MOCAD, founded in 2006, is a major anchor in the developing Sugar Hill Arts District, attracting young audiences and international attention with its exhibitions program. MOCAD will upgrade its interior spaces and eventually develop the surrounding area as an outdoor arts venue, improving its street presence and providing a link between area greenways and a proposed light rail line along Woodward Avenue.
ArtPlace asked Kelli Kavanaugh, Director of Development and External Affairs of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), what she thinks are the three keys to creative placemaking. Here are her thoughts.
The planning process in which we are currently engaged — the renovation of the Museum and improvements to the surrounding site — represents a perfect time to reflect on what makes creative space meaningful and boundary-pushing while also maintaining accessibility.
First, authenticity. We cannot sacrifice the qualities of character that have helped shape our identity in the pursuit of fame, funding or a shiny veneer — no matter how attractive it might appear. In our case, the Museum is located in a 22,000-square-foot former auto dealership that was built in 1922. It is raw and cavernous and, while facility improvements in terms of systems and office functionality are imperative, we are all committed to maintaining the building’s historic intergrity, which, admittedly, is a bit rough around the edges.
Second, diversity. MOCAD is just five years old and we’ve done a pretty good job of reaching a traditional market in terms of contemporary art enthusiasts. We’ve mounted well-received, critically lauded exhibitions and consistently presented a high level of well-attended public programs. But how do we reach a non-traditional audience? In a city that is more than 80% African-American, attempting to answer this question is of the utmost importance. The recent formation of a Department of Education and Public Engagement is a first step in reaching outside our walls and across boundaries — both real and perceived.
Finally, affordability. We recently received a thought-provoking report from Artspace about creative placemaking that referenced the “Soho Effect.” The last result MOCAD would ever hope to see is that our growth is leveraged as part of a movement that values financial capital over human capital. Constant dialogue with stakeholder groups and collaboration and engagement with all of our neighbors is a must for a healthy community.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Flickr user diametrik.