography. The DIA will build on that momentum with The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion. On display now through April, it features fashion editorials, color portraits, and conceptual images, by 15 emerging Black photographers, curated by New York cultural critic Antwaun Sargent. The exhibit features more than 100 images from photographers across the globe, but for this Detroit stop, it’s undoubtedly city-centric. Local photographers like Bre’Ann White and Justin Milhouse are featured, alongside Ohio native Adrienne Raquel’s images of Detroit-born rapper Lizzo, for the pages of Playboy magazine. The New Black Vanguard is on display now through April 17, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The exhibition is free with museum admission;

Broadway in Detroit Breaks a Leg, in January

Fans of musical theater are in for a thrilling – and potentially exhausting – January. Broadway in Detroit has three powerhouse shows scheduled for the month, which will kick off with Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Jan. 4-9, at the Fisher Theatre). A jukebox musical told from her first hit, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (written when she was just 17), through her breakthrough solo effort, Tapestry. Beautiful is one of the best examples of the current Broadway trend of utilizing a singular catalog. to tell a larger story. The long-running Hairspray (Jan. 18-30, at the Fisher Theatre) exudes a similar 1960s musical vibe, bringing the film originally directed by John Waters to the big stage. The blockbuster stage production of The Lion King (Jan. 27 -Feb. 20, at the Detroit Opera House) rounds out the month, bringing the classic Disney story to the stage. The massive show has been seen by more than 100 million folks, to date. Find out more about all three musicals at

MyBrightestDiamond_courtesy of the artist
My Brightest Diamond recently released an updated version of “I Have Never Loved Someone.” // Photograph courtesy of My Brightest Diamond

Detroit’s My Brightest Diamond Looks Back with Something New

Over a decade ago, in 2011, Detroit-based artist Shara Nova (who records as My Brightest Diamond) released “I Have Never Loved Someone.” It’s a song that still pops up on my playlist years later — and apparently, it’s stuck in the mind of the artist, too. Nova recently released an updated version she recorded live, in August 2019, with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, in Denmark. Nova brought Detroit with her, enlisting Lydia Cleaver — a harpist and longtime educator at Cass Tech — to perform with her. The haunting song lives on with this beautiful live rendition that is my must-listen for the month. “I Have Never Loved Someone,” by My Brightest Diamond is available on all streaming platforms, alongside the rest of her catalog;

The Sphinx Organization Celebrates 25 Years of Diversity in Classical Music

Detroit is lucky to have the Sphinx Organization. The classical music nonprofit has helped build pipelines for young Black and Latinx musicians to find their way into careers in classical music (both on stage and behind the scenes). It’s an important mission, as it’s one of the many arts and culture sectors lacking diversity. This month, the Sphinx will host its 25th annual competition, in which emerging musicians between the ages of 18 and 30 perform on stage, for nearly $100,000 in cash prizes — including the Robert Frederick Smith Prize. This $50,000 first-place award also comes with a host of solo appearances, accompanied by major orchestras. The competition approach adds something extra attractive for patrons who may not normally attend classical music performances but are interested in seeing what the next generation of performers are bringing to the table. Sit on the edge of your seat all night, to see who takes home the big prize. The 25th annual Sphinx Competition finals concert takes place at Orchestra Hall on Jan.29. Tickets, which are sold on a pay-what-you-can basis, are available at

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