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Final windows installed at Virgil Carr Cultural Center in downtown

The final windows have been installed in the Virgil Carr Cultural Center, marking the latest step forward in the renovation of The Arts League of Michigan's new home.

"This is the final phase of an effort that began a while ago," says Oliver Ragsdale, Jr., president of The Arts League of Michigan.

The African-American arts advocacy organization is renovating the former Harmonie Club in downtown Detroit's Paradise Valley District. The circa-1895 building originally served as the cultural hub for the German immigrant population that lived in the neighborhood, previously known as Harmonie Park, at the turn of the 20th Century. The Beaux-Arts-style structure is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The four-story building at 311 E Grand River Ave was largely vacant from the mid 1970s until the turn of the 21st Century when the basement became a bar. The Arts League of Michigan took control of the structure in 2009 and opened the Virgil Carr Cultural Center, named for the first African-American president & CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan, that summer.

The Arts League of Michigan has renovated the basement and first two floors into a cultural destination for downtown Detroit. The basement features COLORS restaurant, an eatery focused on serving locally source, sustainable food while providing workforce training for those interested in culinary careers. The first floor offers office space and art exhibit space. The second floor features a reception area and other art exhibit and office spaces that emphasis the building's architectural history instead of hiding it.

"Since we have opened the building to the public more than 71,000 people have been here," Ragsdale says. "We have also hosted 1,300 events and classes."

The new windows, the last of the replacements in the building, are going into the theater on the third and fourth floors. The Arts League of Michigan had the windows specially made to both match the shape and style of the original windows but also be energy efficient. The new windows replace boards, allowing natural light to flood into the theater for the first time in many years.

The Arts League of Michigan is working to restore the theater, which is surprisingly well preserved despite a large roof leak, to its original condition. The final restoration will cap a $14 million project that the organization is still raising money to finish. For information on helping make that happen, click here.

Source: Oliver Ragsdale, Jr., president of The Arts League of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke
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  • Colors Restaurant
    311 E Grand River Ave
    Detroit, MI 48226 Website
    Colors Restaurant is a social enterprise that trains workers for living-wage jobs through our job development program. This program trains workers in bartending, fine dining and serving, resume help, and job searching.

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