Cultural Living Room

Detroit Institute of Arts

Funding Received: 2012
Detroit, MI
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
March 13, 2013

Two iconic spaces at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) will offer innovative programming in conjunction with strategic partners in order to reposition the museum as an inspiring “third space” in Midtown to encourage creativity, exchange and connection for all Detroit residents.

In January, ArtPlace hosted its national Creative Placemaking Summit.

After the summit, ArtPlace caught up with Bradford Frost, Special Assistant for Community and Economic Development & Detroit Revitalization Fellow at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) about the DIA’s ArtPlace project, The Cultural Living Room.

ARTPLACE: What lessons did you learn at the Summit that you plan to apply to your initiative?

FROST: Two stand out: 1) Don’t panic. 2). Commit to learning.

For the first lesson, it’s like careening from anxiety and excitement over the placemaking work in front of us and the proverbial high school coach slogans ringing in your ear as you get closer to realizing the full vision of The Cultural Living Room efforts: “dig in!” “execute!” “teamwork!”

It hit me on our art tour when I came across the great piece pictured above in the Wynwood district.

The other key lesson came during a session on learning and failure, aptly titled: Fear of failure vs. Fear of failure to learn.

One of my colleagues at the museum consistently reminds me to remember to “Dream Big!”  Shaping our project  is a grander vision of seeing how the branding of the museum’s campus and public spaces as ‘The Cultural Living Room’ can really help ‘break down the DIA’s marble walls’ to increase accessibility to diverse audiences and to promote the arts as part of the larger fabric of our experience in Detroit and southeast Michigan.

We’re not afraid to fail. But, we also need to commit to the longer term learning of how placemaking deepens local connections to the city, increases access to diverse audiences and promotes creative exchanges among residents, professionals and students.

As this other piece, “City of Dreams” made me reflect in the Wynwood District, this is the ultimate aim of our efforts. As we build learning, evaluation and embrace reflection on our creative placemaking efforts, we shouldn’t mistake small failures for the larger aims; we should embrace learning in the larger context of our efforts.

Only then will this vision, and the cohesion of arts-based revitalization efforts, be realized onto a larger city palette.

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ARTPLACE: What’s the latest on the Cultural Living Room design process?

FROST: The museum is at a very exciting and critical stage of our work. We’ve finalized virtually all of the design elements and we’re plugging all of those specifications – from specialized furniture to electrical engineering – into specifications for vendors.  We’re sequencing all of those elements into a construction schedule and working to ensure we’re able to launch without a hitch on Friday, June 14 to the public.  Everything is on pace and the 7 months of planning and design have been a truly successful collaboration of diverse museum stakeholders and a great team of professional partners.