Detroit PTV looks to bring cultural groups together through its new arts series

By Dru Sefton

Detroit Public Television is using its new arts series, Detroit Performs, to showcase the Motor City’s talents on a wider scale.

Local reaction to the show, now 10 weeks into broadcast, “has been tremendous,” DTV President Rich Homberg said in a note to his Major Market Group (MMG) pubTV coalition colleagues. “Every day we are hearing from new producers, emerging organizations and raving fans.”

The series grew out of the MMG Arts content initiative, curated by WNET in New York City, and DTV’s five-year-old “category strategy,” which set a course for engagement and partnership around specific topics. Similar efforts include DTV’s Great Lakes Now, which evolved from a reporting focus into a conservation conference attracting more than 300,000 participants.

“We wanted to find a way for Detroit Performs to create a voice beyond our city,” Homberg said. In a brainstorming session, Georgeann Herbert, s.v.p. content and community engagement, came up with the concept.

Dave Devereaux, s.v.p., media platforms, told Current that the station is making a “concerted effort” to coalesce and engage partners under the umbrella of Detroit Performs. A major player is Culture Source, a collective of more than 130 arts organizations.

“We are asking folks to become content partners, submit videos, link to the website, pass out flyers and postcards,” Devereaux said. “We’re getting as many people onboard as possible. We want to tell the stories of the good things happening here” to counter the city’s reputation of bankruptcy and abandoned neighborhoods, he said.

One recent example is a feature on a street fair in the Brightmoor neighborhood, “an area most people think of as rundown and dangerous,” Devereaux said. Once a year, a community activist organizes a site-specific cultural festival, turning abandoned buildings into performance spaces for dance, music and visual arts.

“For that one day, it’s a really joyous place,” Devereaux said. “It really helps bring people together.”

Station staffers promoted the push by handing out some 2,000 “Showing the World How Detroit Performs” buttons at the Detroit Jazz Festival over Labor Day weekend. 

This article was first published in Current, Sept. 9, 2013.
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