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Straight from The Source, a regular interview series taking you behind-the-scenes to Southeast Michigan’s cultural destinations to hear from the curators, programmers, leaders, doers and makers.

What are you best known for? 

In the museum world, in my professional world, I would think being a connector to the DIA between the community and the DIA, and then I would also say probably my involvement in our Inside|Out project.

Inside|Out has been a core of our community engagement work, and I think that that is kind of a hallmark of the way that we interact with the community.

What would you like to be known for? 

I think I would like to be known for the ability to help people find connections with the DIA—with both the people and the organization. Our mission is to help people find personal connections with art, and I think that that is something that I feel really passionate about, finding ways that community members can find their place or see themselves at the DIA, and really looking for those opportunities to help people make those connections. 

The Inside|Out program began as a small, local project, and now, thanks to the Knight Foundation, has been replicated in four cities throughout the U.S. What kind of impact does this have for the DIA? Kathryn Dimond, with her grandmother in the background of Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" murals.Kathryn Dimond, with her grandmother in the background of Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" murals.

The DIA has always been seen as the leader in our community, as being one of the most visitor-centered museums in the world, or the most in the country. What Inside|Out does is show our leadership in the way that we engage with our community, and across the board, the museum has various avenues of doing that, and this is just one example. So Inside|Out gets us into the community where people are and to connect people at their personal level, at their personal place, and that’s really important to us, to find that place that is comfortable to view art. It really takes our mission, the work that we do in the museum, out in the community, out on the streets. 

As the Vice President of Community Relations for one of the country’s most significant museums, how do you define “community”? 

I think community, in my mind, community is defined as anybody or organization that you’re hoping to connect with your program. Community could be a population of people you’re hoping to reach to bring to the museum. I think community shifts in terms of the context that you’re trying to connect them to. I like to have a very fluid definition of community versus a very rigid definition.

What does a vibrant arts and cultural community mean to you? 

I think a vibrants arts and culture community is one that is inclusive, that is looking at, or using arts to bring people together across geographies, across whatever differences there might be. I think a vibrant arts community is ever-changing, is dynamic, is exciting, is connected to the community, and helps people feel really connected in the community.

Do you believe that Metro Detroit fulfills those requirements, or is getting there?

I think that it’s getting there. What I find really interesting and fascinating and exciting at this point is that I think cities and townships and villages and communities are starting to see the power of the arts to transform their communities. I hear it around the region—for example, Sterling Heights is really looking at ways to use the arts to bring in younger people and to keep people in their communities and participate in community activities, and they’re really looking at the arts as a way to do that. Or the OneMacomb Arts and Cultural Commission is looking at art to build and bridge differences. So I think we’re getting there, I think there’s civic organizations that are starting to see the power of the arts and I do think that that’s very exciting.  

How do you perceive the role of the DIA changing as Detroit’s art scene evolves? 

I think our new director [Salvador Salort-Pons] has a really clear vision. I’d like to see the DIA be a leader in how we engage in the community. I think the role will be changing, and I think we’re going to continue to spread out beyond the walls of the museum. I think the millage enabled us to turn ourselves around and start looking outward, but I think we will actively be pursuing engagement out in the community in an even stronger way. 

Hopefully, through a new contemporary art curator, through some of the work the GM Center for African American Art is pursuing, programs like Inside|Out and DIA Away are going to take us beyond the walls of the museum. I only see it getting stronger and stronger, so it’s pretty exciting. 

What or where is your favorite “hidden gem” at the DIA?

Everytime I walk through the museum, I find something new. But one of my favorites is in the Egyptian gallery. It’s called the Seated Scribe, and it’s a tiny little sculpture of a seated scribe that is just beautiful and ancient and makes you really consider the people that created that work of art and why they created and I like to go there and just be inspired by it.

What local cultural destination have you visited recently (besides your own)? 

I went to the DSO not long ago to see a piano concerto. And we do lots of things at the DIA!

When you have visitors in from out of town, what is the one cultural destination you make sure they see during their visit? 

"We have got such a wealth of cultural opportunities here."

If we’re thinking about Detroit in particular, we go to the RiverWalk. Of course, I always have them come down to the DIA for Friday Night Live, we always go to Belle Isle and take a drive around Belle Isle, and if we can and the weather’s good, we take a stop and walk around and take pictures. If it’s rainy, we go The Henry Ford, that’s a great spot. It depends. One of the cool things about Detroit is we have got such a wealth of cultural opportunities here. I tend towards the visual arts rather than the performing arts, but we just have a ton of resources here so it’s an easy thing to pick from. 

Who, to you, epitomizes arts and culture in Michigan? 

I think that there’s so many different arts and cultural organizations that do tremendously good work at the grassroots level. I think, obviously, the big guys who are known, but I think that there’s a lot of great organizations like the Anton Art Center that does great work. I hate to point out one or the other because I don’t want to take favorites, but I think that a lot of grassroots arts organizations like the cultural commissions, like the Dearborn Arts Commission. There are a lot of organizations who are looking at again, how this idea of community can be infused into the arts, and there’s a lot of community-based art that’s happening. 

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