City allocates $1.8M of ARPA funds to support the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
- City contribution to help fund major upgrades to Museum's GM Theater to include state of the art digital technology
- Detroit City Councilman and Museum board member Scott Benson led advocacy
- Museum contribution is one of several ways city is using ARPA funds to support arts & culture in Detroit
The City of Detroit is using nearly $2 million of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to support major renovations at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, investing in the rich history and culture that help put Detroit on the map, Mayor Mike Duggan announced today.
The $1.8 million of City ARPA dollars will go towards a $5 million redesign of the museum’s General Motors Theater that will feature state-of-the-art technology and expand capacity for theatre, spoken-word, film, and performances including dance. There are plans for a newly designed stage that brings the audience closer to the stage for a more intimate setting, often desired by artists, presenters, and speakers.
“The Charles Wright Museum of African American History is a gem not only in Detroit, but nationally,” said Mayor Duggan. “We’re thrilled to help the museum move forward with a major facility improvement to help it remain competitive, thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act.”
The largest museum of its kind in the world dedicated to African American history when it opened in 1997, the Wright still had much of its original and aging systems and equipment prior to the renovation project which is expected to be completed in early Spring of 2024.
“The Charles H. Wright Museum lives in an iconic facility that welcomes thousands of visitors through our doors each year. Support from the city is truly critical in helping us ensure that we can maintain capital improvements while also upgrading our technology on behalf of the institution and community we serve," said Neil A. Barclay, President & CEO.
The movement to apply some of the city’s ARPA funds to the museum capital improvements was led by Councilmember Scott Benson, who also serves as a member of the museum’s Board of Trustees.
"I truly appreciate the Mayor and administration for going above and beyond by allocating these additional funds to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, a cultural institution of great importance to the City and country and known throughout the world as one of the best museums to represent the breadth and depth of the American Black experience," said Councilman Benson. "This allocation will get us closer to funding the millions of dollars in deferred maintenance and long-term capital needs of the museum."
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History was founded in 1965 and today is a 125,000-square-foot cultural treasure in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center. The Wright Museum’s mission is to open minds and change lives through exploration and celebration of African American History and Culture – the museum’s 22,000 square foot, immersive core exhibit – is one of the largest, single exhibitions surveying the history of African Americans.
The Wright is preparing for its annual gala honoring Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth Carter, whose work will be exhibited beginning in October. It has also begun plans to celebrate the museum’s 60th anniversary in 2025. The Wright Museum houses over 35,000 artifacts and archival materials and offers more than 300 public programs and events annually.
More ARPA funding for cultural arts
“Detroit is - and always has been - a leader in so many ways. It is fitting that the city with the nation’s best art museum and the nation’s best riverfront and one of the nation’s best creative workforces also continue to expand one of the nation’s best history museums,” said Rochelle Riley Director of Arts and Culture, Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship.
The Wright is just one of several Arts & Cultural investments the City is making with its ARPA funds. Other investments include:
ACE Arts Alley Initiative ($5.6M) - A project to design and redevelop neighborhood alleys into unique community gathering spaces and centers of activity. The following locations are Phase I of the initiative:
City’s first Agri-Arts Alley, North End Northeast Detroit
Jefferson Chalmers 2 McDougall-Hunt neighborhoods
Old Redford Schulze
Northwest Goldberg Southwest Detroit neighborhoods
Jefferson Chalmers 1
Ossian Sweet Complex ($1M) – The complex will serve as a beautiful outdoor area for people to gather and socialize, while also supporting the cultural and educational programming of the Ossian Sweet House. To ensure that the design of the complex and programming meet the needs of the community, the City will be engaging with the community throughout the process. The project also includes the renovation of two currently vacant homes.
Detroit’s ARPA portfolio is comprised of more than 90 programs, projects, and initiatives from Blight to Beauty to career/job training, and down payment assistance, to home repair, violence intervention, and small business support to park and recreation center renovations and bridging the digital divide.
ARPA dashboard as of the week of September 25, 2023
Total ARPA funds APPROPRIATED
Total funds issued to the City of Detroit from the $1.2 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). City Council appropriated 15 uses for these funds in June 2021.
Total funds allocated to initiatives that have project plans and budgets, identified City-stakeholders, and clear outputs and outcomes.
Combined total of Council-approved contracts, subrecipient agreements and funds budgeted for personnel.
Total funds expended - ex, vendor invoices, personnel costs, subrecipient payments, issued grants, etc.
More on ARPA programs and spending can be found at www.detroitmi.gov/ARPA