Making Art, Making Detroit, Making a Difference

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Eddie B. Allen, Jr.
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As a Detroiter and a journalist who has covered the city’s urban as well as cultural affairs, Eddie B. Allen, Jr. brings a gentle local eye to surface questions that deserve a hard look as MicroFest traverses its next locations. Allen zeroes in on participants’ examination of the role of arts inside the justice system and in building awareness and fostering dialogue about issues of the justice system, a system he has followed personally and as a concerned citizen and journalist. While the “transformational value” of art for those incarcerated was affirmed and demonstrated through MicroFest’s session featuring the work of Prison Creative Arts Project, 4TheatrSake, and Yusf Shakur and Urban Network, Allen notes that the frame of “transformation” may not register to the system’s gatekeepers. Hasan Davis, artist and Juvenile Justice Commissioner for the State of Kentucky, underscored that gatekeepers need to hear outcomes in the language that matters to them—reintegration, recidivism, and cost savings. The question, “What difference are we making and how do we know?” was somewhat elusive at MicroFest, but Allen captures how Mosaic Youth Theatre methodically pursued this question to move beyond anecdotes and dig deeper at two levels: 1) What makes the work work? and 2) What impact is Mosaic having on young members’ skill, self, and social development? Allen pauses often, with a long appreciative look, to capture moments of art by Detroit’s amazing artists—4TheatrSake’s Cell/Ships, poets and performers, jessica Care moore and Invincible—and to connect the dots to Detroit’s legendary music history. How does place impact art? Allen links techno beats in moore’s background house music to Detroit’s Motown history and enduring music scene. “Motown meets techno in lyrical union…” he muses, it’s “almost like a code language…reminiscent of the spirituals sung aloud during slavery, which doubled as instructions for mobilizing toward freedom.”

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