superelectric coming to Gordon Square with more opportunities for pinball wizards, kids

It's difficult to describe the art of Ben Haehn, David Spasic and Nathan Murray. Call it one part retro, one part funk and two parts pinball with a splash of video and music to bring it all together. They also throw in a few motorcycles for style.

“We brought one of these motorcycles up those stairs," says Murray, referring to the three flights leading up to their space at 78th Street Studios. "That was the shadiest thing we’ve ever done.” Shady? Perhaps, but not surprising; superelectric is decidedly alt. Just dig the group's most recent online commercial (you'll want to review all 57 sublime seconds).
Courtesy of their popular free-play Third Friday events, the trio has delivered more replays, hi scores and orbits than even Barracora can tally. (And yes, superelectric has a Barracora, and a Quick Draw and a Fun Land and a Majorettes.) The pinball palace boasts nearly 50 machines, but over 100 have been through the shop over the past three years as the gents also service and refurbish machines for an array of customers.
In a triple bonus development last week, a sign appeared in the window of the 1,700-square-foot space at the corner of West 65th Street and Detroit Avenue that formerly housed Yellowcake: superelectric is bringing their talents to Gordon Square.
Stand down, fans of Eight Ball and Scuba. The Gordon Arts storefront will be an expansion, not a move. The 78th Street Space will go on, with resident cat (Tom Waits) keeping guard over the games, rental events and Third Fridays. The group tentatively plans to pull the plunger on the new location this summer.
"The earliest would be June. The latest would be July," says Spasik. "We want to bring a lot of our older games."
Food, potables, seating and between 20 and 25 machines will all be in the mix, as will a couple of vintage jukeboxes that play 45s. The new space needs electrical and plumbing work, which they hope to start as early as this week with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.
The new location will be open six days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and denizens of the Gordon Square neighborhood couldn't be more delighted, starting with one happy dog.
"It's going to be one of the coolest businesses in the country," says Happy Dog owner Sean Watterson. "Maybe there's one in LA. Maybe there's one in NY, but I've got a feeling this is going to be cooler than anything on either of those coasts or anything in the middle."
"They really wowed us with their commitment to the neighborhood and their vision and how it aligns with everything else going on in the Gordon Square Arts District," adds Jenny Spencer, managing director at the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization.
Aside from pinball wizards and curious passers-by, all those bumpers, flippers and tilts will be aimed at an unexpected kickout: kids and education. The group intends to expand its educational efforts, which heretofore included work with Progressive Arts Alliance and area high schools showing kids that a pinball machine's cool factor is really a confluence of electronics, physics and art: what Spasic calls, "things they'd never conceive of going on in there."
He explains: "We'll open up the machines, go through the history, how they work, how the angle of playfield and gravity effects the ball and the action taking place." One group of kids even made their own machines, which superelectric showcased during a Third Friday event.
Before the learning can begin, however, some kids have to take a certain leap.
"We get little kids up here," notes Murray. "They play pinball as an app or on Xbox. They didn't realize there was an actual physical object." And when they see a real live machine with all those lights and bells? "They freak out sometimes."
So whether it's an old-timer revisiting Corvette or a tot blinking in awe before the likes of Black Jack for the first time, Murray offers up a spot-on observation regarding our collective digital existence.
"The world is ready for something tangible."

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit for complete profile information.
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