Last Friday at 8:45 a.m. I arrived at the business entrance lobby of the DIA on Kirby Street. There, two of my colleagues, Maria Ketcham, Director of the Research Library, and Jamal Stallings, IT technician, were waiting for the elevator to come down. Officer Deagrea Charles was at her post, and like every morning we exchanged our friendly “good mornings.” The elevator opened its doors and Maria, Jamal, and I took it upstairs and talked about the work of the museum’s digital initiative. Although we were all wearing our facemasks, for one moment, I had the feeling of some normalcy. The situation I just described above — employees getting ready to start the day, “good mornings,” and chatting during an elevator ride — would not be worth mentioning a couple of years ago. I haven’t had that “routine experience” for almost two years. And today I see it as a sign of hope as the DIA recovers its pulse and starts to gradually head back to some normal operations.
Apart from my moment of routine, this October we are very excited. The DIA is finally welcoming back students from our region for in-person field trips, led by their classroom teachers. As a benefit to our tri-county residents, we will continue providing free bus transportation and our online teaching resources. In the meantime, schools that are not ready for an in-person field trip can instead visit the DIA through a virtual field trip, a program developed during the pandemic to ensure students have access to the history and culture found in the DIA’s collection. We are proud to say that more than more than 17,000 students have taken a virtual field trip to the DIA. All things considered, this is an example of how the pandemic made our museum a better one: We added digital options to our operations for everyone’s benefit, and in the upcoming months our schools can visit the museum both in-person and online.
I am looking forward to seeing our students back in the building. They transform the museum and bring it alive as we provide them with world-class art education experiences. This month we will also return to pre-COVID hours of operation, which means that we will be open on Tuesdays and will close at 9 p.m. on Fridays. Furthermore, we are thrilled to announce that the Detroit Film Theatre, after a 19-month shutdown, will reopen on October 15 with limited capacity. We will start our season with a great documentary on music and art: The Velvet Underground!
Our Detroit Style exhibition continues to be a favorite of our visitors, we just opened our annual Ofrendas show which is especially beautiful this year, and on October 8, our De Salle gallery will celebrate a vital figure of the second Harlem Renaissance with the show: Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite. I hope this diverse array of possibilities, Black Is Beautiful, Ofrendas, Car Design, and The Velvet Underground, will pique your interest so you will come and join us for some “routine experiences” at the DIA. I know the students will. In the meantime, we will continue working to bring to you some of the best art in the world.
Images: Kwame Brathwaite, Carolee Prince wearing her own jewelry designs. African Jazz-Art Society & Studios (AJASS), Harlem, ca. 1964; from Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful (Aperture, 2019) | "Pioneer Women Who Changed the World," Dinak Padrés, Marlene del Ángel, Paulina Rodríguez, Erika González, Cecilia Bolton Delgado, Siret Álvarez, Patricia Pineda, and Silvia Quezada, Troy, Michigan