The city’s new Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (ACE) is not being created to reinvent the wheel. We are here to grease the wheel, to promote and support start-ups and our emerging new artistry. But we also will celebrate been-ups, veteran artists who didn’t move to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles to work. We will honor the rich history of Detroit, including some that has been lost. And we will create and host new events. To that end, our first projects are to:
- Conduct an artist’s census to determine how many creatives the city needs to support and to encourage all residents to participate in the 2020 Census.
- Launch a massive media campaign, featuring a website with news features about our creative community and my occasional column about arts & culture.
- Honor the rich history of lost neighborhoods and boulevards, such as Black Bottom, Paradise Valley and the Dexter Avenue business corridor. We would use standing historical markers to define those historic communities and tell the story of the buildings and celebrities who once existed there. Black Bottom and Paradise Valley and its commercial corridors, particular Hastings Street, deserve commemoration. Stars such as Billie Holiday, Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Count Basie regularly came to Paradise to perform. Aretha Franklin’s father, the Rev. C. L. Franklin, opened his first New Bethel Baptist Church on Hastings Street. We would mark the location of Paradise’s Gotham Hotel, long considered the best hotel for African Americans in the world. Black Bottom was a mini-city within Detroit, with doctor’s offices, hospitals, dry cleaners and drug stores. The markers will honor the past and allow city tours to introduce to some—and remind others—of what once was.
- Host Detroit Talks, which will give artists and creatives of all genres—world famous and rising stars—a chance to share their work and vision in intimate settings.
- Promote and support our City Treasures, which include the Motown Museum, the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Historical Museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-History, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Michigan Opera Theatre, Belle Isle, Pewabic Pottery, Detroit Riverwalk, the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, the Detroit Public Library system, The Carr Center, Detroit Repertory Theatre, Cinema Detroit, the Detroit Public Theatre, the Fox and Fisher theaters, St. Andrews Hall, MOCAD, and more, including the new Paul Robeson Arts Theatre at the Northwest Activities Center.
- Recommend members for the Detroit Council of the Arts and the Detroit Youth Council of the Arts to guide efforts to increase opportunities, to experience art and to nurture arts education for the city’s youth.
- We also will seek opportunities to expand our footprint. Currently, the National Black Theatre Festival takes over the city of Winston-Salem, N.C. in a brilliant biannual celebration of performance, education and commerce. That festival occurs in odd years. What if Detroit hosted a black theatre festival in even years?
Supporting our Treasures
Besides our neighborhood growth strategy, we also will promote and celebrate what we have in Detroit. And we have—and do—a lot. Our creative industry contributes millions of dollars to the city’s economy every year. And tourists spend millions annually on Detroit art, culture, entertainment and recreation.