Shout for Freedom

Shout for Freedom

PHOTO: Erik Howard

DETROIT—On Nov. 2, Hazel Park-based art collective TANK 425 will team up Detroit's The Alley Project to host an evening art opening and reception dedicated to immigration and freedom. The event, El Grito de Detroit por Libertad (Detroit's Shout for Freedom), will celebrate the city's immigrant community and include a fundraiser for Freedom House, an organization that helps political refugees from around the world as they seek asylum.

The highlight of the evening will be an exhibition and auction of art pieces made from repurposed chairs donated by Zumba Mexican Grille in Royal Oak. Works on display come from a diverse group that includes Freedom House clients, area youth, and emerging and professional artists.

Inspiration for El Grito struck this past April during a chance meeting between TANK 425 founder, Richard Gage, and Freedom House volunteer, Kaity Nicastri, at Detroit's Avalon International Breads. Gage, a sculptor who specializes in architectural fabrication, had been working on a project for Zumba. He saw that the restaurant was replacing its chairs, and suggested they sell the old ones and donate the proceeds to Freedom House. But the idea grew from there.

"Kaity, ever the brainiac, suggested we make it more complicated," Gage says. "And that's how the artists got involved."

"Rather than just quietly writing them a check for a few hundred dollars," Nicastri adds, "it seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring more awareness to Freedom House and its work."

A social worker from Detroit's Springwells neighborhood, Nicastri is organizing El Grito, which will involve youth artists from TAP Gallery, a Southwest Detroit outdoor exhibition space that encourages area youth to use street art in a way that benefits the surrounding community.

Founded in Detroit in 1983, Freedom House provides legal services, counseling, transitional housing and assistance with job placement to asylum seekers. Its location on a major international border allows its clients the choice of applying for asylum in either the United States or Canada. While the organization was created to aid people who suffered in El Salvador's 1979-1992 civil war, today a majority of its clients are from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Gage likes to think of Freedom House as "kind of like a modern-day Underground Railroad." According to Gage, "there are laws to help asylum seekers get settled, but they face great difficulties before they can get to that point."

Details for the evening's events are still falling into place, but an Eventbrite page created by the organizers promises "surprises up our sleeves."

These surprises, according to Nicastri, are likely to include an installation by animator Gary Schwartz, live choral music, and food donated by Zumba and other area businesses.

El Grito will will take place at Freedom House, in the former convent of Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church, 1000 Ste. Anne Street in Detroit. It runs from 5 - 9 p.m. and coincides with the Mexican celebration of El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Friday, Nov. 2. Costumes are encouraged.