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Carr Center reopens in Detroit's Park Shelton

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

If you weren't paying attention the past couple years, you might have worried Detroit's Carr Center -- which lost its Harmonie Park home in 2017 -- had simply disappeared. 

Happily, it has not. Just three weeks ago, the Detroit arts nonprofit celebrating all things African-American opened in a handsome new home in the Park Shelton apartment building across from the Detroit Institute of Arts. 

Carr Center Curator and Senior Creative Director Erin Falker-Obichigha (left) and President Oliver Ragsdale Jr. in what will become the center's new performance space in the Park Shelton apartment building.

Their new home boasts both a gallery and performance space. 

This ends a period of uncertainty after leaving its Harmonie Club home, when the Carr moved into a corner space in a Bedrock building on Woodward in downtown Detroit that they always knew was going to be temporary.

"We thought it'd six months," said Carr President Oliver Ragsdale Jr., "but it turned into 15 months. Bedrock has been very good to us," he added. "They also helped us find this space."

To celebrate their cool new digs, officially dubbed Carr Center Contemporary, the gallery is hosting the group show "Beyond Space" through Jan. 5. 

A detail from Victor L. Ewing-Givens' expansive memory-box installation, "Vestige," at Carr Center Contemporary in the Park Shelton apartment building.

The exhibition, curated by the Carr's resident artist Carrie Mae Weems -- artist, photographer and MacArthur "genius grant" winner -- along with art historian Anita Bateman"Beyond Space" mostly showcases the work of emerging artists from across the country who formed this year's class of Carr Independent Scholars. 

But in an unexpected treat, the show also includes pieces by Weems, Jennifer Harge and Miatta Kawinzi, as well as Kresge Artist Fellows Carole Harris and the late David Philpot.

The scholar-artists are Nadia Alexis, Anita Bateman, Victor L. Ewing-Givens, Michelle May-Curry, Katrina Sarah Miller, Ricky Weaver and Andrew Wilson. Carr Senior Creative Director Erin Falker-Obichigha also has a video in the show. 

The Carr, said Ragsdale, explaining what sets the center apart from other arts organizations, "has the ability to show African-American culture differently than anybody else," which he defines as a question of content and context.

"We punch above our weight class," Ragsdale said. "There’s a difference between seeing an African-American artist through our eyes, or through the eyes of a major arts institution."

"Woman in White, No. 11" from Mississippi artist Nadia Alexis' "What Endures" series in the Carr Center Contemporary show "Beyond Space."

Boosting the Carr's reputation nationwide are its two co-artistic directors, jazz greats Dee Dee Bridgewater and Terri Lyne Carrington. In addition to Weems as resident artist for the visual arts, the center has nailed down some other remarkable resident artists including celebrated tenor George Shirley (classical music), Debbie Allen (dance) and Rodney Whitaker (jazz). 

As for the gallery, Falker-Obichigha says they've got four shows booked for the coming year, including one all about sneakers once "Beyond Space" comes down. 

But every bit as exciting as that is the spectacular performance studio they've lucked into just across the lobby from the gallery.

Once the grand ballroom when the Park Shelton was still the Wardell Hotel, the high-ceilinged room will be turned into a "black box" for all manner of performance, from jazz to dance. 

"We’re looking to open for performance at the end of February," Ragsdale said. "It’s not going to be a theater per se, but an open performance space. And it will be intimate – because intimacy is part of our DNA."

"Having on the breastplate of righteousness" by Ypsilanti artist Ricky Weaver, at Carr Center Contemporary through Jan. 5.

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy 

'Beyond Space'

Through Jan. 5

Carr Center Contemporary, 15 E. Kirby, Detroit 

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., & Sat; noon-8 p.m. Fri.