Today’s guest blogger is Elysia Borowy-Reeder, Michigan State University Alumna and Executive Director for Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). As Executive Director of MOCAD, Borowy-Reeder plays an essential role in establishing the vision, goals, and strategic plans for the organization. Fulfilling MOCAD’s mission through close collaboration with key stakeholders, Borowy-Reeder tirelessly works to sustain the museum and to secure its permanent future in Detroit for generations to come.
Radically Yours in Detroit
My talk for Michigan State University’s College of Arts & Letters “Arts Weekend” will focus on the innovative arts scene developing in Detroit and how MOCAD has played a significant role in the development of Detroit as a highly regarded art city. This is a special and unique time for MOCAD, it is about to celebrate its ten-year anniversary. We have also adapted a new strategic plan that makes us more finically solid and more radical in our programming efforts. MOCAD wants to lead the culture and support cutting-edge work happening in Detroit and beyond. MOCAD has been called the most progressive museum in the United States.
The arts scene in Detroit has hit a turning point. For decades, the city seemed stuck with the label of being a post-industrial cultural wasteland, hit hard by years of economic stasis. But in recent years, Detroit seems to have achieved a certain type of notoriety and interest within the art world.
Marred by decades of social immobility, Detroit has massive hurdles to confront. Despite its reputation, Detroit was not a cultural wasteland. From my perspective, I consider the city’s worst impacted years to be a fertile ground for developing entire artistic movements, from the ” Cass Corridor art movement” to the birth of techno music to DIY artistic interventions to social practice projects. But despite its legacy of creativity and innovation, Detroit has struggled to get attention from the art world and the finally with the help of many foundations the focus in on Detroit. I cannot say enough about the amazing work being done in Detroit. Detroit is leader of social practice themed works. This is new way of looking and making work that does much of the needed heavy lifting in community building in Detroit.
The New York Times has repeatedly headlined the story of Detroit as a haven for artists due to its cheap space, thus providing artists with low overhead and creating the real possibility of making work rather than working. This has caused Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Galapagos Art Space to move to Detroit and invest in 12 buildings.
Another turning point occurred in 2010, when Michigan based musician and writer, Patti Smith famously declared that New York City had “closed itself off” to the young and the struggling and suggested artists find a new city — like Detroit. At the SAIC graduation she lauded don’t move to New York, move to Detroit. This statement helped in the establishment of Detroit as an art city for a new generation.
Most recently, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Detroit as a “city of design” as part of its Creative Cities Network, an initiative of 69 cities “to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.” Detroit was the first U.S. city to obtain such a designation, joining sister cities Budapest and Singapore.
Another example of Detroit putting art into public domain is in 2015 where homegrown art enthusiasts and makers 1xRUN staged the first-ever Murals in the Market festival, which brought dozens of local, national, and international street artists to bring art to public view in Detroit’s Eastern Market district by creating more than 45 murals. In addition to this collective focus on murals, MOCAD did its first crowd fundraising project, which allowed artist Andrew Kuo to create a new façade for our Museum.
These are just a few examples of how Detroit is an amazing art city. And much of its future is unwritten and unformed, for those who are pioneers the future looks bright. I look forward to sharing more with you at Arts Weekend.
Join us for Radically Yours in Detroit on Saturday, June 25th as a feature of the 22nd annual Arts Weekend presented by the Michigan State University College of Arts & Letters.
More about Elysia Borowy-Reeder:
Borowy-Reeder joined MOCAD as Executive Director in April of 2013. She is former Founding Director of CAM Raleigh and served in leadership positions at MCA Chicago, Milwaukee Art Museum, and School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Having curated over 40 exhibitions — most recently Rob Pruitt’s Obama Paintings and Jose Lerma’s La Bella Crisis exhibitions for MOCAD — Borowy-Reeder will curate the largest exhibition of Sanford Biggers’ career in fall 2016. Elysia Borowy-Reeder holds two master degrees from MSU, was named a 2008 Getty Museum Leadership Fellow, and attended Yale School of Management and Antioch College.