Cultural Living Room

Detroit Institute of Arts

Funding Received: 2012
Detroit, MI
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 17, 2012

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

ARTPLACE: How do you hope to get political traction with your efforts?

The Cultural Living Room offers the museum a key opportunity for engaging our civic leadership across metro Detroit. Since winning a public millage ballot initiative this past August, the museum has about 4 million public stakeholders. Regional residents now receive free admission and other benefits for school groups, seniors and other art centers through the county agreements as a result of the small portion of property taxes collected annually into the museum’s operating budget as it prepares a critical 10-year endowment campaign.

Specific to elected officials, we hope to celebrate the launch of The Cultural Living Room by inviting local dignitaries. Placemaking strategies are a key feature of the local economic development scene here in Detroit. Although over 100 years old, we expect to be able to celebrate the launch of the project spaces with the same gusto as new ribbon cutting.

Ultimately, the best traction will come from satisfied visitors, new and old, as we continue to find ways to honor the vote they made to help secure the DIA’s financial future for generations to come.

ARTPLACE: Rumor has it you made an implementation change to your launch strategy—tell us more about it and why you thought it was important?

Originally, we planned to launch the two components of the project in sequence—first inside this winter and then outdoors in the summer. However, as we proceeded dutifully with the design process, we ran into the sharp reality that the procurement of all new furniture and the AV enhancements required to transform Kresge Court, meant that earliest we could launch the indoor portion would be in mid-March.

So, we asked ourselves, given the need to delay, did our original plan continue to make sense? The strategy of a phased model was to cascade the project components so that new activity and new excitement could be met on a seasonal level with the indoor and outdoor portions respectively. Changing the indoor launch from say, December to January would be a minor adjustment. But putting it online in March really begged a review of our thinking and if that approach still made sense.

The fact is that a phased strategy loses credence the more bunched the activities get on the calendar. Moreover, we were concerned that postponing to the next earliest date would likely run the risk of further complications – some delayed materials or other hiccup – which we were wise to anticipate now instead of continually engaging in fits and starts with our transformation process, and potentially failing to meet the expectations of our visitors.

So, we thought it through and presented a strategic change towards an integrated launch of the spaces, marketing tactics and programming activities. And, instead of March, which is usually quite cold, we landed on May as the optimal time to launch both inside and outside spaces and all of The Cultural Living Room programming.

The change has other benefits as well. For one, it gives more cohesion to the whole of the project as one dramatic repositioning of these museum spaces. It will allow for a singular visitor experience to reimagine how they will be able to frequent the museum as a place to hang out, work and connect with others for vibrant exchanges. And, frankly, it affords our exceptional but decidedly overstretched staff a couple more months to plan and prepare for the launch.

We were grateful to ArtPlace for their support of the change and think it will, most importantly, create a district wide-celebration when we bring all of the project components online at the same time in May 2013.