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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?

Passion and energy. Great passion and sometimes too much energy. 

What would you like to be known for?

Being part of the team that takes the incredible, unique, amazing assets and opportunities of Detroit Public Television and activating them and lighting them all up. We’re the one and only public television station in Southeast Michigan. We’re owned by the people of Metro Detroit. We have this wonderful, incredible, unique role and obligation for our town to live up to all the potential that that delivers.

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

We live in literally the most important city in the country, and you could say, ‘if you disagree, call Rich, he’ll convince you of that fact.’ There is no city in the country more important right now than Detroit, and a big part of Detroit, what makes Detroit so unique, are the artistic assets of Detroit. Around traditional nonprofit arts and culture and emerging voices, Detroit has a unique and important voice for the whole country that it displays very well. 

If you’re from Detroit, it’s a very specific place to be from. Detroit has a specific, defining arts culture, and it’s also vibrant. Detroit has a certain commanding voice that says you need to understand us, and that’s powerful. If you look at [The Secret Society of] Twisted Storytellers, or where Aaron Dworkin has gone, or the DSO—what other symphony would say they are the most accessible in the world? That’s such an interesting mindset. A big part of that voice is the arts and culture community writ large.

RichRich Homberg, photo courtesy of Detroit Public Television What is the role of public television in today’s landscape?

We talk about how we amplify important voices in Detroit, along with the belief that we live in the most important city in the country. We have an initiative, “One Detroit. Four million people. One story,” which helps us understand the past, present and future of Detroit. 

The city has an amazing but complex history, and not all of it is perfect. If you want to understand America, understand Detroit. Understand our history. If you look at the future of cities, look at Detroit, the problems we’ve solved, the future we’re going in. Detroit’s like a lot of other cities in the country, only more so. The wins, losses and challenges all seem more amplified here. At the same time, what makes me optimistic is we’re getting our arms around our future. 

How does DPTV use television, radio and other mediums to connect with the community? 

The biggest change in public television and public radio and no less so in Detroit is moving from the fact that we were a system of shows—iconic shows like Frontline and American Experience. Today, we’re a system that’s taking those shows and really turning them into initiatives and ongoing conversations and ongoing dialogues with communities.

Stephen Henderson’s American Black Journal—that show is moving from being a television show to being an ongoing conversation. We’ve installed a bureau inside the Detroit Historical Museum.

I grew up as a “broadcaster” where we sent you programs and you watched. Today, we create conversations and understand issues, and one of the outcomes is shows that we expect to turn into a dialogue. We hope that’s becoming more apparent every day. 

"We’re proud to tell you that DPTV has the most diverse audience of any public station in the country. That’s a fact." 

We’re proud to tell you that DPTV has the most diverse audience of any public station in the country. That’s a fact. 

What are some of the partnerships that Detroit Public Television holds that you are most proud of? 

One is the DSO. We work with them on their webcasts—we've partnered on over 150 concerts. More people have seen a concert off of that platform than any symphony in the world. That’s led to relationships with the Birmingham Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Philharmonic and related groups around Southeast Michigan. 

We also produce a weekly show called Detroit Performs that’s evolved into a concert that will be held for the second year on October 14th called Detroit Performs Live. It will be a combination of people you know, and people you don’t, including Thornetta Davis, Laith Al-Saadi and Devin Scillian. 

What local cultural destination have you visited recently?

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum to talk about a partnership, the DSO, one of our ongoing partners, and Michigan Opera Theatre to talk about David DiChiera.  

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

The Henry Ford is always easy fun and wonderful. It immerses you immediately in Detroit. It’s such a joy to go to. My favorite night of the year is whichever day we go to the Fourth of July fireworks at Greenfield Village for the DSO celebration. We’ve probably gone 17 out of the past 20 years. 

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

George N’Namdi is a quintessential Detroit individual with a point of view and a vision and voice that needs to be heard that you’ll appreciate. I like the fact that he wants to make it easy to understand his world.

Salvador Salort-Pons is going to be a unique new change agent and critical and important voice at the DIA. Instantly, he is turning up the volume, and he has a new energy and new vision. The DIA has always done well, but instantly, he impresses me.

And Anne Parsons, because of the courage and persistence she had to bring together the massive effort that is the symphony. The audaciousness and ambition to be the world’s most accessible orchestra is remarkable. And three or four years after going through financial difficulties, we can learn a lot from all that they’ve gone through, and all that they’ve done. They only seem more invested.

What are the biggest changes you have witnessed in Metro Detroit’s cultural landscape over the decades? 

Diversity, diversity, diversity. That has turned from diversity to inclusion to respect to real partnership. You have to involve the entire community today, and the community expects to be involved, which is right. If you look at successful organizations, it’s become a critical, everyday issue to them. It’s part of their DNA. As we say, “Four million people. One story. One community.” 

What excites you most about the future of Southeast Michigan’s arts and culture scene? 

New voices challenging us all to be more effective. While the grownups in the room can be frustrated when someone challenges their plan (including me), it’s amazing to see what the next generation types and newcomers, the voices that have been reawakened, and various new entrants—it’s amazing to see the energy they’re bringing to the city. It’s an amazing time to be in Detroit.

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