The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
By Kathryn Dimond, DIA director of community relations
It’s that time of year again. All of the Inside|Out reproductions have been taken down and carefully packed away for the winter. This year marked an increase in community involvement, partly because having the experience of two years doing the program, both the DIA and communities have utilized what has worked in the past and developed new ideas that have garnered even more community engagement.
One of the DIA’s goals for Inside|Out has been to engage communities with the museum’s collection in places they feel comfortable, such as parks, recreation centers, businesses and civic buildings. We aspired to utilize the installations to foster a sense of pride in the community and in the collection, encouraging residents to learn more about the works in the DIA’s holdings. Inside|Out also gave us a chance to extend our outreach initiatives beyond the walls of the museum directly into the community, offering tours, talks, art-making, and more.
This year activities were extensive and varied. The spring season offered an opportunity to engage with school groups. We sent information packets to art teachers to encourage them to take learning outside of the classroom, and in September, more than 50 students from St. Mary Catholic School in Royal Oak took a docent-led tour of the reproductions in their city. The city of Royal Oak also hosted a series of flashlight tours led by a DIA volunteer, which enabled more than 100 individuals to make personal connections with art—at night!
Another big hit was the Detroit Inside|Out Bike Tour. More than 100 cyclists took part in the pedal-powered tour of the Detroit installations. During the same event, members of the Inside Out Literary Arts Project—a local literary arts group—used the opportunity to create a poetic response to one of the reproductions, sharing it with the touring cyclists.
One of the most impactful aspects of Inside|Out is how the reproductions enable community members to see their surroundings in a different way. When we place an object on a long-forgotten building, people stop to say, “I’ve forgotten how beautiful that building is!” The installations have also prompted communities to spruce up storefronts and highlight neighborhood pocket parks. Local arts commissions have linked Inside|Out with tours to promote outdoor art in their communities. Inside|Out has even inspired some communities to launch their own version of the program.
The DIA’s mission to create experiences that enable people to make personal connections with art has been taken to a new level by our community partners. For example, in Bloomfield Township, the library set up reading lists based on the reproductions on site. DIA staff worked with the Arts Center in Mt. Clemens to build programs around the summer solstice that included Full Moon walking tours, Yoga on the Summer Solstice, and other talks based on the movements of the sun and moon.
Regional interest in the program continues, with communities using the opportunity to visit other cities in the area that are hosting Inside|Out. Bloomfield Township seniors participated in a bus ride to Clarkston, had a tour of the Inside|Out installation and ate lunch before returning home. The success of Inside|Out is evident in the numbers of cities that continue to seek involvement, as well as other museums that are replicating this idea around the country.
As a result of the Inside|Out activities and responses this year, our long-term vision of the program has changed. Inside|Out has now become an important piece of our overall community relations and engagement strategy. More importantly, we aim for residents in those communities to see the DIA as a place they can participate in. We see the opportunity to further extend Inside|Out to more communities as a means to extend the invitation to become “a part of the art.”