Populux, the electronic dance music venue, operating within The Majestic in Detroit, tweeted a statement viewed by the community as racially offensive on July 7. The tweet caused the venue to close and a change in management.
Populux released a statement claiming their Twitter had been hacked, but artists including Riff Raff and Vic Mensa cancelled their upcoming shows at Populux.
Populux has been closed indefinitely and is slated to reopen as its previous name, the Magic Stick, which was previously a rock venue at the same location.
Zach Tocco, a representative of The Majestic, said, “The values of Populux and the values of the Majestic Theatre Center did not always mesh. The situation was already unstable when someone [investigation still pending] threw a racially charged stick of dynamite into the mix.”
“The mark on Populux's image was seemingly indelible and all parties involved have decided to reformat the space and take a more universal approach to booking,” he said.
In the weeks following the incident, Midtown Getdown, a monthly festival taking place in The Majestic’s parking lot, was cancelled. The summer series began on June 11 featuring Detroit-based visual artists, live music and local vendors. It was scheduled to take place on the second Saturday of July and August.
Co-organizers of Midtown Getdown, Dan McGowan and J. Kyle Hagerty, did not respond to requests for information regarding the cancellation.
Meanwhile, a mural was planned to be painted in a series on the back wall of The Majestic by Detroit-born artist and former WSU student Marlo Broughton during Midtown Getdown.
Broughton started the mural at Midtown Getdown on June 11, the only scheduled date that has taken place.
Broughton said that as an African-American artist, he cannot support the business.
“I was planning on finishing [the mural] until I heard about [the Populux tweet],” Broughton said.
“Once I saw it, it definitely turned me off from doing any business with them,” he said. “Certain things are bigger than the opportunity — you have to keep your integrity.”
Broughton says he was disappointed in the lost opportunity to paint the back wall, but was also dismayed at the loss of the positive community experience that Midtown Getdown created.
“I was disappointed because I was looking forward to continuing the project,” he said. “For it to end, and to not get that opportunity, it’s disappointing. But with that comment, it made a lose-lose situation. It’s a lost opportunity for people to come together and enjoy the summer.”
Broughton had planned to incorporate the history of Detroit into his mural, but as a result of the tweet, he has no plans to complete it.
“Detroit is a black city,” Broughton said. “For something like this to happen here, especially with all the gentrification that’s happening now, I don’t think it exposed anything we didn’t already know.”
McGowan said that featuring local artists in public spaces in downtown Detroit is important.
“It's part of the fabric of our community, not only music, but visual art, food, crafts, they're all touch points for what makes this region so special,” McGowan said. “Our whole team agrees that allowing artists to find their own inspiration is critical.”
The mural was originally planned to be a “paint by number” mural in which children in the Detroit community would participate in the creation of the mural; however, plans for the completion of the mural fell apart after the closing of Populux and cancellation of Midtown Getdown.
Broughton has worked with Murals in the Market, the Detroit Institute of Arts’ partnership with Keys in the Cities and participated in the 1xRUN Inner State Gallery. His first solo exhibition is planned to take place at the WHO? GALLERY in London this fall.