Volunteers work to turn abandoned home into Detroit House of Music
Detroit — Having spent more than 20 years as a musician, Audra Kubat and her partners are working to transform an abandoned home in the city's Northwest Goldberg neighborhood into a music sanctuary.
Kubat, an indie folk artist from Rosedale Park on Detroit's west side, launched the Detroit House of Music project that aims to bring artists from around the area to teach music to kids in the neighborhood, house traveling artists and serve as a small place for shows.
"The real vision is to create a space for our neighborhood where we can bring artists like myself to share what they do in an informal way," Kubat said. "We're not seeing great music programs in schools as much now and I know because I go into schools to teach kids songwriting, but I think it would be a lovely thing to have a space to teach kids and empower artists that are already here and traveling ones."
Kubat, known for giving back and teaching music in Detroit schools, launched the project while working on her seventh album.
The four-floor 1894 Victorian home, at 5603 14th St., is a former motel that sat empty until Kubat acquired it from a Detroit nonprofit six months ago.
Fifteen musicians, artists and community supporters gathered Saturday to help in the cleanup and construction of the project, which is expected to be completed this summer.
"If I can put a guitar in a kids hand, help them write a song, or learn how to connect with their voice, that's my passion and one day, hopefully soon, we will," Kubat said.
The Detroit House of Music has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the nonprofit, but expect the project to require more than $100,000 to transform the 3,500-square-foot home.
They plan to have at least five educators at a time to share the space, create a music library for kids in the neighborhood, a donation area to collect instruments, a listening room and performance space.
When it's complete, the second floor of the house will serve as an Airbnb spot for touring artists and educators who will donate their time to teaching. The house also won't charge artists for the performance space. The house will be funded through donations and grants while the artists charge for their own sets and give back by teaching or performing.
"We won't exchange money between artists and house. The artists will come, give five lessons, makes some money and donate two lessons to a child that can't afford it," Kubat said.
Kubat said while the house will welcome all types of music, she wants to keep the focus on individual artists.
"It's based on can it be a listening room environment? So, we're not including full bands but rather create a space that you can have an acoustic show," Kubat said. "Sean Blackman as well as Emily Rose, folk artists are on my list, but we'll also have jam outs after the show."
Volunteers focused on clearing out debris, taking nails out of salvageable wood, organizing trim, and creating a working space in the basement to store materials.
"We have so much talent in this town ... our bench is so deep with inspiring artists with an immense amount of support within the community," said Laura Tas, 59 of Detroit. "So, when something like this comes up, we all gather to support it. It's just love for this city and its music history."
While Tas helped with trims and planted marigolds, Angela Ward and her musician husband Mike Ward, said projects like these are important to show the city's welcoming atmosphere.
"We have friends that travel and say how hard it is to get gigs in other places and that's not the case in Detroit," said Angela Ward, 63, from Detroit. "We welcome artists and when Audra started this, our instant thought was it feels like a perfect fit for this community."
Team members are also working on launching a memory project involving young kids interviewing older residents in the area.
"We want to collect those stories and poems written through the young people interviewing the elders of the community to go with our archives," she said. "I envision instruments all over the walls. We've found so much like a shotgun in the floor to newspaper clippings since before WWII, but it will all be saved here."