On Saturday, the 47th annual Noel Night took place on Warren Avenue, which highlighted cultural institutions and local businesses in the Midtown residential neighborhood.
Wayne State held with its tradition to participate in Noel Night with the university hosting 14 free events for the public, according to the programming schedule.
WSU’s Department of Anthropology hosted children’s activities in Old Main. These events involved skills that archaeologists use, such as excavating cookies and reconstructing broken holiday mugs. The planetarium held hourly shows of the documentary “Polaris,” from 6-9 p.m. and set up telescopes outside for stargazing. Megan McCullen, director of the Gordon L. Grosscup Museum of Anthropology and planetarium, said these programs were directed at families with children — the largest demographic at Noel Night.
“If there’s an activity to do, sometimes that’s a starting point for getting people connected,” McCullen said.
She further said Old Main doesn’t receive many community members who visit on a regular basis. These events are a way for the community to visit the building on a regular basis.
“It’s potentially a way to get people in the door and start to feel like this is a place where they’re welcome. Because they are always welcome, but not everyone feels comfortable doing that,” she said. “That’s the same reason we try to have other events at the planetarium and the museum and that we’re always free. We try to be that bridge.”
For older community members and college students, the techno duo Doogatron performed in the museum at 7 p.m. Some of the activities for children were also popular among university students looking to de-stress before finals week, McCullen said.
WSU’s Department of Biological Sciences opened the doors of its natural history museum to the public and sold t-shirts that were designed by graduate students. The biology department also hosted the Swing Dance Club and hip-hop dance group, Warrior Mode, in the building lobby, who performed for visitors. Victoria Meller, chair of biological sciences, said she views Noel Night as a community outreach opportunity.
The art and art history department featured two exhibitions, one in the Art Building and the other in the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery in Old Main. The “Arrivals | Departures” exhibit featured work by retired professor Jeffrey Abt during his time at WSU and dealt with the theme of transience. Another exhibit titled, “This Land Is…” was curated from universities and galleries around the world by WSU alumna Jennifer Belair Sakarian and involved environmental concerns from multiple artists.
“The main goal of both our exhibitions is to give our students educational experiences with different disciplines of study by artists who are professional and do this as a career,” Director of Galleries and Special Programming Thomas Pyrzewski said. “There’s not a lot of galleries that have that mission in Detroit, so it also promotes our department on a national scale, not just a local scale.”
Other activities were organized by WSU students as well. Junior Peyton DeSchutter put on the department of music’s third instrument petting zoo in Old Main. Although there were no actual animals in this event, music education students taught children how to play instruments such as the cello, clarinet, flute, saxophone and much more.
“It’s just a really great opportunity for kids to be exposed to the instruments. It’s hard for underserved communities, in the area specifically, to get that kind of exposure to music education,” DeSchutter said. “Having that opportunity and being able to give people that chance to try an instrument they never have before is what we aim to do.”
WSU also provided space for community organizations that are not based in Midtown, allowing them to participate in Noel Night. Representatives from Preservation Detroit, the Historic Hamtramck Museum and the Worker’s Row House were present in Old Main to promote the need for historic preservation and community involvement in Detroit.
Gleaners Community Food Bank had a table in the Welcome Center, where volunteers raised money for the food program with a competition between structures made of cans designed by local architecture firms.
Zachary Marano is contributing writer for The South End. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Cover photos by Jonathan Deschaine. Jonathan is the multimedia editor for The South End. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.