Art | Community | Events

The Irrelevant Relevance of the Charles H. Wright Museum

I’ve watched Jessica Care Moore’s vision of a curated stage of black women rock ‘n’ rollers take the stage to give an incomparable performance that rivals anything I’ve ever seen, anywhere. The venue in the Wright allowed myself, along with 700 others the opportunity to be intimately involved in the amazing execution of this unique experience. Cheers Jess.

I’ve watched local filmmaker, Qasim Basir, hold his red carpet premier of his extraordinary movie Mooz-lum in a packed out room in the Wright. I remember the amazing pride I had in watching his dream play out on the big screen and the awesomeness of seeing his name in the credits. It was an amazing moment and an extraordinary achievement that we all were able to take part in. Salute Q.

These are but a few unparalleled moments that have taken place at the Wright. Dreams have been able to take form within its walls. The location is optimal, the building is beautiful, but something dreadful is missing. What’s missing is relevance. In a time where serious discourse is being had about very serious issues surrounding race and class, the Wright sits in the back of the room. The artistic movement happening in Detroit and Hamtramck has the feel of history and the Wright is content with dated programming, unremarkable exhibitions, and lack luster efforts. The activation of the space is vital. The attention to detail is paramount. The addition of visionaries and the retention of invaluable personnel is key. The hiring of hotshot Karla Henderson as Chief Operating Officer was a huge shift in the stagnant space’s culture. She brings a fresh perspective, a high level of credibility, as well as an attitude that, if allowed to have carte blanche, will move the Wright towards relevance. How we lost Drake Phifer … no clue, but bad move.  To lose him now is beyond unfortunate.

We have an opportunity. The Wright is the largest African American Museum in the world. The opportunity to scale and to define the space has not successfully been done. The mission statement is not ambitious enough, and the scope should not be confined to Detroit. With the help of artists, change makers, entrepreneurs, and the business community, the Wright has the opportunity to sit in the forefront of all serious discourse on urban revitalization, the black experience, and the importance of the contributions of black life. Through an ambitious artistic lens, the Wright can have global importance, the same as the city it resides.

I go there far less than is acceptable. I think I have a membership. I’m not sure. The fact that the Wright is not important to my world is troubling. The fact that it’s been irrelevant to this city and to this world of ours is problematic. Let’s put the plan together to gather the talented and the forward thinkers with the goal being born out of ambitious creative necessity. Listen. This cannot be a wasted moment.

Nathaniel Wallace

Nathaniel Wallace is the Vice President of Operations for Communications Professionals Inc., a family owned firm, specializing in Federal IT contracting. A Detroit native, Nathaniel has always had a deep appreciation for the skill and transformative power of arts. Currently, Nathaniel sits on the board for Emerging Art Leaders Detroit, Music Hall of Performing Arts, and hosts Art Salon Detroit in his Brush Park home, where a curated show of local artist and local chefs showcase their talents. He has always been a supporter of both visual and performance arts in Detroit. Follow him @mrnatewallace