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Arts as economic engine: Detroit's Sugar Hill Arts District awarded $1.3M grant

The Sugar Hill Arts District will use ArtPlace funds to buy an abandoned church and turn it into a new arts venue.
Photo courtesy of ArtPlace
The Sugar Hill Arts District will use ArtPlace funds to buy an abandoned church and turn it into a new arts venue.

The burgeoning Sugar Hill Arts District along Woodward Avenue in Detroit will soon see an influx of cash.

The National Endowment for the Arts has teamed up with several other federal agencies, foundations and corporations to create ArtPlace, an initiative to fund art projects nationwide in an effort to help revitalize cities.

In this first round of grants, ArtPlace invested $11.5 million to 34 projects across the country. While most cities received one grant, Detroit received three grants.

Rocco Landesmen, chairman of the NEA, says Detroit received more grants than any other city because he believes the arts can play a big role in addressing Detroit’s challenges:

"This is about the intersection of art in the real world, people’s real lives. And I don’t think you can talk about renewal in Detroit without talking about Woodward Avenue, and I don’t think you can talk about Woodward Avenue without talking about the arts."

Detroit will receive roughly $1.3 million, which will go towards building a performance and education space along Woodward, updating and expanding the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), as well as developing a new arts incubator called "FabLab," which will be housed in Wayne State University's Tech Town.

In addition to the initial $11.5 million investment, ArtPlace is also supported by a $12 million loan fund capitalized by six major financial institutions.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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