History of Community Arts Initiatives

Youth Leadership

The Erasing 8 project brought youth and seniors together for a theatrical performance addressing race and community reconciliation.

The Community Arts department at Focus: HOPE was established in 1995 as part of a national initiative sponsored by the Ford Foundation. Focus: HOPE was one of eight organizations throughout the nation funded to integrate arts and cultural programming into its community services. 

The department adopted the mission to: nurture an interest in learning and communicate the importance of education through the arts and cultural activities; help grow a sense of possibility and self-excellence among area youth; and foster integration, understanding and friendship in a culturally diverse metropolitan community. 

Since its inception, the Community Arts department has made significant contributions to the cultural vitality of metro Detroit through its innovative and award-winning arts programs, concerts, diversity workshops, and art exhibits.  Throughout our history we have witnessed the arts play an integral role in shaping and inspiring community members to realize their personal potential and in promoting cultural understanding and racial reconciliation. 

Select Community Arts Initiatives 1995 - present:

  • I Can – a community beautification project transforming barrels into decorative trash cans
  • Discover Jazz – a jazz education workshop featuring jazz master, Harold McKinney
  • Into the New Century: Girls’ Lives through Girls’ Eyes - a national project involving 6 local high school girls in an effort to use photography and writing to document the concerns, joys and struggles of teenage girls in the 20th century
  • Focus on the Mission – an award-winning diversity and leadership program incorporating the art of photography to challenge tri-county high school students to address the role of multiculturalism in society and their own lives
  • Pen Pal Program – a multicultural program partnering twelve urban and suburban classrooms as pen pals to promote literacy and cultural understanding 
  • Multicultural Performing Arts Series – a three year initiative placing twenty presentations by locally renowned performers in Detroit Public Schools
  • 2000 Census Mural Project – in partnership with the City of Detroit, the creation of large-scale outdoor murals by local Latino, Hmong, and Chaldean artists to encourage participation in the census count 
  • Music is Math is Art – jazz master, Donald Byrd’s premier educational workshop exploring the connections between music and mathematicsConcerts in the Park – a summer family concert series featuring local Detroit musicians in the Focus: HOPE Park
  • Multicultural Mural Project – a project partnering Latino and Arab American youth with professional artists to create a large-scale mural at Focus: HOPE’s Southwest Detroit Food Center. 
  • Erasing 8 Theatre Project – a project partnering urban and suburban youth and seniors in the creation of a theatrical performance focusing on the race and community reconciliation
  • Excel Photography Program – an after-school, project-based photography and leadership development program
  • Field to Factory to Future - a Smithsonian traveling exhibition chronicling the migration of African-Americans from the rural south to the industrial north during the 1900s
  • Many Faces, One Future – an art exhibit featuring thirty multicultural metro Detroit artists
  • Are We Community – an exhibition of artwork created by formerly incarcerated artists and their mentors; a partnership with University of Michigan Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP)
  • Speak Truth To Power – a nationally renowned human rights exhibition in partnership with Freedom House featuring the images of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Eddie Adams
  • Found: Hidden Treasures from Detroit – a “found art” group show featuring six Detroit artists
Did You Know...

Our Community Arts initiatives involved more than 1,030 individuals in educational and cultural outreach activities in 2009.