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Co’dei Bell – a 9th grade student at Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior High School – had never stepped foot in the Fox Theatre. Singing had always been a hobby of his, so he knew that one day he’d sit in the theatre’s velvet seats, watching one of his favorite artists perform. But Bell’s first time in the historic venue wasn’t to watch someone perform, but instead it was to perform himself on the stage that some of the most famous artists have graced. Bell’s experience is thanks to Detroit Public Schools Community District’s annual “An Evening of Fine Arts,” which took place on May 15. 

“An Evening of Fine Arts” is the highlight of the year for nearly 600 students selected from the Detroit Public Schools Community District’s (DPSCD) fine and performing arts departments. The event showcases the remarkable talent within the schools, celebrating students’ accomplishments and providing them with an invaluable experience that will influence their future aspirations. Attendees enjoyed performances by the district’s top instrumental and vocal music ensembles, dance companies, and theatre excerpts. Additionally, the Grand Lobby of the Fox Theatre will feature original artworks by the district’s leading visual artists.

“I think I was prepared for this. I started singing at my church when I was younger. So everything I learned in my high school’s advanced choir, I was catching onto quickly. I surprised myself but would tell someone in my position to bet on yourself,” said Bell. “You’ll begin to unlock new opportunities and see a lot of things that you will never think you would ever see – like this being here in this building.”

Presented by 313 Presents, Olympia Development of Michigan, and Comerica Bank, in collaboration with the City of Detroit Office of Arts, Culture & Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE), “An Evening of Fine Arts” made a triumphant return to the Fox Theatre in 2022 after nearly a decade, having last been held there in 2013.

Amaya O’Neil and Jayna Waters, both 12th graders in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior High School advanced choir with Bell, appreciate the chance to display their talents at such a monumental event. “‘An Evening of Fine Arts’ is the type of environment where everyone is doing what they enjoy and sharing their talent,” said Waters, who has participated in EFA for three years. “It’s a community, and I feel good knowing that I have a chance to be a part of something good; and when you see the videos of how you did, I feel proud of myself, thinking back that, ‘I was a part of something big.’”

Ilitch Companies has consistently supported Detroit public school students through various means, including financial and in-kind donations, volunteer efforts, and transformative internship and educational programs. ‘An Evening of Fine Arts’ exemplifies this enduring partnership.

O’Neil, who is taking part in EFA for the second time, enjoys the ability to interact with like-minded students across the school district. “Performing arts is definitely a safe space to be yourself: everybody’s like a family, especially at EFA. During the finale, it’s a big group; different choirs from different schools and we’re all singing together – that’s my favorite part,” said O’Neil, who is planning to join the choir when she begins college. O’Neil, Waters and Bell all aspire to attend Historically Black Colleges and continue pursuing performing arts – a goal they know is attainable through the preparation they’ve received through their journey with DPSCD and EFA. 

“An Evening of Fine Arts is a testament to the incredible talent and hard work of our students and educators. We are thrilled to showcase their achievements at the historic Fox Theatre, a venue that embodies the cultural spirit of Detroit,” said Andrew McGuire, deputy executive director of fine and performing arts, Detroit Public Schools Community District. “This event not only celebrates our students’ artistic endeavors from year to year, but also reinforces the importance of arts education in shaping their futures.”