Art and music collide at the DIA

By Alexis Tomrell

Monica Blaire’s proud passion for her city is contagious. Detroit, to her, is a crossroads of collaboration and talent, a fusion of genres that has led her to a unique point in music.

This Friday, Jan. 8, the soul songstress will perform at the Detroit Institute of Arts’ free “Friday Night Live” event in the museum’s film theatre.

As part of new programming at the DIA, the museum opens late on Friday nights from 6-10 p.m. for a variety of free interactive art activities and musical performances.

This will be Blaire’s second appearance at Friday Night Live, as she returns for the next installment of “Bridging the Gap: Adventures in Sound Vol. 2.”

The concept centers on a collection of Detroit artists that collaborate with the DIA to bring the audience a full-on participatory experience that combines art and music.

“Friday Night Live bridges the gap between generations and mediums,” Blaire said.

Patrons will get the chance to talk with musicians before and after the show. Before the show starts at 7 p.m., the DIA offers drop-in art workshops and guided tours of the museum.

This week’s event features drawing in the galleries for adults and children, as well as “Bookarts: The Altered Book,” a class for recreating small books into artworks.

Interactions like these break the veil that is traditionally held between performers and the audience.

“When we blur the line, true art is created,” Blaire said.

A quick phone conversation with Blaire is enough to get anyone excited about the state of Detroit music. Her positive energy when talking about her music and the talented history surrounding the city is part of her “Detroit crusader” cause.

She compares her Detroit heritage to wearing a “badge of honor.” Despite negative national attention the city is often dealt, Blaire’s music is a testament to its thriving creative originality.

Her own musical style is eclectic, a blend of old and new school, taking cues from a variety of influences from funk to hip hop and blending them with new sounds.

Her voice is a presence — powerful and emotional — a vocal tour loaded with artistic maturity.

“My music is honesty and truth wrapped in pop, soul, R&B, funk and hip hop,” Blaire said.

Blaire grew up immersed in these musical influences.

Her father was involved in Motown and her mother also introduced her to world music, particularly African sounds.

Blaire identifies her greatest mentor as her godmother, Ortheia Barnes, the international recording artist who is also playing during this week’s Friday Night Live.

This history inspires Blaire to continue making music in the Detroit area.

Her and various local artists are entering into a new phase of ingenuity with events like Friday Night Live providing the stage.

“Shows like this give Detroit an opportunity to be excited about what we produced and what we have to offer,” she said.

2010 will reveal more of Blaire’s virtuoso as she works on her new album and continues to work on her “Back to the Future” music project released on her website.

She is also collaborating with Detroit rapper Invincible and will continue to travel and tour the country.

After Friday’s show at the DIA, she recommends heading over to friend and hip hop artist Marv Won’s release show at The Shelter in St. Andrew’s Hall.

It’s this Detroit bond that Blaire radiates. Her talents are not self-serving but part of a greater project to encourage others to revel in Detroit music.

This week’s Friday Night Live will also feature Jon Bibbs, Marv Won, Ro Spit and Ortheia Barnes.

The DIA is located at 5200 Woodward Ave. For more information about the event check out or

Other artists playing Friday Night Live this month:

FLY, a jazz pop trio, Jan. 15.

Pianist Phyllis Chen and cellist Johannes Moser, Jan. 22.

American indie, Carpe Diem string quartet featuring Peter Soave, Jan. 29.