Art Market

A new study found that non-white residents in Detroit have less access to the arts than white residents.

Justin Kamp
Aug 4, 2020 5:08PM, via Knight Foundation

The Detroit Institute of Art. Image via Flickr.

A newly-released study found that non-white residents are less likely to have access to arts and cultural activities than white residents. Commissioned by the Knight Foundation and conducted by the Urban Institute before the COVID-19 pandemic, the study investigated the importance of cultural activities to urban populace. While it found that access to arts and culture to be one of the most important amenities of urban life, boosting feelings of attachment and obligation to invest time and resources in communities, it also revealed a racial disparity in access to those amenities.

The study surveyed 11,000 metro residents in 26 cities across the United States. Chief among its findings is that in Detroit, 65 percent of non-white respondents felt they had easy access to cultural activites and programming versus 79 percent of white respondents. This localized disparity is the starkest representation of a national divide between white and non-white cultural access, which the study found to sit at 69 percent for non-white urban residents versus 73 percent for white residents. In addition to a relative lack of access, the study also found that Detroit’s non-white residents considered access to arts and culture of greater importance than white residents.

Nate Wallace, director for Knight Foundation’s Detroit program, said in a press release:

Detroiters believe that the presence of art and culture in our lives is essential to our collective well-being, despite the fact that Blacks and other communities of color report a harder time accessing them [...] This is the time for us to reimagine a more equitable arts and cultural sector.

The study’s findings on racial disparity in arts access reflect ongoing conversations about racial equality in Detroit and the art world at large. Last week, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit decided to fire its executive director Elysia Borowy-Reeder following accusations of hostile, racist leadership by more than 70 former employees. Earlier in July, around 270 current and former staffers accused the J. Paul Getty Museum, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Getty Research Institute of racism and lack of transparency.

Further Reading: Black Artists and Gallerists on What a More Inclusive Art World Would Look Like

Further Reading: As Detroit’s Art Scene Grows, Local Artists Face New Challenges

Further Reading: 8 Detroit Galleries Fueling the City’s Creative Community

Justin Kamp
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019