Building connections through Art Talks

Updated Apr 4, 2023

From the Director
Salvador Salort Pons smiles in the DIA's Rivera Court

At the beginning of March, my wife Alex and I attended the 2023 inaugural CCS Woodward Lecture Series featuring Detroit artist Mario Moore. It was a wonderful gathering of Detroiters, where Mario shared some aspects of his artistic practice, his current projects, and his life. Some DIA team members were in the audience as well, and we loved hearing Mario’s insights about his painting The Council, which was purchased by the DIA in 2022 and is now on view in the galleries.

The day after the lecture, I did my weekly museum walk-through with my colleague Carla Tinsley-Smith, the DIA’s Director of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA). During these walks, we connect with DIA teams in different areas of the organization, especially with the frontline staff. As we entered the gallery where The Council is installed, Carla and I saw a group of staffers engaging with the work, talking about it, and enjoying it in a way that lifted our hearts. We were welcomed by the group and continued talking about the painting and how great it looks in its new space. It was inspiring, and Carla and I discussed the possibility of expanding that moment into a museum-wide engagement experience. Could we invite Mario to talk to the staff about The Council in the gallery? After some text messages and emails, he generously agreed to come in. Carla framed this visit within the Talent and Culture Department’s IDEA in focus: Art Talks, a program designed to increase team members’ knowledge of the DIA’s collection, enhance connections across the organization, and build a sense of belonging.

On March 29, after public hours, more than 60 staff met with Mario in front of The Council for an intimate and informative discussion. We heard about the technical and mindful choices he made, offering insight into the power dynamics and messages the work presents. Mario revealed the identities of the figures in the composition, the fascinating iconographical meaning of some of the elements, and how the work connected with the museum’s history and the reality we live in today. It was an energizing hour that helped us engage more personally with the artist and each other. I know Mario enjoyed it as well.

On April 22, we will be opening our 86th annual Detroit Public School Community District (DPSCD) Student Exhibition. As it happens, Mario is a former DPSCD student, and showed his art in this same show for the first time in 2002. Now he is a nationally and internationally recognized artist, and we are proud to say that two of his paintings are in our permanent collection.

These important interactionsfrom staff to visitors, from artists to students—are daily examples of the DIA’s strong connection to our home city, and are part of why the DIA was named the best museum in the US in 2023. We look forward to celebrating the opening of the DPSCD exhibition at the end of this month, and to continuing to help these young artists make history.