The Blue Bird Stage presented by Detroit Sound Conservancy is an exceptional example of African American mid-century vernacular art and design as well as a launchpad for sonic and social rebellion during the Civil Rights movement in Detroit. Hundreds of jazz musicians, including Davis and Coltrane, stood and performed on these planks before this backdrop from the late 1950s until the club’s closing earlier this century. Rebuilt by Detroit Sound Conservancy, the stage makes its debut as a modular and mobile programming experience at this year’s Biennale in order to tell the ongoing story of collaboration, creativity, and music in Detroit.

Our Journey With the Blue Bird


On a brisk but beautiful late winter day in 2012, the newly formed Detroit Sound Conservancy had its first official gathering.

The First Meetup

We stood in front of the Blue Bird Inn at 5021 Tireman on Detroit’s near West Side, one of the major hubs of (Detroit) jazz during its post-WWII heyday. We knew it was closed. We had heard that it was gutted inside. We didn’t know the owner. We didn’t know the building’s status. All we knew was that if the DSC was going to matter we would have to eventually address buildings and histories like the Blue Bird’s.


In April we finally made contact with the owner, organized a team of archaeologists from Wayne State University’s Anthropology Department to investigate the property and building, and gave the building an informal funeral.



In April, with the support of DAMI and the permission of the owner of the building, we salvaged the hallowed stage. The ceiling was falling in and one of the greatest stages in bebop was at risk of being lost forever. After removal we staged another brief musical ritual with Kenneth Gill of the Gabriel Brass Band.


At our conference in October, Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) helped us announce:

“In celebration of Detroit’s UNESCO Designation, DC3 will collaborate with Public Design Trust to produce an exhibition exploring how America’s former industrial powerhouse is shaping the future of work this coming March in Saint-Etienne, France’s 10th Design Biennale. Detroit Sound Conservancy has been invited to contribute an installation that will rehabilitate and reactivate the iconic Blue Bird Inn stage as a modular, mobile, programming and exhibit experience.”

As of late December 2016, we have completed “restaging” the Blue Bird stage for transport to Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2017. Here are photos from the rebuild:

Blue Bird Stage Rebuild 2016


——> Saint Etienne

Blue Bird Installation Saint-Étienne

Get Involved

You can read and edit the LocalWiki overview of the Blue Bird here.

You can read and edit the Wikipedia entry here.

Please send any questions to Dr. Gholz via email at or call direct at 313-444-8242.

Please Tweet to #bluebirddetroit #cityofdesign #biennaledesign17

Updated 8 March 2017

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