Detroit Sidewalk Festival Adds Music and Arts to city wide event

WEST SIDE: LAHSER-GRAND RIVER

Neighborhoods Day is a day of clean-up work for some community groups – and a day of glee and working fun for others.

The Detroit Blight Busters, Inc. – a hub organization in Old Redford on the city’s west side – combines both when it hosts Sidewalk Detroit’s 7thAnnual Sidewalk Festival on Friday, Aug. 2, and Saturday Aug. 3, one of its contributions to Detroit’s big “coming together” day.

Blight Busters, a widely-respected city improvement organization, operates out of Artist Village, a mural and art-filled multi-building complex that connects a variety of retail, performance and gallery spaces using outdoor courtyards and alleyways.  It’s located on Lahser Road near Grand River Avenue, on the same block as Sweet Potato Sensations, Motor City Java & Tea House, and the Redford Theatre.

“We’re expecting to host 7,000 people,” said Blight Busters founder, John George. We’ve got six food trucks and there will be 60 acts performing in and around the Artist Village. Neighborhoods Day is another opportunity for local artists and organizations to showcase our commitment to the city.”

Sophia Stockum is Sidewalk Detroit’s program coordinator. She described it as an accessible event on non-traditional stages that allows visitors to interact with performers.

“Each year we have interactives like installations you can sit or play on, or art works you can help create,” Stockum said. “Last year the street filled with a dance-off that broke out on its own.”

George praises festival founder Ryan Myers-Johnson and her team for putting together a celebration of the arts that attracts visitors from around the corner and around the world.

“They do an incredible job, bringing in mural artists, jazz, rock & roll and hip-hop performers, plus poets and even open mic artists. It’s a very diverse group,” he said.

The festival is an opportunity for the community to show off its most valuable asset – the legions of neighborhood youth who have been employed by Blight Busters over the years helping to rebuild the community, often cleaning out vacant buildings that are being prepped for new life.

“It shows what a neighborhood can be,” musician and Java House employee Kev E. Kev said. “Everyone falls in line on that day. That’s the kind of respect this place gets. The energy is just peaceful.”

George said Blight Busters prides itself on caring for everyone, especially the young people in the community.

“We helped to raise the youth of this community,” George said. “Our reach is deep and long. We’ve also worked with returning prisoners, provided housing for around 400 people, donated furniture and helped them to paint. We have a network of trust, friendship and cooperation.”

Visitors to the area will learn about projects that have been in the works, such as a private developer’s plans to renovate The Obama and Sunflower buildings – each dubbed for the murals on front – into retail, artist and residential spaces. The Fisher Family Foundation is a partner in that project along with The Platform, LLC.  Blight Busters helped bring these players into the community, George said.

Community development is a year-round undertaking.

“We meet every Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Java House and anyone who wants to volunteer is welcome,” George said.

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