A New Arts Educator: CriticCar Detroit

On the day when Detroit area citizens voted for a new millage to sustain critical funding for exhibits and educational programs at one of the city's greatest treasures, The Detroit Institute of Arts, we talked with cultural journalist Jennifer Conlin, founder and editor of CriticCar Detroit--a creative project in itself--designed to sustain the arts via breaking and on-the-scene audience reporting and reviews of the city's cultural events. 

During a time when several of our cultural institutions are without adequate financial backing, and their supporting casts, including newspaper arts journalists and critics are being ushered out, we wanted to discover how an innovative project like CriticCar Detroit is combining an ethical agenda of the arts as community builders with its potentially conflicting roles in promoting and criticizing the arts.

Most of our conversation spun around the ethical logistics and challenges of supporting audience--that is, amateur and citizen journalists. There was beneath it all-- 'the other' conversation--that is, the one about Detroit.

Everyone, it seems, has opinions about Detroit and how we should revitalize the city. Part of this dialogue involves art: the special cultural activities and public spaces that distinguish Detroit. For example, one art story about Detroit is based on and commercializes its dead spaces, making the decline and fall of a city a subject of art. Another story features a city where new artists are moving into dead spaces and through their social enterprise, opening businesses, establishing new cultural traditions, expanding the arts and broadening their reach.    

What is the real story about the arts in Detroit? And who are its most knowledgeable and best critics? And who is in the best position to educate us?   

We think CriticCar Detroit is in a unique position to contribute to arts education in Detroit. Not only can it serve to  expand the arts and broaden their reach in the city. CriticCar Detroit has the potential to quickly become a new cultural tradition on its own.