If the goal of creative placemaking is to utilize the arts to create cities where people want to live, work and play, then there is a huge opportunity for one of the Detroit region’s most well known and most often frequented landmarks: the Detroit Institute of Arts.
This is something the organization inherently understands, and just this year, the DIA was awarded a grant to reposition and transform two public spaces into more vibrant, active centers of the community. The grant was awarded by ArtPlace, a collaboration of 10 leading national and regional foundations that invests in art and culture initiatives.
The DIA’s project is aptly named the Cultural Living Room, and the public spaces that will be utilized include the DIA’s front lawn and the Kresge Court.
Bradford Frost, special assistant for community and economic development at the DIA, noted that the goal is to transform the DIA from the type of place a typical person might visit once per year into a place used for day-to-day activities, much like a coffee shop, park, restaurant or other highly-frequented public space.
With that in mind, Frost said they are considering permanent enhancements to the front lawn and Kresge Court, such as new seating, free Wi-Fi and other upgrades. In addition, the DIA is looking at scheduling monthly programming in conjunction with strategic partners. The programming might include live musical performances and lecturers. The space is well-suited for such programming; Frost explained that the DIA’s Kresge court is “magnificent but (currently) underutilized.”
In creating these public spaces and new programming, the DIA is helping to foster the type of environment that people typically look for when choosing a region to live in.
The DIA is still in the planning phase of the project, which is designed to have a four to five month design stage. Currently the DIA is collaborating with many other local organizations, including Steelcase, Midtown Detroit Inc. and the Cultural Alliance of Southeast Michigan. Together, they are examining what types of innovative programming would work best and what kind of marketing will be needed to connect these new cultural living spaces to young professionals and other residents of the region.
Frost noted that they’re also planning focus groups with community residents and students to determine what type of programming residents are interested in.
“It’s a combination of programming, marketing and branding of the spaces as available and accessible,” Frost said. “I expect we’ll offer anything from performing artists to TED talks-style pieces from the arts community to coffee shop style exchanges.”
Frost said the ArtPlace grant enabled the project in several ways.
“When we designed the grant, we worked with partner organizations, including the Detroit Creative Corridor Center and National Business Solutions. Through the grant, we were able to leverage their commitments and resources. The grant is a new resource for the museum as well. It’s a different field of capital to connect a meaningful experience with art, to a broader audience.”
While the DIA has long been a critical gateway to the region’s arts and culture scene, Frost noted that this new addition of the Cultural Living Room project will enhance people’s understanding that the museum is an essential element in attracting young professionals, students and the creative class to Michigan.
“It offers a whole host of opportunities to deepen engagement between partners and become a more active, vibrant center of midtown, as well as a way to deepen the interactions and relationships between residents,” Frost said.
For updates on the programming, which is tentatively scheduled to begin in January, check back to dia.org.