Progressive Arts aims to connect socially-conscious artists

It looks like the local arts scene will be getting a healthy political kick in the pants, thanks to a new artists group called Progressive Arts.

Theater-goers packed into Detroit’s International Institute on Nov. 13 to see the organization’s inaugural event, a free production of historian Howard Zinn’s “Marx in Soho.”

The one-man show, starring New York actor Bob Weick, explored the life and works of the famous philosopher and author of “The Communist Manifesto.” Weick’s masterful performance definitely struck a chord with that evening’s audience. It was followed by a brief debate on Marx’s theories by a panel composed of Cuba solidarity activist Cheryl Labash, Philosophy PhD candidate Michael Brown, radio host and Fifth Estate editor Peter Werbe and retired economics and management professor Dr. Karl Gregory.

The November performance was an auspicious start for Progressive Arts. If you’re curious what the group’s about, the program for the “Marx in Soho” event, describes it as:

A new cultural organization dedicated to social change through the arts. Progressive artists and performers from all fields, including music, film, theater, art, dance and literature are invited to help produce sponsor and promote events of political and socially progressive content, which aims to link up performing artists and other artists concerned about social issues.

The group is being spearheaded by Hamtramck-based jazz musician and film critic Bill Meyer, who says it’s an outgrowth of his efforts with another cultural group called OneHamtramck, dedicated to encouraging unity in his famously diverse hometown.

“For the last ten years we’ve been trying to bring ethnic communities together,” Meyer tells Critical Moment. “It sort of morphed into Progressive Arts, because I wanted it to be bigger than just Hamtramck.”

Meyer sees Progressive Arts as a way to bring together local artists concerned about social and economic justice, to enable them to share schedules for upcoming events, pass on news about job opportunities and work on joint projects. The organization is still in the process of coming together, so it’s not yet clear whether it will ultimately become a network, collective or some other type of group.

“We have yet to form a board of directors or [define our] membership. It’s a work in progress,” Meyer says. “We got a lot of names and addresses from [the “Marx in Soho” event”]. We’ll reach out to those folks and see where we can go with it.”

Possible projects include more plays, as well as musical performances and a progressive-themed film series. Folks interested in getting involved or donating to the cause should contact Meyer via email at or by phone at 313-207-3904.