DLECTRICITY Site #10: The Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is known to be one of the most culturally significant institutions in the Midwest. With over 65,000 works of art in its collection, the DIA is home to notable masterpieces such as Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry frescoes, and houses Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait—the first artwork by van Gogh to enter a U.S. collection. The DIA is also a strong community partner to all of the Metro Detroit area. In addition to supporting local contemporary artists, the museum has made it a priority to build an art collection that reflects the diversity of metro Detroit and has also embarked on educational endeavors that encourage visitors to engage with artworks, history and each other.

The DIA’s lawn is spacious and offers the perfect spot for DLECTRICITY to host “Electric Park”—a family and kid-friendly site for interactive installations on the North-West lawn. This DLECTRICITY feature is one of our most eventful, and the open green space, winding path and plethora of trees is very welcoming to fun projects. Among these, Arts & Scraps hosted a workshop that allowed DLECTRICITY visitors to explore how white light is made up of primary colors.

Across from Electric Park, on the South-West lawn of the museum, is the same topography to accommodate bold and experimental works. The museum’s building provides smooth, flat and light-colored surfaces at different parts for video projections and dazzling light shows. The perimeter of the building offers other wall surfaces and more. The back staircase was transformed into a theater by Apetechnology in 2017.

The museum sits as one of the first sites at the entrance of the DLECTRICITY footprint, and each festival year it is one of the most bustling. We thank the DIA for their contributions to past DLECTRICITYs and again for 2020!

DIA Woodward entrance
Tsz Yan Ng with Helen Kang and Justin Kollar, “SteroNegative (A Tribute to Tony Smith)” on the front lawn of the DIA, DLECTRICITY 2012
Apetechnology, “The Shadows of Stendrotron” at the foot of the DIA back staircase, DLECTRICITY 2017

DLECTRICITY Site #5: The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit

Since its doors opened in 2006, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) has been a point of intersection in the contemporary arts. At the core of the museum’s mission is to educate, embolden and invigorate the Detroit community through contemporary arts. As a hub for artists and thinkers, MOCAD exhibits and collaborates with local Detroit artists, and often brings internationally acclaimed artists into the city to learn and experience it, typically resulting in a moment of convergence between that artist’s practice and the essence of Detroit. For each DLECTRICITY, MOCAD’s offerings make it one of the most vibrant sites of the festival.

The outdoor campus of the museum is spacious with a lot of wall space. Its West-facing facade sites directly on Woodward Avenue, and its East façade welcomes visitors in the parking lot. Both spots are large and have before showcased neon lights, as in the case of Martin Creed’s Work No. 790: Everything is Going to Be Alright on the West façade (2017), or video projections, like Zeynep Dagli on the East façade (also 2017). The front façade also provides plenty of wall space, and in 2017 it hosted E.S.P. TV’s You Don’t Say Much, Do You?

The Mike Kelley Mobile Homestead is a landmark for the Midtown arts community, and it is MOCAD’s only permanent installation. Conceived as a work of art by the artist Mike Kelley himself, the installation is a life-size replica of his childhood home in Westland, Michigan. The interior space maps out exactly as Kelly’s Westland home, and it generously offers additional spacing for public programming at the Museum, and often houses smaller exhibitions. Like what most homes have, the Homestead has a large, spacious and green front lawn that can accommodate sculptural works or even outdoor performances. DLECTRICITY artists in the past have incorporated the Mobile Homestead into their projects, like the Munich-based duo, Mayer + Empl had done in 2017.

Other artists that have displayed works around and inside MOCAD for DLECTRICITY include Shaun Gladwell, Nicola Kuperus, Adam Lee Miller, Mikki Olson, and Sameer Reddy. We look forward to another DLECTRICITY at MOCAD!

Front entrance to MOCAD
Mayer + Empl at the Mike Kelley Mobile Homestead, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit for DLECTRICITY 2017
Mikki Oslon’s “Let’s Dance” at MOCAD, DLECTRICITY 2012

DLECTRICITY Site #8: The Cathedral Church of St. Paul

The Cathedral Church of St. Paul is the ideal site for lovers of architecture. The Cathedral’s alluring façade sits on Woodward avenue and faces Wayne State’s Woodward | Warren Greenspace. It’s located in the center of DLECTRICITY’s Midtown footprint, and each festival year, it’s architecture successfully entices visitors to see what’s going on inside and outside its space.

The nationally recognized building was designed and constructed in 1907 by the architect Ralph Adams along with his associates at Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson. The Cathedral is emblematic of Gothic Revival architecture. The National Park Service calls the Detroit cathedral “one of the first and finest examples of the Late Gothic Revival” (NPS.gov).

Gothic Revival architecture first flourished in England until it hit the United States by the 20th century. The style aspires to develop from the original gothic style of Medieval architecture. It was a contrast to the popular Neo-Classica designs that were prevalent in 19th-century buildings.

Indoors, the cathedral is beautifully designed with gothic-inspired furnishings and remarkable decorative details. In the past, artists have used the architectural components of the space to accentuate the aura of their art. Japan-based artist Akiko Nakayama painted live at the Cathedral of St. Paul for DLECTRICITY 2017, and the ethereal aura of the space complemented the changing pictures and sounds of her performance, together making an extraordinary experience. Other artists that have exhibited inside the cathedral for DLECTRICITY include Zackery Belanger in 2014 and Sarah Rara in 2017.

On the outside, the cathedral provides a courtyard space for more a variety of work, from projections to performance. Here, artist and dancer Biba Bell conceived a performance for DLECTRICITY 2012. In its essence, it was part installation, part dance: harnessed to the backs of eight dancers, light and images traced movement pathways and lit up the exterior walls of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. The exterior space of the cathedral also hosted the works of Charlotte Becket in 2014 and Nikola Dike in 2017.

In addition to its history and architecture, the Cathedral Church of St. Paul is a dedicated organization to its community. We give them our thanks for lending its space to DLECTRICITY!

DLECTRICITY Site #7: The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

One feature of Detroit that makes the city recognizable internationally is its arts community. Its innovative, daring, inquisitive and prolific art scene can’t maintain those adjectives without the individuals and organizations that form its foundation. One of those places is the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, and we’re happy to again include it in our footprint for DLECTRICITY 2020!

George N’Namdi is a pioneer in the Detroit gallery scene and has been on the DLECTRICITY curatorial committee since its inception. In 1982 N’Namdi launched his family-based G.R. N’Namdi Gallery; he later expanded his holdings to include galleries in Chicago and in New York City. N’Namdi’s son, Jumaane, managed the Chicago gallery and now oversees a Miami Gallery. He has exhibited the works of artists Hughie Lee Smith, James VanDerZee, Allie McGhee, and Barbara Chase Riboud. The N’Namdi Center’s mission is to spread appreciation of the arts and enlighten through the arts, and it sees to it by upholding a diverse exhibition program and immersing activities such as yoga and dance into its agenda.

The N’Namdi building complex includes a pedestrian alleyway that leads directly to another major DLECTRICITY site, MOCAD. This passageway provides opportunity to present luminous works of art that engage with passersby. Just off the alley is the N’Namdi Movement Center, a space that typically hosts movement-based classes but also welcomes artwork for DLECTRICITY. Additionally, the building provides a great exterior wall that faces Woodward where wall reliefs can be exhibited, or media-works can be projected. In the past, the front glass windows of the gallery space have been projected from the rear, and the interior of the space has made room for small performances. The N’Namdi Center has shown artists Jeffrey Chiplis, Michaela Mosher, Jasmine Murrell, Scott Reeder, and Vagner Whitehead in the past for DLECTRICITY.

Many thanks to George N’Namdi and his Center for Contemporary Art for their continuous contributions to DLECTRICITY!

Vagner Whitehead at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, DLECTRICITY 2012
Side view of the N’Namdi Center

DLECTRICITY Sites #3 and 4: The Wayne State Welcome Center and Woodward | Warren Greenspace

The cultural center of Detroit is the heart of DLECTRICITY. Through light, art, and imagination, the festival brings together the renowned institutions that congregate in Midtown. Wayne State University—the city’s primary public research university—is one of our integral partners to this connection. For each DLECTRICITY festival, the university offers up its architecture for creative transformation and its open spaces for artful conception. The Wayne State Welcome Center and the Woodward | Warren Greenspace have never failed to provide DLECTRICITY installations with room for interaction and potential.

Wayne State University embraces the fact that its Detroit campus gives students and faculty a college experience like no other. Its location in Midtown fosters connections among community organizations, institutions, local businesses, and long-time residents. The university’s commitment to arts and culture in the city has been “Warrior Strong” since 1968. We are happy to have Wayne State’s support in transforming the Midtown landscape into a light-art wonderland!

The Wayne State Welcome Center is situated on the corner of Woodward and Warren Avenue, and the Woodward | Warren Greenspace sits directly across from it to the south. The Welcome Center’s inviting indoor space has in the past hosted a sculptural media work by Polish-based nieDAsie Art Group. The audience could sit inside for an intimate experience with the installation, or view from the sidewalk thanks to the building’s sleek, mostly-glass design. So much can be done with the architecture and space of the Welcome Center building—vellum can cover the windows, projections can display on the glass panels, or a light-based performance can take place indoors!

The Woodward | Warren Greenspace has provided some of the most animating moments of past DLECTRICITY festivals. From Star Wars reenactments to immersive architectural structures, the park has been able to accommodate multiple large-scale projects at once or make room for scheduled programming. Past artists and groups that have exhibited here include DMet Design; Nicola Kuperus and Adam Miller; Bluewater Technologies, and the artist duo, Cuppetelli and Mendoza. In addition to the open space, DLECTRICITY artists can also use components of surrounding structures. The photo banner that typically shows Wayne State promotional imagery can for the festival be reversed and projected onto, making for an excellent and fairly large screen on Woodward Avenue.

We’re excited to see how artists and creators will light up these two spaces for DLCTRICITY 2020!

DLECTRICITY Site #5: DTE’s Beacon Park

DTE Beacon Park


If you thought DLECTRICITY was big in its past years, wait till you experience it this September! We are thrilled over the festival’s expansion to DTE’s Beacon Park. With 1.2 acres of land in the heart of Detroit, no other site could be a better addition to DLECTRICITY. This expanded footprint allows us to showcase even more artists and bring to festivalgoers even more to interact with and experience.

In July of 2017, DTE Energy transformed the empty lot on the corner of Grand River and First Ave into a community park space in Downtown Detroit. Beacon Park became a popular site immediately among visitors and Detroiters alike. Its year-round programming includes seasonal festivities like Cider in the City, free film screenings, a summer concert series, group exercise in the park, a farmer’s market and so much more. In essence of its name, the park has very much become a beacon to the city—a brilliant site for celebration and gathering.

The triangular park is no stranger to site-specific art. Its wondrous landscape accommodates art projects throughout the year. It’s also an ideal site for performances. For a nighttime art festival like DLECTRICITY, the elements offered this year at Beacon Park are advantageous. The expansive, circular greenspace can host a large-scale project—or two—and various interactive installations could spill into the broad passageways that connect to the street sidewalks. More intimate works can be tucked in amongst the grove areas with tree coverage, winding paths and seating. The most imaginative and feasible installations can come to life here!

Many thanks to the DTE Foundation for bringing this opportunity to DLECTRICITY and artists at all levels. How selected projects will make this downtown destination glow will certainly be a sight to behold. We’re counting down the days to when we’ll see Beacon Park transformed!

Aerial view of DTE Beacon Park. Photo by Nadir Ali.