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Schwanky Detroit building transforms into pop-up performance space

Travelling down storied Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit, just south of Grand Circus Park, you might stumble across the historic Schwankovsky Temple of Music. Or, you might just walk right on by, not even noticing its existence.

From now until June 18th would be a good time to take notice. The space has been transformed under a new endeavor called vitaminwater uncapped LIVE: Detroit. Similar projects in other cities were a success for the vitaminwater brand and it seemed a natural fit to combine its opening with the Movement Festival here in Detroit.

The historic Schwankovsky

The Schwankovsky Temple of Music is a six-story, Queen Anne style building that was completed in 1891. Designed by Gordon W. Lloyd, the building was one of the first high-rise buildings in Detroit and it also was one of the first buildings to have an electric elevator.

The F.J Schwankovsky Company, the buildings original occupants, sold musical instruments and merchandise and later delved into manufacturing pianos. The building was later home to the Wright-Kay Jewelry Company, a fabric store, and at times it has been a nightclub.

The hip and schwanky Schwankovsky

Enter vitaminwater. They brought together local artists Antonio “Shades” Agee, Tony Roko, Cedric Tai, and Mike Han to convert the space into a custom and contemporary gathering space to showcase music, art, fashion, action sports and street culture.

Painting on the walls

Artist Mike Han.Think street art brought inside and amped up. The juxtaposition between the old architecture and the new graffiti and street art is compelling. The art will keep on evolving throughout the limited time the space is open. It’s a living, growing piece of artwork.

Along with their partners, vitaminwater uncapped LIVE has created a nerve center to develop new ideas to promote community involvement and social awareness. They have also put together a fantastic few weeks of programming including Jessica Hernandez & The Delta’s, who perform tonight.

The space is open until June 18th and I’m telling you, you don’t want to miss it! The historic Scwankovsky Temple of Music is located at 1500 Woodward Avenue on the corner of John R. Check out the full event schedule here.

Scroll down for photos from from the Tweetea event at the space.


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    ... עבודה בחו"ל - הפיטץ מעביר את האינפורמציה הנכונה, העניינית והרצויה ללקוח על מנת שלא לאבד את הצפון. התאונה גרמה לכך שהוא לא ישראל,תוכלו להינות מחיי לילה סוערים ועוד. אחד היעדים הפופולאריים הוא ... Schwanky Detroit building transforms into pop-up performance ... ...
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    Response: can be anything
    I have never noticed its presence before, but now I definitely am going to take a look at this differently. It is good to read about the historic Schwankovsky Temple of Music, stories and definitely it is a living and growing piece of art work.
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Reader Comments (24)

That is very cool. I might have to stop in soon.

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Favreau

You should totally stop in! It's a cool spot but it won't be there for long.

June 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

You got some good shots that really captured the uniqueness of the place! I'm interested to see what happens with it after June 18.

June 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNikki Stephan

Are you fucking kidding me? Please tell me that that isn't permanent graffiti on the original interior?

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterA Dubs

A dubs,
From what I was told, there were already many layers of paint covering up the original interior.

June 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I guess that makes it slightly less horrific.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterA Dubs

A Dubs,
I hear where you're coming from. My husband, a builder who has done restoration work, had the same concerns. Again, from what I understand, many layers of paint would have to be sanded off to bring it back to its original state. They added another layer but at the same time are bringing attention to a building that had been forgotten about.

June 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I can't say that I'm okay with this. Becks, I understand the defense about layers of paint, etc. but unless this drives an investor to buy and restore the building, I think I'm going to view it as a terrible idea.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDean

In the third picture of the set of 6, I see natural wood panelling with a medium oak grain still showing that's partially covered in graffitti. This wasn't painted over prior to being graffitied. If it were painted over, you also wouldn't have that kind of moulding detail. It's just graffiti on natural woodwork. So, shame on you for destroying a historic treasure.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave W

Um, I didn't destroy anything. I'm just writing about it.

June 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

What a horror. First of all, to call _that_ "art" is a joke. Instead of finding a way to celebrate historic structures this will only encourage vandals to "express themselves" on more buildings. Shame shame shame on the folks who let this happen. I will be sending Vitamin Water a letter too. Disgusting.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMel B

Everyone's a critic. Listen, the space previously was being used for nothing. I love Detroit, like a LOT. So much I moved here almost a year ago. But you can't 'save' everything. You can't save Tiger Stadium. You can't save the train station (cuz nobody will buy it.) You try to save everything and you get issues like the Wurlitzer building. 90% of Detroit is historic. Eventually you have to make room for the younger generation to make the city their own.

"Turn down that crazy rock and roll music! That stuff is just noise! It doesn't hold a candle to that Glenn Miller!" I love Glenn Miller, but I'm not going to say rock and roll is bad, nor hip hop, nor graffiti art.

If people were genuinely concerned about the state of the buildings in Detroit, they'd be writing the owners and the legislators that allow it to happen, instead of writing VitaminWater who at least DID something with one of these spaces.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterToka313

If you don't recognize graffiti as a true art form you are an ignoramus, plain and simple. Graffiti artists for years have taken plain, boring looking objects and turned them into beautiful works of art that everyone can enjoy. Not to mention the fact that Mike Han is one of Detroit's most creative and innovative artists period. Enough with the "Get off my damn lawn, you kids!" rhetoric. If you're so concerned about preserving these buildings, go ahead and buy them, and fix them up yourselves. Stop bringing your negativity and judgment into a situation where a company, Vitaminwater, has done so much for the city of Detroit to promote art, music and attract people into the city to spend their money so we can have a beautiful place like this to go to and view wonderful art.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Meph

Hey Becks,
Thanks for such great photos to illustrate the space. While I understand the issues of building preservation, and can appreciate that point of view, anyone can venture downtown and buy up any of the tens of dozens of decaying structures. By that, I am not suggesting for folks to act irresponsibly with architecture, however, to become all righteous over this is offsetting.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEric Brown

Thank you all for your comments, from both sides. What constitutes art is subjective, it's personal. We all aren't going to agree.

Toka makes a great point, this building was sitting empty. Right now it is acting as a hub of energy and bringing people into the city. Which is better?

June 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

My problem is that DaveW represents the old school line of thought that is what has been holding back Detroit for so long. This world is changing, Detroit is changing, and if we're going to stay stuck in the past we will never move forward. DaveW may not think that graffiti is art, maybe he doesn't want to look at it either, but to not recognize how important graffiti art is to Detroit, and how much graffiti artists have done to help save the dieing city, is to live in ignorance. The city is being transformed by people like Mike Han and the good people at Vitaminwater are recognizing the talent and beauty that Detroit has to offer. Embrace it.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Meph

as mentioned over at Dyes, the earth tones inside the temple are an improvement over the black and white color plan that was there when it recently functioned as a music club. there is significant visual talent in this city. The artists mentioned above (Shades, Roko, Han, Tai) showcased inside the temple just scratch the surface of local talent. Nice to see them shine. Syntex rules the street. As does K. Solomon. Take a walk along the block of Woodward betw. John R. and Grand River. Street art. Authorized. A bit of brightness and hope on the tired rump of our city.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEno

p.s. @dave w.
sorry pal, you are wrong about seeing natural oak panel and moldings with graf on it. What you see is repainting that has been distressed with a spray tinting. The guy who did it (Chris) did a fine job in a short period of time. The whole place was redone in earth tones on vitamin water's dime as a prep for the artists to come in and have their way with the walls.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEno

As you know, I'm a big fan a Mike Han. And for those that don't know just search through this site. There are a lot of cool things happening in Detroit right now and, as you said, close-minded attitudes will get us nowhere.

I was just reading the posts over at Detroit Yes, thanks for coming over and clarifying the state of the building before the artists touched it. Also, thanks for mentioning Woodward Windows, which I think is another great project showcasing locals artists.

June 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I have spent quite some time studying graffiti and I love this idea. Graffiti is about getting a point across when no one will listen, turning this "palomino beige" world into something to gaze upon. These once occupied building were gorgeous. Some of us are tired of seeing "ruin porn" all over the place and want to see something colorful and inspiring.

I personally would like to see a stronger graffiti scene develop. The scene in Detroit is on the rise, but it's not quite there. Something needs to change in this area and apparently street/urban artists are the only ones that see this need. That work is fantastic as are the woodward windows, the dequindre cut (even though the space was taken from graffiti artists), shed 313, and so on. I am sick of seeing the only images of Detroit all over the internet being empty and broken buildings. Let's show the country we're different than that. This is a great way to start.

Now we just need Team Ironlak to come here and throw down some sick work and get some incredible attention.

June 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJsinghur

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