2B3 Weneda, arh 9,204 / heStteen
I Wednesday, March 19, 2014 // The Statement E3
L TERARY ARTS:
BY JENNIFER CALFAS
The Detroit Institute of Arts
(DIA), formerly known as the
Detroit Museum of Art, has been
a landmark in the city since its
creation in 1885 by James Scripps,
a newspaper publisher and
philanthropist with a love for great
Scripps donated the first pieces
to the museum - 70 Dutch and
Flemish paintings he had collected
while traveling around Europe
- which were valued at around
Over the years, the DIA evolved
and changed, taking on different
forms as other museums in the
area combined with it. At one
point, a natural history museum
was absorbed into the museum, so
that there were antlers and stuffed
animals in one gallery along with
It wasn't until the 1920s - by
which time the museum's name
had been officially changed to the
Detroit Institute of Art - that the
museum began to thrive, due in
large part to private donations.
The collection continued to grow
with each new director, who made
their own contributions. James
Scripps' son-in-law, Ralph Harmon
Booth, was actively involved in
bringing German scholar and art
connoisseur, William Valentiner,
into the project. Together, the pair
helped the museum acquire what is
now one of the greatest collections
of European art in the country.
The last substantial lifetime gift
the DIA received came in the 1970s
from Eleanor Ford. The museum
used the money to build their
This collection - considered
one of the best in the United
States - includes an astounding
65,000 pieces, ranging from classic
paintings to indigenous American
sculptures. Six thousand of these
pieces are currently on display in
the museum - van Rijn, Vincent
van Gogh, Jan van Eyck, Henri
Matisse and Pablo Picasso, to name
a few of the highlights. But the
museum is also one of the most
representative, with pieces from
almost every culture in the world.
"We regard ourselves as what we
now call a universal museum," said
Graham Beal, director, president
and CEO of the DIA. "But you can
also use the term encyclopedic,
which basically means there is no
where in time or geography that
we will not go looking to acquire
art. The only significant area where
we have genuine weakness is the
Oceanic, or the art of the Pacific
Islands. You can see dozens and
dozens of cultures represented
In recent years, the city ofDetroit
has faced severe financial turmoil,
filing for bankruptcy in July 2013.
The city's financial straits directly
affected the museum when Kevyn
Orr, the emergency manager
appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder
to handle the city's finances,
announced that he would consider
selling the museum's art, if it would
help the city's financial crisis.
The DIA's art can be sold
because the museum is not a
nonprofit organization like many
museums, but rather a city agency,
like a public library. In 1920, when
the independent organization that
was running the museum could no
longer afford to keep up operations,
an agreement was reached wherein
the building and its collections
were turned over to the city of
The foundation that started the
museum, which renamed itself the
Detroit Museum of Art Founders
Society after operations were
turned over to the city in 1920,
stayed on to work as an advocacy
group, raising funds to continue
purchasing art until 1998. After
that year, the city could no longer
maintain the museum on its own,
so operations were subcontracted
back to the Founders Society under
the name the Detroit Institute of
The city, therefore, owns the
building and all the art inside, while
the independent, not-for-profit
organization has been responsible
for taking care of day-to-day
operations within the museum.
An uncertain future
As the building and collections
belong to the city of Detroit, it is
within the city's right to sell the art
as they see fit. Several steps have
been taken to avoid this unpopular
outcome. Several foundations in
the city have stepped forward to
pledge roughly $370 million to
the museum to help it maintain
the collection, as well as assist the
From this, a plan has been
negotiated, but not finalized, where
the money from the foundations -
in conjunction with $100 million
dollars pledged from Detroit
Institute of Arts, Inc., which is the
organization running the museum
and $350 million promised by
the state - would be used to turn
the museum back into a privately
owned not-for-profit again.
"The deal would be that the city
would relinquish the building and
collections to that independent,
not-for-profit entity," said Jeffrey
Abt, a professor in the department
of Art and Art History at Wayne
State University. "Then it would
continue on into the future as it had
originally been established."
If the plan does go forward
and the museum is turned back
into a nonprofit organization, the
financial position of the museum
could be strengthened in the long
some financial difficulties in the
short run as it had already agreed
to a plan, before negotiations had
begun about turning the museum
back into a nonprofit, that would
require them to raise $400 million
in 10 years, in addition to the $100
million the nonprofit entity pledged
to raise over the next 20 years.
The museum's future, though, is
still unclear as plans move forward.
Until the uncertainty is cleared up
the museum intends to carry on
operations as normal.
"Right now it's business as
usual," Beal said. "We know what
we want to do, we're very aggressive
and I don't think I'm boasting when
I say we're one of the leading art
museums in this country."
Christopher had an idea. Shifting his
weight from side to side in his desk, the
third grader raised his hand, begging to answer
Upon being called on, Christopher stood up
in his seat.
"A good writer never stops writing," he pro-
University alum Peter Markus looked around
at the students who sat in hisclass to gauge their
reactions to Christopher's statement.
"They also not only never stop looking at the
world, but also listening to it," Markus added as
he launched into the day's lesson plan, which
examined how a writer should describe sound
with metaphors and similes.
This lesson is only one of hundreds Markus
has taught over the course of 20 years. Hav-
ing taught at several schools across Detroit,
Markus has found his niche in the InsideOut
Literary Arts Project. Throughout his career, he
has found that students are not shy about shar-
ing their work, but rather prideful, eliciting an
exciting, almost chaotic atmosphere in his third
Founded in 1995, InsideOut has expanded
from one to 27 schools across the Detroit area,
reaching over 5,000 students. Established writ-
ers and poets work with K-12 students over a
period of 25 weeks to explore various aspects of
poetry, writing and thinking.
While Markus just started teaching at Mann
Elementary School - a 30-minute drive from
the University - he maintained the same goal
for each school he encountered.
"We encourage students to create broadly,
create bravely and experiment in how they see
the world," Markus said. "We want them to
learn to express themselves and engage with
each other in a deeper, more complicated way."
A new approach
The MEAP exam measures proficiency in
several areas, including reading, writing and
mathematics, among other categories. Accord-
ing to Mann Elementary School's 2013 report
released Feb. 28, the percent of students at least
proficient in writing increased from 23.6 per-
cent to 25.6 percent from the 2012 to 2013 year
to the 2013 to 2014 year.
While the increase has established a prom-
ising trend, Markus said standardized testing
is not how students should learn how to write.
During his classes, Markus tailors his lesson
plan individually to each student, allowing
them to explore according to their individ-
One of his students, Mark, often jumps from
his seat whenever given the opportunity. With
his builtup energy - typical of an eight-year-old
boy - Mark has difficulty paying attention in
class. To keep Mark engaged, Markus encour-
ages him to perform what he is thinking in front
of the class to release his energy.
"If you can invite the kids to go slightly out-
side of their bubble, they love it," Markus said.
"That's how you can keep kids engaged is to
offer them alternatives to sitting in their chair,
just numbing out, because all they do is take
tests and prepare to take tests."
As the nonprofit approaches its 20th year,
Alise Alousi, InsideOut's associate director, said
there are plans for expansion - not externally,
but internally. In several high schools already,
InsideOut has already launched new after-
school programs and individual mentoring ses-
While the program expands, its mission
remains an interminable, constant entity.
"That's what the great beauty of our program
is - we're sending writers who have a sense of
their craft into a classroom to really engage stu-
dents and give them an opportunity to explore
that knowledge," Alousi said.
Detroit is no stranger to national attention.
Reports of the city entering the largest munici-
pal bankruptcy in U.S. history and suffering a
population decline from 1.86 million residents
to 700,000 over the past 60 years continue to
plague Detroit's image.
InsideOut hopes to help those affected by
Of all students in the state of Michigan, 83.1
percent are proficient in reading. In Detroit's
public schools, however, only 67.4 percent are.
At Mann Elementary, is only about 63.6 percent.
At Mann Elementary, 289 of the 491 students
are deemed "economically disadvantaged."
Despite not meeting state standards accord-
ing to this test, these young students in Detroit
are already published writers.
One of InsideOut's most unique qualities is
its effort to publish poems by each student at the
end ofevery year.
"It's a huge undertaking we've never stopped
believing in," Markus said. "It's something we
really continue to value; students deserve rec-
ognition for their classroom work."
In spring 2013, students from Mann Ele-
mentary School had their work published in
a collaborative book titled "Here, There and
Everywhere." In the book, every student from
the program ranging from third to fifth grade
explored topics ranging from their desire to
own a pet monster, to their favorite place in the
Each student receives a copy of the book as
a memento of his or her work with InsideOut
from the year. Just as screenwriters often carry
around their manuscripts for films, Markussaid
he hopes students will do the same with their
"Every student deserves to be heard,"
Markus said. "They all have unique voices that
are open, full of ideas and creatively showcased.
It's really an empowering moment when you
hand a student a book thatthey will preserve for
From college to elementary school
LSA junior Leela Denver grew up in Ann
Arbor, but rarely ventured to Detroit. Sure, she
attended a concert in the city every once in a
while, but her visits, as she described, were
As the Spring 2013 semester approached,
Denver was looking into study abroad oppor-
tunities when Semester In Detroit came to
her attention. The program, which aspires to
engage University students with the city's com-
munity and culture, caught her eye. While she
lived 40 miles away from Detroit her whole life,
Denver considered the city as destination ready
for exploration, topping the list of her study
"I chose Semester In Detroit instead," Den-
ver said. "I was going abroad, but to a place with
more meaning; it's my state and my country.
Everyone should have that kind of experience."
Once she was accepted to the program, Den-
ver chose to intern with InsideOut. As an Eng-
lish major, Denver was drawn to the program
for its focus on creative writing and literary
expression. However, what made the program
unique to her was the city it was based in.
"Detroit shaped the whole thing," she said.
"The whole experience was. about learning
about the city I've always been so close to and
not known much about. It gave me a way to
interact with people of the community that
wasn't so artificial."
Denver worked with Markus at Marcus
Garvey Academy, a pre-kindergarten through
eighth grade public school in Detroit. During
her internship, she taught one ofMarkus'classes
a lesson on her own, as well as helped students
around the classroom during Markus' lessons.
"Their imaginations were really outstand-
ing," Denver said. "Getting in the mind of the
kids was something I've never experienced
Denver is one of several University students
who have worked with the InsideOut program
over the past four years.
Additionally, as part ofthe University's Helen
Zell Writers' Program, the Civitas Fellowship
awards a small group of Master in Fine Arts
students funding to work with InsideOut for 10
hours a week for 30 weeks.
Alousi said this program allows MFA stu-
dents to expand their knowledge of teach-
ing beyond a college environment, which she
deemed as much easier to manage than an ele-
mentary school one.
"They have to deal with issues," Alousi said.
"The kids want to be playing, and these students
have to learn how to accommodate their lesson
plans for the needs of the kids."
Christopher sat 'down in his chair after he
answered Markus' question. Though his energy
was still palpable, so were the wheels churning
in his mind.
A few minutes later, Markus played sounds
for the students to listen to. He then instructed
them to announce what they believed each
sound was - as descriptively as possible.
Christopher sat up in his seat and positioned
a pencil in front of his nose, fixing his eyes on
the eraser that hovered one inch from him. He
gazed into what Markus described as a "dream
pencil" - a mechanism that allows students to
explore the depths of their mind, allowing fan-
tasies to become realities on paper.
"It sounds like a knight running toward a
woman trying to save her from the bad guy,"
Christopher announced moments later during
a flurry of students raising their hands to share
what they heard.
"We're teaching them how to see more than
what others see and feel more than others feel,"
Markus said. "The whole human beingneeds to
be developed and needs to be innovative."
COVER BY RUBY WALLAU & KATHERINE PEKALA