Birmingham couple Gretchen and Ethan Davidson, musicians and patrons of the arts in Metro Detroit, talk about their involvement in the community, the tunes they’re playing on repeat and how they’re spending the holidays this year.
By Rachel Schostak
Photography by Melissa Coulier
1. Can you please share a few sentences about the two of you? A brief description about professional and community involvement. We are advocates and supporters of arts and culture in the Metro Detroit area, and very involved in the Jewish community. We’ve been in the music scene, playing in various bands, for the last 20 years. Ethan serves as the Chairman of the Board at Michigan Opera Theatre, and a director at the William Davidson Foundation, Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Motown Museum. Gretchen serves on a variety of boards including Cranbrook Academy of Art, Detroit Children’s Fund and REBOOT.
2. Ethan, can you share a bit about the music you create? Where does your inspiration come from? I studied language and literature from U of M, Islamic law in grad school and Jewish philosophy at Jewish Theological Seminary. As a performance philosopher, I prefer to set Hassidic-existentialism to country and Western music.
3. You are both heavily involved in the community. Can you share the organizations that are near and dear to your heart? Motown, the heart and soul of our city, Michigan Opera Theatre, College for Creative Studies, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Children’s Fund, Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs and many others. Arts and education is important for everyone’s future, and we like helping where we can.
4. You recently hosted what looked like an epic benefit for CCS “Bizarre Bazaar.” Can you share some highlights about what made that night unique? It was a benefit for the Center Galleries at CCS. Our guests at the gathering are what and who make it unique! We also had magical light mapping from New D Media, incredible and dramatic dancing by Biba Bell and costume designs by Stargazer and Simone Else that really set things over the top.
5. Since this is our “celebrate” issue, can you share a few ways your family will be celebrating the holidays this season? We definitely love to celebrate. In Jewish tradition, there’s so many opportunities to bring more light into the world, and there are holidays every other day! We always enjoy gathering with family and friends at the house, or in the Sukkah during Sukkot. We celebrate Shabbat every Friday and Havdalah on Saturdays by lighting candles with our boys no matter where we are in the world.
6. Beyond this winter holiday season, are there any special celebrations or holidays that are most meaningful to the both of you? We write our own Haggadah every year for Passover and go all-out on the decorations. Sukkot is a favorite holiday of ours: We find a lot of joy under Sukkah stars with family and friends. We always drink a bit too much on Purim.
7. When hosting or chairing parties from large scale to even smaller dinner parties, what are things to keep in mind? The most important part is setting the vibe with comfortable lighting, music to fit the mood you want your guests to feel, and of course amazing food and Champagne cocktails. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll have a perfect evening.
8. If you could invite any historical figure to a dinner party who would it be? Ether Nipsey Russell or Suleyman the Magnificent. Can we have both? Or maybe Eleanor Roosevelt!
9. Gretchen, three words to describe Ethan? Thoughtful, curious, the guy you call when you’re stuck on a trivia question and need to phone a friend.
10. Ethan, three words to describe Gretchen? Wow, amazing, and I need way more than three words.
Now on to your style…
Head-to-toe outfit details:
Dining room details:
11. Gretchen, what are three words to describe your personal style? Orthodox on Saturday.
12. Ethan, what are three words to describe your personal style? Manufactured, authenticity, sunshine.
13. What is one album or song you could listen to, on repeat? We listen to our Ethiopian Jazz playlist an awful lot, or Turkish psychedelic music like Erkin Koray or Vampyros Lesbos Sexadelic Dance Party. Also, Can’s Tago Mago or anything from The Temptation’s “Cloud Nine” album.
14. Gretchen, who inspires your style? I have some unique friends, so whoever I am shopping or hanging out with. As far as famous people, Chloe Sevigny and Kim Gordon.
15. Ethan, who inspires your style? I definitely loved my days in Istanbul at the bazaars and thrift shops. I’m a sucker for old Americana, especially fake-authentic ranch wear like RRL or Mister Freedom. I like faked-out Japanese homages to American Moto style, like Real McCoy. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish hats are the world’s coolest language.
16. Gretchen, one item you can’t leave home without? Sunglasses.
17. Ethan, you’re never fully dressed without…? A hat, my Tzitzits…or my beard.
18. For both of you, please share a few places you enjoy shopping locally? City Bird and Nora always have great hostess gifts. Lori Karbal, Tender, and Linda Dresner never disappoint. Really excited for the opening of Coup D’etat in New Center. Angela Wisniewski has the best eye! And if you want something to fit just right, you have to give Ali the tailor a call.
Your local love list…
19. A few favorite spots you enjoy in the city? We love to walk the Cranbrook grounds. The gallery scene in Detroit is great; we love Wasserman Projects and What Pipeline. The Riverfront is lovely. And the arcade above Checkers is pretty cool!
20. Do you prefer to cook, carry out or dine out? Cook.
21. What is your go-to dish? An Indian fennel and mustard seed cauliflower dish or Iranian ash reshteh soup.
22. Carry out of choice? Bangkok Express in Ferndale.
23. Current restaurant you are loving? Phoenicia forever!
24. Can you share a special place you enjoy going for celebrations? You should visit the UFO Factory and their new cloud deck! They also have the two queens of karaoke on Sunday night. Deluxx Fluxx is great for a live show. For drinks, we like Candy Bar and Tom’s Tavern. Chartreuse and Selden Standard are at the top of our list, along with Chef Greg’s Soul-N-the Wall!
25. Favorite quote or words to live by? “If not now, when?”