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Honoring the Sun – Past Present and Future at The Wright

This Month, The Wright Hosts Energy Earth Month Both in the Museum and Within Historically African American, Detroit Communities


Working at the intersection of clean energy, African American culture, art, and community engagement, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History along with transdisciplinary artist, Ash Arder and several Detroit neighborhoods will celebrate Earth Month this year in collaboration with the form of Earth Energy Month 2023.

The event series will honor the sun and its past, present, and future impact on African American livelihood.

What does this mean?

The entirety of the event lineup will be solar-powered and activate Ash Arder’s Whoop House — a  2021 Knight Arts Challenge solar-powered sculpture and sound stage focused on broadcasting community voices and instruments. The event series will also shine a light on three community sites in Detroit focused on creating green and clean energy infrastructure and programming to lift their communities.

Says Leslie Tom, Chief Sustainability Officer at the Wright, “We are facing a climate crisis and as members of this community, we believe that it’s our due diligence to participate in the preservation of, not only, our history, but of our environment too. So we wanted to take the entire month and pay homage to not only African American history as it relates to our climate but the great work and innovation that’s happening in and around Detroit’s neighborhoods. We are grateful to artists: layer in Ash Arder, King Wayne and SuperCoolWicked to help bring this message to life.”

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Regarding the impetus behind this unique concept, Tom says, “There is a rich history in Detroit with music, making, innovation and also resiliency. The impetus is to pull together that history, and artists like Ash who are creating change and using clean energy, along with the neighborhoods, who are acting as stewards of their land, also are pioneering change.”

Arder, originally from Flint, focuses her work on creatively responding to issues around social and climate justice and has been partnering with Detroit neighborhoods and organizations to that end.

Arder’s Whoop House began with a soft launch in 2022 situated in ​McDougall-Hunt – one of the oldest neighborhoods in Detroit and the last remaining historical residential area where many business owners from “Black Bottom” settled and raised their families. “It was such an important part of Detroit’s history we wanted to acknowledge the role it has played in black agency and the narrative of the city,” says Arder.

The idea behind the Whoop House is to use the sun as a technical collaborator to create music and invite people in to celebrate and gather through music.

Of this partnership for Energy Earth Month, Arder says,

The literal process of using the sun’s energy to transform vacant land and blighted lots into community gathering spots is such a beautiful thing, and it’s happening in Detroit already. Spotlighting this work that’s being done is exciting and it’s fitting.

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Says Amanda Paige, Neighborhood Partner – Bailey Park Neighborhood Development Corporation, “Detroit is greener than people think. We’ve been rain collecting and recycling and more in our community and I’m excited to show people more of that through these events.”

Mama Shu, Neighborhood Partner, The Avalon Village, INC weighs in saying, “It’s important for communities to work together toward being as self-sufficient and self-reliant as possible. We’ve had to operate this way and I’m excited to be in the spotlight during April so that we can all learn from each other.”

Arder explains further the sun as a thematic anchor saying, “there is a

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relationship between the sun and working long hours in the fields, and within that, there is a relationship between African American music in the call and response and field hollers that took place. These things – and the experiences and conditions our ancestors faced when sharecropping – contributed to black music and to our narrative altogether. I think the narrative translates to the resiliency of Detroiters and the black people here today.”

Tammy Black Neighborhood Partner – Manistique Community Treehouse Center weighs in saying, “Detroit is an incubator and a hotbed of music so why not use the Whoop House as a prompt for looking at how people can employ clean energy in an interesting way – through music and art.”

To that end, the Earth Month events will kick off on April 20th at The Wright Museum’s Third Thursday Late Night At The Wright. Joel Fluent Green will host an Open mic followed by a solar-powered conversation between Arder, and East Side Riders Bike Club founder King Wayne will discuss how physical, mental, power and electricity, touches us all and impacts our ability and motivation to connect with the world around us.

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Energy Earth Month will then shift to bring the inside of the museum outside and reduce our carbon footprint by heading to the neighborhoods.  Each neighborhood of Bailey Park, Avalon Village and Manistique Community Treehouse Center, will be doing Earth Month activities and will all end with a Solar Powered Concert highlighting Detroit’s own SuperCoolWicked.

“Negro, Spiritual” – a solar-powered musical performance will premiere by multidisciplinary artist Supercoolwicked. Utilizing Arder’s Whoop House, which serves as a sound stage, solar hub, and sculpture as the physical focal point, Supercoolwicked is hosting a “good-old church-style revival” complete with a live band, a chorus, movement, theatrics, and original music. The performance is a live accompaniment to the identically-titled album, which is an homage to the Negro spiritual.

Both Detroiters are recognized locally and globally for using creativity to get people from all walks of life excited to go outside and explore. During the Solar Powered

Conversation, the artists will share their ideas of turning familiar, relatable activities – like riding a bike or playing music – into projects that educate, inspire, and take better care of Earth’s resources; as well as explore all that can be learned from the resiliency of communities of color impacted by climate change, and the insistence to not only survive, but thrive under such circumstances.

Below is a lineup of these events.

Bailey Park

Join the Bailey Park Neighborhood Development Corporation, Smallville

Farms, District 5, and Detroit’s Green Task Force for Earth Fest 2023- People, Plants,

Power, & Planet. The day kicks off with a community clean-up in McDougall-Hunt, followed by lunch and Green Fair at The Hub with walk-up activities, recycling and composting, and ends with a Solar Party and Solar Powered Broadcast.

For more information, or to sign-up for Bailey Park’s Earth Fest 2023 events, please visit: https://www.earthfest2023.eventbrite.com

Date: April 29th


Community Clean-up, 10am-1pm

Green Fair, 1pm-4pm

Solar Party and Concert, 5pm-7pm

Place: 2617 Joseph Campau St., Detroit, MI, 48207

Please note: This is an outdoor event, rain or shine.

Avalon Village

Avalon Village’s STEAM lab will be available to the public, Solardarity and Lumens

Foundation will have information tables, food trucks, the Goddess Marketplace will be open, and the Solar Powered Broadcast to close out the night.

For more information please visit: https://www.theavalonvillage.org

Date: April 29th

Time: STEAM lab, Solardarity and Lumens Foundation informational tables, and Goddess Marketplace – open all day

Solar Powered Concert, 6pm-8pm

Place: 40 Avalon St., Highland Park, MI, 48203

Please note: This is an outdoor event, rain or shine..

Manistique Community Treehouse Center

Description: Join Manistique Community Treehouse Center as they host their own suite of Energy Earth Month programming

Manistique will have their community clean-up on April 22. And on April 30, community members will be invited to take a tour of the treehouse, community kitchen and urban solar garden site, enjoy food, and attend the Solar Powered Broadcast.

For more information,  please visit: thewright.org

Date / Time: April 22nd: Community Clean-up @ 11am

April 30th:

1pm – 4pm: Community Center Tours of the treehouse, community kitchen, and urban solar garden site.

4pm: Tammy Black’s welcome

4:05pm: Composting presentation (Michele Jackson)

4:30pm: Bee and Pollution presentation (Detroit Hives)

5pm: Solar Projects / Flooding App presentation (Harold Wilcox)

5:30pm: Emergency Powerstation presentation (Mose Primus)

6pm: Rooftop Solar Installations (Marva Stewart)

6:30pm: Solar Powered Concert

Place: 259 Manistique St., Detroit, MI, 48215

Please note: This is an outdoor event, rain or shine.

For more information visit www.manistiquetreehouse.org and to sign up for the event please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/earth-day-event-solar-powered-whoop-house-of-music-tickets-605883121727


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