If I were to suggest just one place to take a Detroit skeptic, it would be the Detroit Institute of Art. The architectural and cultural gem in Detroit symbolizes the importance of honoring history and culture. Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, I view cultural institutions like the DIA as anchors for the city. They make Detroit a city, a city that is inspiring and resilient. To me, the DIA embodies what Detroit is- a reflection of historical significance, modern innovation, and cultural sacredness. Yet the historical grandeur of the DIA has a way of making even Detroit’s struggle seem like a mere blip on the radar.
On Friday, October 19th, after working on our current challenge for United Way, Challenge Detroit Fellows received a private tour of the DIA. It had been years since I last attended the DIA, and I still felt that child-like wonder. I could easily enjoy spending a whole day getting lost there.
The beautiful Italian Renaissance styled building homes over 100 galleries showcasing arts and culture from around the world. On our tour, we viewed collections spanning from the ancient cultures to present day. Even more, we got to hear the gossip and glory behind some of the art. One of my favorite tidbits was the competitive friendship (a friendly rivalry, if you will) between Picasso and Matisse. They were simultaneously companions and rivals, fighting for fame on one hand and valuing each other’s passion for art on the other.
The Diego Rivera mural Detroit Industry is one of the most infamous pieces in the DIA. A tribute to Detroit’s Ford plant workers, Rivera’s mural illustrates Detroit’s industrial and technical roots. I love Detroit Industry for it depicts the saga of Detroit as a city that ignited the Industrial Revolution and a city full of hard workers. For me, the mural illuminates the stark differences and similarities that exist in Detroit then and today. While the fall of the automotive industry has left Detroit a different city, the personality of Detroit is alive and well today. The city of Detroit’s story lives on, because it was and still is a city of hard workers. The Rivera’s piece belongs in Detroit, because it honors our historical significance, modern innovation, and cultural sacredness.
It was a perfect place to end the night in the Detroit Industry. Surrounded by Rivera’s mural, Challenge Detroit Fellows listened to Detroit band American Mars play as part of DIA’s weekly Friday Light Live. Every Friday, the DIA keeps their doors open late for work-shops, art-making, games, private tours, and live music. And guess what the best is? It’s all free. All the time.