I could not start this monthly letter without expressing how terribly saddened I am by the events Detroit and the nation have seen during the last week. At the DIA, we stand in solidarity with the people of Detroit and those around the world appealing for an end to racism, inequality, brutality and fear. The Detroit Institute of Arts commits to serving as a place of inclusion, diversity and equity for everyone in our community and beyond. We believe in the restorative power of art, and look forward to reopening our galleries for communal healing and enrichment.
It is already 13 weeks that the DIA staff has been working from home, except those crucial team members who have been in the building making sure the collection and the facility are safe and are keeping our essential operations moving forward. They include members of the security, collections management, environmental services, engineers, human resources, and accounting teams, and deserve applause and recognition from all of us.
To keep fulfilling our mission, the staff has pivoted from providing our nationally renowned in-person experience to a virtual one. This has been a significant change and not an easy adjustment for everyone, since the museum has always focused on community engagement to meet our student, senior, and community partnership goals of our tri-county service agreements. We have always prioritized bringing our audiences into the building and have not developed our digital assets and online platforms to the same extent. Despite this, we have adjusted and the team has been doing a good job with the tools that we have at hand.
I hope you are receiving our email “At Home with the DIA” each week, visiting our website, and following us on social media. We are providing virtual experiences for students, for seniors, for families, for children and a month ago we premiered our first Thursday at the Museum, live. One of our videos received national attention last week and was published in ArtDaily. Locally, I know our community is enjoying everything that we are doing digitally, as we have received many notes of support and gratitude. One was especially touching and came from a social worker at a residential treatment facility for homeless men in recovery from substance use disorder. For their art therapy session, the social worker shared the video we created on how to make a kite with materials at home and the group made the kites and flew them outside. In the thank you note we received she described the impact of this activity on the group as “sparks of inner children emerging as they played with the wind and their art. Thank you Detroit Institute of Arts for continuously posting things to do at home while your doors have been closed. We appreciate you.”
Over the next months we will be focusing more and more on the digital work, which is an area on which we can improve as we continue to raise the national and international profile of the DIA. With regard to our national presence, one can look to the great work that the Detroit Film Theatre has been doing over the past months. According to Elliot Wilhelm, our curator of film programs, the DFT ticket sales have been in the top 20% of theaters streaming the same films nationally, and there are now well over 100 venues, both theaters and non-profit institutions like ours, presenting many of the same movies.
Please keep engaging with us and letting us know what we can do better. We love your feedback, are grateful for your support, and want to serve you at the highest level. In the meantime, I hope to see you in the museum soon and stay safe and healthy.