$1.9M Mellon Foundation Grant to Restore the Blue Bird Inn and Invest in Capacity and Community

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Detroit Sound Conservancy Receives $1.9M Mellon Foundation Grant to Restore the Historic Blue Bird Inn and Invest in Capacity and Community

[Detroit, Michigan. July 1st, 2024] — Detroit Sound Conservancy (DSC) announces a transformational grant of $1,900,000 over four years from the Mellon Foundation to support the rehabilitation of the Blue Bird Inn, a historic neighborhood jazz club on Tireman Avenue on Detroit’s Old West Side. The grant will also provide support for DSC’s programming and general operations.

The Blue Bird Inn, which featured performances from John Coltrane and Miles Davis and with house bands led by Thad Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Yusef Lateef, and Donald Byrd, is a natural home for Detroit music history. Once restored, it will serve once again as a music venue, but also a cultural heritage center, archive, and space for community programming. The Blue Bird Inn will tell Detroit’s story and invite participation and engagement to continue nurturing the genius that has made Detroit the most influential music city in the world. 

The rehabilitation will infuse the historic character with modern updates, including recreating the original seating layout and lighting, reinstalling the salvaged stage, rebuilding the bar, installing archival shelving, and detailing historic finishes. The special acoustic qualities of the space will be restored by hand-plastering the walls and reinstalling the historic tin ceiling. The originally acoustic-only venue will now also integrate a state-of-the-art sound system to amplify the full spectrum of Detroit music. 

Over the next four years, DSC will complete the renovation and open the Blue Bird Inn, hire new full-time staff members, grow programming, and broaden communications to share the mission-driven work. Through this investment, DSC will continue to build a sustainable institution that will provide Detroiters with a local and secure home for the preservation of music history. The Blue Bird Inn will provide meaningful access to Detroit’s music history through the archive, performance, and education programs. 

“We are profoundly grateful to Detroit’s legacy of cultural champions who have paved the way for this substantial philanthropic support,” said Jonah Raduns-Silverstein DSC Director of Operations. “After years of work and advocacy, The Blue Bird Inn will once again become a welcoming home for Detroit’s ongoing musical story. These resources allow us to fully restore the Bird to its historic, sonic, and cultural excellence.”

This grant builds off of an initial $100,000 investment from the Mellon Foundation through the Community-Based Archives program in 2021-2022. This funding also connects to part of a larger network of Mellon Foundation grantees in Detroit including Black Bottom Archives, Institute for AfroUrbanism, Allied Media Projects, and Wayne State University Center for Black Studies.

This funding towards the Blue Bird Inn rehabilitation adds to a $500,000 Community Center grant from the State of Michigan through the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and builds off last year’s $300,000 transformational grant from the Erb Family Foundation.  

“This recognition is a testament to our intergenerational community’s impact on the world!” said Michelle Jahra McKinney, DSC Director and Director of Collections. “We will support community-based activism and tell untold stories. We will empower our community and support our partners to join with us, supporting our efforts to preserve, make accessible, and secure Detroit’s true gift to the world: our music!”

DSC encourages community members to get in touch to learn more about our work and find ways to get involved. DSC’s archive accepts donations of Detroit music material and collections for long-term preservation, stewardship, and community access.

Plan for your music legacy at https://detroitsound.org/legacyplan/

About Detroit Sound Conservancy (DSC):

Detroit Sound Conservancy (DSC) is a nonprofit community-based archive devoted to the preservation and celebration of Detroit music. Through archival practices, education programs, performances and rehabilitation initiatives, DSC expands access to and evidence of the history that proves Detroit is the most influential musical city in the world. Detroiters innovated techno, funk, rock and jazz, and have shaped nearly every musical genre, from punk and rap to soul and blues. Across generations, deep commitment and fearlessness mark the essence of the Detroit sound. DSC spreads its resources to support archival practices that amplify this cultural spectrum and safeguard its history—of people, movements, legends and lore. Through this work, DSC preserves the vivid memory of musical movements, uplifts the agency of artistic legacies, counteracts reductive representation and puts listening at the center of community.

About Andrew W. Mellon Foundation:

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.

For more information about Detroit Sound Conservancy and the Blue Bird Inn project, please contact: Jonah Raduns-Silverstein – info @ detroitsound.org / 3137575082

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