DIA, the Heidelberg Project, and the Pierogi

Picture this. I was quietly sitting in my office last Wednesday, just finishing a second conference call with one of our companies, when a client knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to go to the Detroit Institute of Art. I said something like, “You mean right now? Really? ” He explained that because it was Leap Year Day that we should do something unusual you wouldn’t do normally. I thought about it for a second or two and said, “Let’s do it.” So, in the middle of the afternoon, I turned off my computer and we headed down to Detroit.

Even though I had a pretty good idea that my client was well versed about art and the DIA, little did I know that I would get a personal guided tour, complete with a history of the Institute and its growing pains. The story along with the art and its current exhibits were a good reminder about how much more there is around us if we just step out of our day job and take in a little culture. I enjoyed the 3D film about an abandoned Packard auto plant very much. It was a little haunting but also very mesmerizing. Further, an exhibit showing contemporary artists presenting photographs and videos inspired by life in Detroit during the past decade was also extremely well done and memorable.

Ok, as we were getting ready to head back to the office, I asked if he had seen “The Heidelberg Project?” I knew at that moment that the day was going to get a lot more interesting. So, in the spirit of the day, he quickly plugged in Heidelberg Street into his GPS and we were off to see another art exhibit. The interesting part of the journey was the drive through Detroit neighborhoods that are slowly decaying for all the reasons we are well aware of today. If you live in Michigan and you want to see something very unique and also very memorable, take a trip to Heidelberg Street. As described on the projects website, the two block open-air art environment is using art to provoke thought, promote discussion, inspire action, and heal communities. If you like color and symbolism magnified 10 fold; you will find it well worth your time. Check out the website: www.heidelberg.org

Now, we get to the most unusual part of our cultural journey. Again, driving through Detroit we come up to the outskirts of Hamtramck. Once again, the question was asked, “Have you been to Hamtramck?” I said, “No, never. Never thought about it.” That was all it took. A couple of turns and we were on Joseph Campau heading for downtown Hamtramck. Again, in the spirit of learning new things everyday, I heard stories of old Hamtramck and its Polish history. Being a tennis player and starting his tennis training in Hamtramck, I heard stories about his practice sessions and “Peaches” Bartkowicz. In case you are as uninformed as I was, “Peaches” was one of Michigan’s top female tennis players in the 1960s. According to my client, she was unbeatable and a local celebrity.

Now, we park and start walking around downtown. Soon, we come upon The Polish Village Café. Not hesitating, we quickly head downstairs to the restaurant and bar. A traditional Polish atmosphere that probably hasn’t changed much in 40 years awaited us. We sat at the bar and asked for a Polish beer and an appetizer. Soon, we were drinking a very good Okocim beer and eating a mixed Pierogi plate. Again, for the uninitiated, a Pierogi is basically a Polish dumpling filled with meat, cheese, and sauerkraut. The cheese Pierogi was pretty tasty but I didn’t have the nerve for the sauerkraut. A few more beers would be necessary for the sauerkraut. Not today. So, we ended our cultural journey with a totally unexpected conclusion that was equally memorable and educational.

An afternoon filled with a lot of art appreciation and some local cultural charm will long be remembered on Leap Year Day 2012 by this “Okie”, living and learning in Michigan.

Have a great week,

Roger N. Steed
March 5, 2012

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