Ubuhle Beadwork at the Flint Institute of Arts

Don't read this post!

GO NOW TO THE UBUHLE WOMEN: BEADWORK AND THE ART OF INDEPENDENCE exhibit at the Flint Institute of Arts. It only runs through March 31, 2018. Then, after you've seen the exhibit, please come back and read this post and the others on our website!

Don't make the same mistake we did.

We had never been to the Flint Institute of Arts. Flint, I am sorry to say was a place we  have not visited in many years. 

After spending a delightful Sunday afternoon at the Flint Institute of Arts we have committed ourselves to returning not only to the Flint Institute of Arts, but to the other attractions in the Flint Cultural Center-the Sloan Museum, the Institute for Music, the Planetarium, etc.

We didn't go specifically for the exhibit. In fact, we didn't really even know it was there, we were just looking for something different to do on President's Day weekend. 

The Ubuhle Women exhibit is a travelling exhibit created by the Smithsonian Anacostia. Quite simply, the exhibit is a testament to the power of art and creation to heal the pain of our world. It is a wonderful example of how hope can triumph over despair. 

Each of the women in the exhibit have a story to tell-missing husbands, families devastated by AIds, the death of a child, poverty-but through this art work have learned not only to express themselves, but to tell their story to the world and to earn a livelihood that can help pull them out of the ravages of poverty.

In many ways, the exhibit is the perfect metaphor for the work that the Flint Institute of Arts is doing in the Flint community and in Michigan in general. 

I don't want to over-hype the exhibit, but the collected tapestries of African Crucifxion,  is worth the trip alone. It's collection of individual tapestries assembled to create a compelling narrative, each individual bead, patiently sewn-insignificant on its own, but essential to the larger story-one of hope and redemption. The center piece, The Crucified Christ:The Tree of Sacrifice, was completed by artist Thembani Ntobela and completed shortly before she died of Aids related illness. She re-worked the beadwork of the face relentlessly, meticulously, to ensure that it was perfect- a face of peace. 

In a perfect world, some benefactor would ensure that every school child in Michigan would be able to take a field trip to the Flint Institute of Arts fort the Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence exhibit. In the meantime, do yourself and your family a favor and go. Now!




Michigan Opera Theatre Summer Serenade

A cultural highlight for the summer was the Michigan Opera Theatre Summer Serenade July 28th at Grand Circus Park in Downtown Detroit.  

Although the day was hot and humid, the evening breeze and sun sliding behind the tall buildings made for a wonderfully comfortable evening. 

I haven't been to Grand Circus Park for an event yet, so I was not sure what to expect. The park is located away from the river and near Comerica Park, located right across from the Michigan Opera Theatre.  The park, a mere few acres,  an island in the middle of an intersection,  was created in the mid 1800's and has been a gathering place for workers and residents since then. It was taken to the next level as a premiere gathering spot as part of Quicken Loans' Dan Gilbert's vision for revitalization. 

Fortunately, there was no Tiger game that evening, so traffic and parking were simple. Not quite sure the best way to park or if we would need our lawn chairs, we looped once around the park before finding great parking directly across an entrance for only $6.  

We passed the lone food truck for the evening which specialized in BBQ. We had already eaten, but definitely appreciated the bottled water for only $1.00 per bottle. A deal for sure!

The stage was set at the western edge of the park and metal bistro tables and chairs were set up for an excellent view. The warm-up act, the Violin Divas were in mid-set so we quickly found seats as the violin ensemble enthusiastically played a lovely piece. They bill themselves as recreational, but they were quite competent and I look forward to seeing them play in their own right. Check them out on youtube! 

I walked around a bit between acts and was delighted to see such a great crowd-young, old, multi-cultural, enjoying this perfect summer evening. A father and toddler aged son were playing with the bean bag toss, workers coming right from the office, or perhaps dinner downtown, were loosening their ties and enjoying the breeze. The park also features an outdoor ping pong table and other activities to enjoy during the evening. There were also highly visible security guards who chatted easily with the crowds but I am sure provided many folks with peace of mind. 

In a matter of moments a journalist provided introductory comments and then the strains of Brindisi from La Traviata,   sung by the five member troupe erupted from the stage. The vocals were at the forefront the entire evening, accompanied simply by digital piano. The performers dressed in evening casual, seemed relaxed, befitting the park like setting. There were so many highlights from the evening, but a true stand out for me was of course Summertime, the vocals gliding through the upper register, effortlessly, the melancholy melody befitting this late summer evening, a wearied respite in a city that is perpetually renewing itself. 


I would definitely go back for another event. If your family enjoys cultural experiences in an urban setting, then you would likely not be disappointed by this inexpensive evening. It could be a great introduction to a genre of music that they might not otherwise listen to, in a comfortable urban park setting, providing the opportunity for those with young children to play outdoor games and dance while listening to some of Michigan's most talented musicians.