DLECTRICITY Site #2: The Detroit Public Library Main Branch and its Woodward Lawn

When the construction of architect Cass Gilbert’s design for the Detroit Public Library Main Branch was completed in 1921, it was considered the most beautiful building in the city. As it remained one of the most marvelous places in Detroit, its surrounding area evolved into the cultural center that it is today. The DPL Main Branch, situated on Woodward Avenue, is an anchor to the cultural district as well as so much more. With 23 branches woven throughout the city—including the DPL Mobile Library—the Detroit Public Library system brings to each neighborhood a place to learn, engage, create and grow. Like all libraries, the DPL embodies democracy and the best of community.

The Main Branch, snugged between the Detroit Institute of Arts and Wayne State University, is many things. In addition to being a site for art at DLECTRICITY, it is home of the Burton Historical Collection; a provider of Book Club kits; a classroom for courses on how to use Excel or build a website; sometimes it’s a yoga studio, and often it’s a community meeting site. To parallel the vitality of the DPL main branch, DLECTRICITY has in the past invited artists to work with its façade to create jaw-dropping light installations. Groups such as Klip Collective, Mindfield and NewD Media have before used technology to bring the library’s solid walls to life. But never before have artists activated the greenspace that flanks the entrance along Woodward avenue.

The library’s lawn is populated with trees of different sizes, stretches of grass and some sidewalk as well! It offers many ways to engage its elements and create a unique landscape, whether it be light orbs hanging from branches or an interactive sculpture in the open. How this otherwise untouched terrain will be converted into a luminous nighttime wonderland is something we eagerly look forward to. Our open call presents the opportunity to find creative and feasible projects that will illuminate this site. We can’t wait to see what they will be!

View from Woodward
Klip Collective on the facade of the Detroit Public Library Main Branch
Mindfield on the facade of the Detroit Public Library Main Branch

DLECTRICITY Site #1: Legends Plaza at the Detroit Historical Museum

One of our most favorite locations for showcasing large-scale projections is Legends Plaza at the Detroit Historical Museum, but the best part about collaborating with artists on DLECTRCITY is witnessing the unexpected ways they illuminate a space like this!

The Detroit Historical Museum is the city’s premier destination for time traveling. You can walk the winding streets of Old Detroit, follow the Underground Railroad or make your way through an automotive factory—these are just few of the many things that the museum has to offer! Their permanent and temporary exhibitions never neglect to give visitors valuable take-aways: insight into Detroit milestones and hardships, and a deeper appreciation for where our city stands today.

The Detroit Historical Museum is operated by the Detroit Historical Society, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Detroit history and artifacts, founded in 1921. It also oversees the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle State Park. The Detroit Historical Museum was founded in 1928. It was then a small museum, occupying only a suite on the 23rd floor of what is now the Cadillac Tower in Downtown Detroit. Today, the museum is located in the cultural center of the city.

On the corner of Woodward Avenue and Kirby Street is Legends Plaza, a public memorial site dedicated to the cultural groundbreakers that hail from Detroit. Handprints of legends like Juan Atkins and Barry Sanders trim the perimeter of the plaza, making for an inspiring welcome to the Detroit Historical Museum and the perfect entryway to DLECTRICITY. The museum’s light-colored walls have previously allowed artists to transform the site into a theater, and the open space is large enough for a performance of any kind. In the past, DLECTRICITY has showcased artists such as Pope.L and Sue De Beer in the plaza, and we can’t wait to see who and what will be reimagining the exterior of the museum this coming September! Huge thanks to the Detroit Historical Society for providing another great site for art!

Installation shot of Sue De Beer’s film, The Legendary Leland City Club, presented at DLECTRICITY in 2014.
View of the Detroit Historical Museum and Legends Plaza on the corner of Woodward and Kirby.


DLECTRICITY is back on for September 2020 and we need your ideas! From lasers and 3D mapping to dance performances and large-scale video projections, we want to see how you’d illuminate the city landscape. Our Open Call for Entries is now live for DLECTRICITY 2020!

Check out our OPEN CALL GUIDELINES and FAQ for complete information about the event and application process. Apply via Slideroom here.

More questions? Ask us in person at our info-session at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) on Saturday, February 8, 11am. A live-stream will also take place on the DLECTRICITY Facebook page.

Deadline is March 3, 2020. Don’t miss it! APPLY NOW!