The mission of the University of Michigan Detroit Center is to mutually enrich University and Detroit communities through service, education, research and the exchange of culture.

History of the Detroit Center

The University of Michigan Detroit Center provides a visible symbol of our nearly 200-year relationship with the City of Detroit. Conveniently located in the heart of the city’s Cultural Center, the U-M Detroit Center serves as a gateway for University and urban communities to utilize each other’s learning, research and cultural activities.

Opened on September 21, 2005, the staff and its 26,122 sq. ft. facility occupy the ground floor of Orchestra Place on Woodward Avenue next to the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Conducted under the auspices of the University’s Office of the Provost, the facility accommodates research projects and outreach initiatives while also offering space for an increasing number of University programs involving Detroit citizens and organizations. The facility includes offices and space for meetings, exhibitions, lectures, collaborative work, and more while serving as a home base for students and faculty working on projects in Detroit.

"The University of Michigan was founded in Detroit in 1817, and we have remained committed and connected to this city," said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, in introducing the center to the Detroit community. "Providing a home for our many Detroit projects in the heart of the city's cultural center makes us far more visible and accessible and enables us to be a part of its revitalization. We look forward to the way this center will strengthen the partnership between UM and Detroiters."

The U-M Detroit Center stands at the confluence of the busy Mack Avenue/Martin Luther King Boulevard and Woodward Avenue corridors. The nearby area includes other educational institutions such as Wayne State University, Michigan State University Detroit Center, and the College for Creative Studies, as well as cultural resources like the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Science Center, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. 

The renovated space, which is leased from the DSO, was laid out and designed by Bill Grindatti, B.S.1981, M.Arch.1983, under the guidance of former Taubman College Dean Douglas Kelbaugh. Taubman graduate Mashawnta Armstrong designed the street banners, while Art & Design students Nolan Loh and Mai Truong created the window signage.

Programming Initiatives:

Programming Initiatives

The U-M Detroit Center has developed programming initiatives which utilize University and community resources to provide an impressive array of opportunities for intellectual discourse and cultural enlightenment. Almost all of the activities are free and open to the public. Highlights of these programming initiatives include:

➢  U-M Detroiter Hall of Fame – With the inaugural Hall of Fame class inducted in 2013, this exhibit celebrates the distinguished career achievements of Detroit natives who have graduated from the University of Michigan and made recognized national or global contributions to their disciplines. The 2013 class featured a discussion with inductees and award winning actor David Alan Grier and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Robin Givhan.

➢  Concert of Colors Outdoor Stage – Each summer since 2011, the Detroit Center has partnered with the Michigan State University Detroit Center to run two days of world music programming (approximately 18 acts) for the “Concert of Colors” festival - the largest free music festival in Detroit.

➢  Sounds of the Season – Each December since 2011, Detroit Center offers a seasonal music program and luncheon for community seniors.

➢  Sankofa Film Series – Co-sponsored with U-M Dearborn, the Detroit Center provides a film series with facilitated discussions regarding African American cultural arts.

➢  Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium – Each year the Detroit Center simulcasts the keynote address and provides a panel featuring local community panelists discussing a topic complementing the symposium theme.

➢  Monts Hall Gallery Exhibits (formerly the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design Work Detroit Gallery) , the Detroit Center annually sponsored a major gallery exhibition at the Center’s Work Detroit Gallery. Past programs have included a show featuring Jon Lockard paintings, a tribute to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and an exhibition of the work of local Detroit artists. This latter show addressed social concerns within Detroit's African American community by exploring topics of identity, territory, protest, sexuality and transition.

➢  Youth Theatre Fellows Program – The Detroit Center conducts a summer theatre camp for high school students. For the 2014 camp, the Detroit Center has secured a commitment to partner with WSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance to assist with the facilitation of design workshops.

➢  Semester in Detroit Speaker Series - The Detroit Center is the co-sponsor of Semester in Detroit lectures and workshops engaging students and community members on contemporary topics including Detroit politics, culture and the economy.

➢  Noel Night – A community partnership with the MSU Detroit Center, Whole Foods-Detroit, Great Lakes Coffee, and Detroit School of Arts, the Detroit Center hosts a presentation of holiday music and activities for Midtown Detroit’s famed seasonal celebration, Noel Night.

➢  Thanksgiving Day Parade Watch Party – In partnership with the U-M Alumni Association, the Detroit Center hosted a viewing party to celebrate Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, while taking advantage of the comforts of the Detroit Center.

Bridging the University and the City of Detroit

Beyond the programs offered by University units based at the Detroit Center, the staff members have endeavored to involve themselves in projects, which better enable interaction between University and Detroit Communities. A sampling of these initiatives include:

➢  Detroit Connector - With funding from the Provost Office’s Transforming Learning for the Third Century grant, the U-M Detroit Center and Semester in Detroit Program initiated the MDetroit Center Connector, a free pilot shuttle service that facilitates learning and cultural exchanges across the region. Since October 2013, the shuttle service has been available to transport U-M students, staff and faculty with UM-ID’s from the Ann Arbor campus to up to four different stops in Detroit, including the U-M Detroit Center. As of January 2014, the shuttle runs three days a week – Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

➢  School Partnerships

  • Detroit School of Arts – Student performers provided entertainment for various events throughout the academic year, such as Noel Night and Sounds of the Season. The Detroit Center sponsored 90 students and chaperones to attend the “Race” exhibit at the University’s Museum of Natural History. The Detroit Center also hosted students at the Detroit Center for: 1) a student Town Hall meeting with Senator Carl Levin, and 2) artist-led workshops related to Detroit 21 – a Work Detroit gallery exhibition.
  • Burton Elementary School – Since 2011, a staff member served as a Reading Corps volunteer for 2 students each year at Burton Elementary School (1 hour per week for the academic year).
  • Plymouth Educational Center – Over a 13 month period, the Detroit Center organized volunteers to re-label, shelve and catalogue books for a K-8 charter school’s formerly dormant library.
  • Various Schools – Detroit Center staff have provided lectures/workshops and coaching of students on an ad hoc basis for K-12 schools in Metro Detroit area.

➢  Community Service Projects – Besides supporting the United Way Campaign, staff has sponsored or participated in the following projects:

  • St. Patrick Food Pantry – Food Drive
  • ACCESS Adult Literacy Program – Book Drive
  • Midtown Detroit Clean-Up Day
  • Coalition for Temporary Shelter – Fund Drive
  • St. Leo’s Parish & Soup Kitchen – Coat Drive

➢  Regional Memberships – The Detroit Center is an active member of Midtown Detroit Inc., Culture Source (a regional culture and arts support organization), Metro Detroit Visitors and Convention Bureau, and the WTVS-TV Community Advisory Panel.    

Detroit Center in the News:

The U-M Detroit Center supports independent musicians across the internet and supports the entrepreneurial practices under the creative commons guidelines. Some of the music used in U-M Detroit Center audio projects can be attributed to Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), with icon support from Mundo of the Noun Project, licensed under Creative Commons: by Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0.