The mission of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is to present art at the forefront of contemporary culture. As a non-collecting institution, MOCAD is responsive to the cultural content of our time, fueling crucial dialogue, collaboration, and public engagement.
Located on Woodward and Garfield between the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Institute of the Arts, Wayne State University and the College for Creative Studies, the museum is an innovative addition to Detroit’s vibrant Midtown neighborhood, and functions as a hub for the exploration of emerging ideas in the contemporary arts. In addition to an exhibitions program which has presented numbers artists from Detroit, across the U.S. and overseas, the Museum also presents an ambitious series of public programs throughout the year.
2012 marks the first year of programming and operations for MOCAD’s Department of Education and Public Engagement, led by Curator of Education Katie McGowan and Curator of Public Engagement Jon Brumit, so this seems to be a good area to focus on when reflecting on how the community will be different as a result of our institution’s existence. In addition to presenting a consistently strong Exhibitions program that inspires the local audience, it is our hope that the Education and Public Engagement department will make a real difference in the community by challenging the role of the institution in today’s society. MOCAD seeks to produce a shift in thinking. The museum does not need to be a palatial storehouse of art works. It can be a living, evolving space that responds to the community in intimate and immediate ways, simply by delineating much-needed social space for the community to gather on their terms. Activities that encourage this kind of easy interaction need not be art-related but are creatively orchestrated, such as a community barbecue, trading post or drive-in radio theater in the MOCAD parking lot, which invites passers-by to stop, look and listen.
Another important way that this community is shaped by MOCAD’s existence is through opportunities that exercise adults’ imagination. It is our impression that so many institutional education programs focus on children. While this is a paramount goal, it seems that adults are more often offered passive opportunities for learning, such as a lecture or panel discussion. MOCAD seeks to nourish adults’ sense of curiosity and adventure. In conjunction with related exhibitions, we have presented laughter yoga, smiling workshops, storytelling potlucks, dance parties and open training with a physical theater ensemble in residence.
In summary, MOCAD’s staff is actively rethinking the role and responsibility of contemporary art institutions. The Museum’s aims are far-reaching, but each season’s programming reflects more and more of this type of thinking.