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Isabel Max
Dr. Fowler
Honors 1000
7 November 2016
Where are We Going?
The Detroit Institute of Arts has been a cultural center in the city of Detroit for over a
century. This museum brings the city together by creating interesting and interactive exhibits and
putting on special events. The art museum and the city have a special relationship of mutual
benefit that is so strong it seems as if nothing can break it. The Detroit Institute of Arts
encapsulates the history of Detroit through its evolution and continued support from city
residents and has evolved into one of the citys most respected and loved monuments that truly
brings Detroit together.
When entering the Detroit Institute of Arts from Woodward Avenue, the building looks
beautiful and classic and it is clear to see that the building is still very well maintained even from
the outside. The picture included in this paper was taken of the main entrance hall off of
Woodward and shows a fairly new addition to the museum. It is a sea goddess named Thalassa
designed by a street artist from New York (Thalassa). This project also involves a new mural
being painted in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood and the official museum website posted
that this project is meant to connect the museum with the community and stated The DIA
belongs to everyone in the region, and this project creates new opportunities for those
connections (Thalassa). This shows how important the connection between the museum and
the community is and how they are trying to engage residents to take part in this cultural

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experience. The museum also has many events throughout the year such as cultural concerts,
special exhibitions, and events like Detroit After Dark.
The Detroit Institute of Art was founded in 1885 and was originally located on Jefferson
and called the Detroit Museum of Art (Austin, Detroit Museum of Art). Before this, the
citizens of Detroit viewed art at touring exhibitions, so when talk of a permanent museum in the
city spread, many citizens donated to make this vision a reality (Austin, Detroit Museum of
Art). Donations are something that has not changed about the museum. It took the donations of
Detroit citizens to create the museum, and throughout its history it has received much support
from prominent Detroit figures along with everyday citizens. In 1920 the museum was renamed
Detroit Institute of Arts, was turned into a city department that relied on the funds from the
city, and in 1927 was moved to Woodward and has stayed there ever since (Austin, Detroit
Museum of Art).
Under a new director, Valentiner, and with help from prominent Detroit figures such as
Edsel Ford, the Detroit Institute of Arts was transformed from a respectable Midwestern art
museum into one of this countrys finest collections (A Brief History pg. 2). Each gallery in
the museum not only displays artwork from a specific period or region of the world, but also the
gallery space itself is designed to mimic the styles from the specific time period or region it is
showcasing. The next few decades saw the museum gaining prestige, but also saw major
setbacks in the form of economic crises and budget cuts. This led the Founders Society of the
museum to ultimately decide to assume ownership of the DIA because the city government was
unable to provide enough (A Brief History pg. 4). Throughout the museums history the
common goal of the various museum directors has been to engage the public and turn the city of
Detroit into a cultural center for tourism.

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This historic Detroit site is still maintained today, and faithful patrons continue to support
it through donations or simply by visiting. When the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013,
there was worry that the Detroit Institute of Arts would have to either close or start selling the
artwork. The people of Detroit have taken it into our own hands to preserve the museum by
voting to increase their taxes to raise money to keep the Detroit Institute of Arts up and running
(Cohen, Suburban Taxpayers Vote to Support Detroit Museum). This is a perfect example of
how this specific site represents the city of Detroit because the people of this city do whatever it
takes to keep it alive. The Detroit Institute of Arts is currently asking people who were residents
of Detroit during the riots of 1967 to send in pictures and videos that they have kept from this
time in order to create an exhibit about this important period of Detroits history. The purpose of
this is to use movies to reflect on the events of that summer and spur thoughts on how the
region can continue moving forward (Byrne, DIA, Free Press seek) Projects like this show
the Detroit Institute of Arts working together with the city to showcase Detroits history.
The DIA is one of the citys most beloved and appreciated sites and represents the city
through its history and support both from and to the citizens of Detroit. There are surely many
that never visit, but the important thing is that the opportunity to visit and see special events is
always there. The Detroit Institute of Arts has thrived through a mutual bond with the city of
Detroit. Its history is connected with notable Detroiters, and to this day it is up and running
because of the love the people of Detroit have for it. It does not represent Detroit through the art
it displays because those are mostly from different regions of the world, but it does represent
Detroit because it has relied on the citizens for support and Detroiters are very proud to donate
and keep it alive. The DIA brings the people of Metro Detroit together and the city will always
support it.

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Works Cited
1. Austin, Dan. "Detroit Museum of Art." Historic Detroit. Historic Detroit, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

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2. "A Brief History of the Detroit Institute of Arts." Phillips Oppenheim. DIA Addendum, 2015. Web.
27 Oct. 2016. <http://www.phillipsoppenheim.com/pdf/DIA-Addendum%20-%20A-BriefHistory-of-the-Detroit-Institute-of-Arts.pdf>.
3. Byrne, Steve. "DIA, Free Press Seek Your Home Movies for '1967 Detroit' Project." Detroit Free
Press. N.p., 29 Oct. 2016. Web. 1 Nov. 2016.
4. Cohen, Patricia. "Suburban Taxpayers Vote to Support Detroit Museum." The New York Times. The
New York Times Company, 08 Aug. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2016.
5. "Thalassa Events & Exhibitions at The Detroit Institute of Arts." Thalassa Events &
Exhibitions at The Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit Institute of Arts, 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 27 Oct.