In 2015 when I became the DIA director, I started to travel in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties to any public place that would give me a microphone and an audience to speak to. I believed (and I still do) that it was necessary for everyone to be aware not only of the great art treasures that we keep in public trust, but also the extraordinary focus that our team places on our visitors and their experiences in the museum. I met many individuals from our tri-counties whose lives were touched by their visits to the museum. Some reflected on the DIA as a second home, a place of solace and family learning. Others have become nationally recognized artists whose talent was energized by the masters of the past and present on view in their backyard museum --- one of the best in the world. Over time I have become friends with Mario Moore, one of those artists, whose love for Detroit and his backyard museum is a testimony to the positive influence institutions like the DIA provide that shape the character of people and make our community a better place to live. The following are his words:
“I have some great memories of growing up in Detroit. Some of my favorites have to do with walking around the halls and galleries of the Detroit Institute of Arts. I remember being amazed by the grand paintings and the scale of it all. Everything seemed so epic but also familiar. Part of it had to do with my mom taking me to the museum often and my dad working one of his first jobs there, which made the DIA feel like an extended home. It also had to do with me getting my artwork accepted into the Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition, which showcased student artwork inside of the DIA. I felt so proud to see that something I created as a kid was seen as important enough to hang on the walls of the great museum.
My work was not alone, it was positioned among many other talented Detroiters. -- although I thought at the time that what I made was among the best of the exhibition. From a very young age up to adulthood, I have spent time drawing in my sketchbooks in the galleries of the DIA. When I was around 13 or 14, I would go to the museum on Friday for drawing in the galleries. I remember a teacher from Southwest Detroit who would always bring in a group of students to draw on Friday nights. There was one kid who was around the same age as me and so talented that I looked forward to seeing what he would create. Whenever they came, I wanted to sit next to him and draw. Every time he drew something, I would ask myself how he did it. It became a little competitive challenge we would have—although I'm sure he didn't know it—but he won every time.
His talent had humbled me. I would often return to the museum during that time just to see if he was drawing. As we got older, I didn't see him as much but when I think of that time, I think of two boys from different parts of the city coming together to cultivate their practice. The museum was not just a place to go and look at what was on the walls, but it was a place to go to create something new and create memories. It was a place where a devoted teacher took his time on Friday nights to bring in students to experience history, art and a little competitiveness on my part. And it still is a place where I can go, draw and humble myself among the amazing collection at the museum”
Thanks, Mario for these memories. For you and for all our visitors, the DIA creates experiences that help each of us find personal meaning in art, individually and with each other. These experiences and memories are unique, priceless and cannot be bought with any currency. Supporting the DIA makes our region a great place to live, work and raise a family.