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Letter from the Director, IDEA in Focus: ART Talks

Updated Sep 6, 2022

From the Director

I have been working at the DIA for 14 years, first as curator and later as Director. It has been an honor and a privilege to collaborate with such an amazing talented staff as well as being part of very interesting projects. Looking back, I feel very lucky for the opportunity to be a member of this phenomenal DIA Team. I also remember the first task I undertook when I started: help reorganize the European painting storage. With the Collections Management team, we worked together for several months redistributing the painting collection in the storage racks and screens to provide better access and preservation. The team did a great job but more importantly, working around art for many hours in the DIA’s basement we discussed some of the paintings, got inspired by looking at them and had a fun time, bringing the group together in a special way.

The power of art is remarkable and because we have such a great collection, the DIA’s team has put together a program to harness that power and bring our colleagues together. As part of ongoing efforts to build our workplace culture, we are leaning into the DIA's mission to create experiences to help our team members find personal meaning in art individually and with each other with the IDEA in Focus: ART Talks series. 

Ellen's Isle, Loch Katrine, 1871 by Robert S. Duncanson

Ellen's Isle, Loch Katrine, 1871 by Robert S. Duncanson

Informed by the IDEA Steering Committee, a cross-divisional advisory group, ART Talks give team members a chance to connect and learn more about the DIA’s collection. Through a 45-minute facilitated discussion, two artworks are presented and discussed using a critical thinking approach centered around four key themes: choices, messages, voices, and power. Attendees respond to thought-provoking questions such as - What options did the artist make? What messages could be in the piece? Whose voices/perspectives could be present in this work of art? What types of power do you see in this artwork? - before gaining first-hand insight from a curatorial staff member who offers insight into the artists and historical context of the piece.

"Happy World – Scattered Crumbs," 2011–2014 by Ik-Joong Kang

Happy World – Scattered Crumbs, 2011–2014 by Ik-Joong Kang

Launched in February, each ART Talks session is held in recognition of a national heritage month to spark interest for team members and highlight the diversity of the DIA collection.  For example, Ellen's Isle, Loch Katrine, 1871 by Robert S. Duncanson, was highlighted during Black History Month and Happy World – Scattered Crumbs, 2011–2014 by Ik-Joong Kang was featured in May during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Participant feedback indicates Art Talks sessions are a refreshing break, a reminder of the unique views our team members bring to the workplace and how they emerge thanks to the power of art: 

  • "It was an enlightening and affirming conversation." 
  • "Such a great opportunity to look at art together."
  • "I was able to bring my friends in and share what I know about our Collection after attending  ART Talks!"  
  • "I love it! This is an amazing way to get to know the museum more intimately." 

Art Talks attendees view Revised Endpapers for The Homosexual Neurosis (blue), 2013 by Hernan Bas in recognition of LGBTQ+ PRIDE Month.

Art Talks attendees view Revised Endpapers for The Homosexual Neurosis (blue), 2013 by Hernan Bas in recognition of LGBTQ+ PRIDE Month.

These statements represent the enthusiasm we hope every team member and visitor experiences when engaging with an artwork in the museum or an Inside|Out program installation in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County. I am grateful to the entire members of our IDEA Steering Committee, curatorial participants, and our Director, IDEA for bringing this series to life. 

Next time you're in the museum, try this critical thinking approach. While simple, the dialogue may help us all find meaning in art, individually and with each other. Art is for everybody and brings people together wherever you are.

(Carla Tinsley-Smith, DIA’s IDEA Director, contributed to this newsletter)

Salvador Salort Pons in a blue suit and tie, stands with his hands folded in front of himself in front of the front steps of the Detroit Institute of Arts

I have been working at the DIA for 14 years, first as curator and later as Director. It has been an honor and a privilege to collaborate with such an amazing talented staff as well as being part of very interesting projects. Looking back, I feel very lucky for the opportunity to be a member of this phenomenal DIA Team. I also remember the first task I undertook when I started: help reorganize the European painting storage. With the Collections Management team, we worked together for several months redistributing the painting collection in the storage racks and screens to provide better access and preservation. The team did a great job but more importantly, working around art for many hours in the DIA’s basement we discussed some of the paintings, got inspired by looking at them and had a fun time, bringing the group together in a special way.

The power of art is remarkable and because we have such a great collection, the DIA’s team has put together a program to harness that power and bring our colleagues together. As part of ongoing efforts to build our workplace culture, we are leaning into the DIA's mission to create experiences to help our team members find personal meaning in art individually and with each other with the IDEA in Focus: ART Talks series. 

Ellen's Isle, Loch Katrine, 1871 by Robert S. Duncanson

Ellen's Isle, Loch Katrine, 1871 by Robert S. Duncanson

Informed by the IDEA Steering Committee, a cross-divisional advisory group, ART Talks give team members a chance to connect and learn more about the DIA’s collection. Through a 45-minute facilitated discussion, two artworks are presented and discussed using a critical thinking approach centered around four key themes: choices, messages, voices, and power. Attendees respond to thought-provoking questions such as - What options did the artist make? What messages could be in the piece? Whose voices/perspectives could be present in this work of art? What types of power do you see in this artwork? - before gaining first-hand insight from a curatorial staff member who offers insight into the artists and historical context of the piece.

"Happy World – Scattered Crumbs," 2011–2014 by Ik-Joong Kang

Happy World – Scattered Crumbs, 2011–2014 by Ik-Joong Kang

Launched in February, each ART Talks session is held in recognition of a national heritage month to spark interest for team members and highlight the diversity of the DIA collection.  For example, Ellen's Isle, Loch Katrine, 1871 by Robert S. Duncanson, was highlighted during Black History Month and Happy World – Scattered Crumbs, 2011–2014 by Ik-Joong Kang was featured in May during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Participant feedback indicates Art Talks sessions are a refreshing break, a reminder of the unique views our team members bring to the workplace and how they emerge thanks to the power of art: 

  • "It was an enlightening and affirming conversation." 
  • "Such a great opportunity to look at art together."
  • "I was able to bring my friends in and share what I know about our Collection after attending  ART Talks!"  
  • "I love it! This is an amazing way to get to know the museum more intimately." 

Art Talks attendees view Revised Endpapers for The Homosexual Neurosis (blue), 2013 by Hernan Bas in recognition of LGBTQ+ PRIDE Month.

Art Talks attendees view Revised Endpapers for The Homosexual Neurosis (blue), 2013 by Hernan Bas in recognition of LGBTQ+ PRIDE Month.

These statements represent the enthusiasm we hope every team member and visitor experiences when engaging with an artwork in the museum or an Inside|Out program installation in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County. I am grateful to the entire members of our IDEA Steering Committee, curatorial participants, and our Director, IDEA for bringing this series to life. 

Next time you're in the museum, try this critical thinking approach. While simple, the dialogue may help us all find meaning in art, individually and with each other. Art is for everybody and brings people together wherever you are.

(Carla Tinsley-Smith, DIA’s IDEA Director, contributed to this newsletter)