Mayor renews City’s commitment to arts & culture community, appoints Rochelle Riley to lead efforts

  • Will lead efforts to attract additional funding and talent to help build on Detroit’s vibrant arts, cultural and creative sector

  • Kresge and Erb Foundations also announce $125,000 grant to enable Planning and Development Department to integrate arts and culture into the City’s Strategic Neighborhood Initiative

Mayor Mike Duggan today reaffirmed the City’s commitment to its creative community by announcing the appointment of longtime Detroit journalist and community advocate Rochelle Riley as the City of Detroit’s Director of Arts and Culture.

In the newly-created position, Riley will be responsible for giving shape and focus to Detroit’s investments in arts and culture and advocating for opportunities for one of the most inventive and resourceful creative communities in the world. She will work with artists, cultural organizations, philanthropic funders and entrepreneurs to advocate for, promote and develop arts and culture, alongside Kimberly Driggins in Strategic Planning and Adrian Tonon, Detroit’s Night Time Economy Ambassador.

“This is a role I have wanted to fill for some time, but had not found the individual who had both the stature and passion needed for supporting and growing arts and culture in Detroit – until now,” Mayor Duggan said. “Rochelle has the respect and credibility to build relationships between the City and its major cultural institutions and potential funders, as well as budding artists and entertainers. She will serve as the strategic leader and coordinator for all of our efforts to support Detroit’s creative community.”

Riley, who is expected to start in her new role May 27, said she understands that arts, culture and entertainment are not just words in Detroit.

“They are a way of life,” she said. “Detroit does not have a creative corridor. Detroit is a creative corridor, with people filing in from around the world every year. It is time for Detroit to not just celebrate its past and better support its present but to create a future where innovation and new art and music and theater and dance are not just welcome, but celebrated and supported. The arts and culture and entertainment industry is a multi-billion industry in this city, one that can produce jobs and opportunities that will re-establish Detroit as a thriving creative epicenter.”

Kresge and Erb Foundations pledge support

Also today it was announced that The Kresge Foundation and the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation are partnering to grant the City $125,000 to support planning under way —including the engagement of local stakeholders — to integrate arts and culture into the City's planning and neighborhood revitalization initiatives. Riley will work to raise additional philanthropic funds for this effort.

“Arts and culture can’t be an afterthought in Detroit’s rebound. We’ve long felt that arts and artist are both fundamental to our sense of community, but also make insufficiently recognized contributions to the economic vitality of the city,” said Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of Kresge’s Detroit Program. “Our joint grant with Erb supports the deep engagement of the arts community to chart next steps as the city embraces the arts and artists under Rochelle’s leadership.”

Jackson added, “The appointment of Rochelle Riley is both timely and impressive. This represents a tremendous opportunity under Rochelle’s leadership for the city to learn, listen, and engage artists in the development of projects and initiatives.”

Riley has been a columnist for the Detroit Free Press and a leading voice in issues involving children, education, race and good government. She joined the newspaper as a columnist in 2000 after working at newspapers including The Dallas Morning News, The Washington Post and The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal.

Riley is the editor of “The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery,” a 2018 collection of essays by leading African American writers, artists and others about how the legacy of slavery in America continues to impact the lives of black people. She also is a co-founder of Letters to Black Girls, a project that grew from a single presentation to a national mission to pass words of encouragement from black women to black girls and young women.

Riley has won numerous national, state and local honors, including a National Headliner Award for local column writing, the 2017 Eugene C. Pulliam Editorial Fellowship from the Society of Professional Journalists and the 2017 Ida B. Wells Award from the National Association of Black Journalists for outstanding efforts to ensure newsrooms and news coverage more accurately reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. A 2007-2008 Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan, she was inducted in 2016 into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame and in 2019 into the North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame. Riley was raised in Tarboro, N.C., and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Riley will work closely with the city’s Planning and Neighborhoods departments to ensure that each segment to ensure vibrant arts endeavors across all of Detroit.

“I am excited to work with Rochelle Riley and look forward to advancing arts and culture projects that celebrate Detroit’s diversity and strengthen neighborhood identity,” said Maurice Cox, the City’s Director of Planning and Development.