Blog: Danialle Karmanos

Danialle Karmanos is our guest blogger this week. Danialle is Chairman of the Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), a boardmember of the Detroit Opera House and the founder and Executive Director of Danialle Karmanos Work It Out, wellness program designed for inner city kids and video producer. Her husband, Peter, is the chairman and CEO of Compuware Corporation.
Check back here each weekday to read Danialle's thoughts on the importance of arts and culture in shaping Detroit's identity. 

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Post No. 3

Arts and Culture

Part of my assignment as metromode's guest blogger was to write about "arts" and "culture". I couldn't help but think "what's the difference?" To a large extent, they've become inseparable companions.

Art springs from the Latin word "artem," (skill, craft, art) and culture comes from the Latin "cultura," (to tend, guard, cultivate, till). When we inevitably link arts and culture in our words, writing and thoughts, we link together that which is skillful and artful with that which must be tended, protected and grown.
In Detroit, we enjoy a well-tended and protected field of artistic beauty. From the archetypical and enchanting Diego Rivera murals at the DIA to the invigorating and unforgettable street art of the Heidelberg Project, the Motor City offers the complete panoply of art. Yet, as Chair of the Board at the new kid on the block, The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, I'm a fierce patron of not only the world-class spectrum of historic art and culture on display in Detroit, but of the rapidly evolving diversity of that spectrum.
As a contemporary extension of our city's world-class museums, galleries, symphonies and more, MOCAD brings the challenge and possibility of contemporary art to the forefront of the Detroit cultural scene. By offering a vibrant nexus for artistic collaboration and a freely accessible space for immersion in--and education about--contemporary art, MOCAD joins dozens of other non-traditional artistic and cultural organizations in breathing life into Detroit's cultural and artistic scene.

I am honored to be named chair of MOCAD and thrilled to accept the challenge and opportunity. I look forward to helping MOCAD grow and thrive as a vital element in the mosaic of Detroit's artistic and cultural life.

I welcome your ideas, suggestions and criticisms and hope you'll use this blog as a way to let me know what you're thinking. (

Together we can help Detroit reach its amazing potential.

Post No. 4


Mitch Cope gave me a great article by Sam Butler in the The Michigan Daily. It said "For being the most racially and economically segregated city in the country, Detroiters constantly talk about community. Detroit is not a user-friendly city to be sure, but its people are infinitely so."

We are a family. We're expressive and feisty, and we may (or maybe not) like each other but, when it matters, we're thick as thieves.

That was evident during the Super Bowl.

We picked ourselves up and stood united. We polished off the furniture and put out the China. Why? Because that's what families do. We stick together when it matters.

My friend, Tanya Heidelberg-Yopp summed it up simply and profoundly, "Detroit suffers from self-esteem issues. Once we understand our own greatness, the potential is boundless."

So the question becomes, how do we embrace our specialness and overcome our issues? Last year I interviewed more than 50 Detroiters for a video called "I am Detroit". From Ernie Harwell to the Mayor to Alice Cooper, no one hesitated to proclaim (in detail) their love for the city.

I was particularly fascinated by "the scene" (as the artistic community calls itself). It's relevant and ripe. As I heard over and over again in my interviews, Detroit doesn't bullshit. If you're good, you know. If you're bad, you know.

To me, that represents the beauty of Detroit. We are a town of substance and that's something you can't build or fake. It has to be organic. Only once we stop our self-critical and our civic inferiority complex, will we truly flourish.

Post No. 3

"The Scene"

When Julie Taubman asked me to join the board of MOCAD I excitedly agreed. But I gave a disclaimer … "I don't know anything about contemporary art but I love Detroit!" She assured me I would learn. She was right.

I'm learning to appreciate the value of art. While I've prided myself on asking "what if" and thinking "outside the box," there's a level of thinking that is fascinating and critical and slowly working its way into my realm of consciousness. 

The first time I saw a Kara Walker piece I giggled. To me, it looked like an image of shadow puppets having sex. I thought to myself "I don't know if I'm mature enough for contemporary art". A few weeks later I listened, humbly, as my Marsha Miro talked about the works relevance to racial issues. I watched the piece again and cried. I was speechless. How did I miss the powerful message of the work? At that moment I realized how truly valuable art is to our community and our understanding of each other and the world around us.

Like the Kara Walker piece, we may be looking at a piece that's relevant and powerful, and we just don't get it yet.

That's our challenge: Change the way we think to reach a level of power and effectiveness we may have never known.

Post No. 2

The Great Divide

The map of Detroit has not changed since it was outlined in 1926 (as a result of politicians worried about racial boundaries). This one act has negatively affected the Detroit metropolitan area more than anything else in the last several decades. Eight Mile Road need not be a barrier between the city and its suburbs. Why not look at it as a connector between them? We need to stop talking about regionalizing government and do something to eliminate the existing dynamics. Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Toronto and Indianapolis have all embraced regional government and thrived as a result.

However, to change the city's parameters we need to look beyond a map or tangible piece of evidence. We need wisdom to affect our perspective. We can talk all day long about how Detroit's layout was inspired by a spoke style wheel (the hub being Campus Martius), but it doesn't matter what the wheel looks like if we don't know where we're going.

Aku Kadogo teaches theatre at Wayne State University. He guides his students to "view Detroit as a 21st century frontier that is theirs to explore, learn more about the history, create funky exploratory works about, attempt to define and redefine."

Carlita Kilpatrick recently told me that Detroit's "immigrant population is growing and flourishing". We're at a point where we can morph into something "new, cool, different and exciting". 

I agree. It's exciting and inspiring, and I truly believe we will grow and thrive. We'll have growing pains and there will be challenges but that's okay; it will only enrich our character.

Post No. 1


There are few things in life that surprise me. In fact, if you ask my husband, he'll tell you I hate surprises. This morning I gave him an invite list for a surprise birthday party he may or not be planning for me. Weird, I know.

So, I was surprised when I began outlining my metroMode blog and I became saturated with a flood of thoughts, memories and emotions toward Detroit, its arts and its culture.

I tried to categorize and compartmentalize what I was feeling. I began with memories I haven't visited in years. Trips to the "big slide" and zoo on Belle Isle with my grandparents (Grandpa Ed in his Beastie Boys t-shirt and my grandma with her fabulous red hair); the Ethnic festivals with my dad; the DIA and Science Center with my mom (often ending at the Whitney for dessert); my first 5K in the Emily and Pooh Fun Run 2; graduating from Wayne State; scribbling my name on the wall at the Post Bar (is that art?); producing videos around the city; narrating the Chrysler cars at the autoshow; MOCAD and many more adventures.

My husband talks about a generation that was deprived of a downtown urban experience. I agree, but I also take exception. I pride myself on having been exposed to and embraced by the city and all of its splendor.

Detroit, its arts and culture, are a core of my identity. With that, I'll do my best to make this blog a relevant and interesting use of your time.

"I Am Detroit," created by Executive Video Producer Danialle Karmanos, tells the whole story of Detroit from the viewpoint of the people who know it best. In this award-winning and nationally acclaimed video, Karmanos captures celebrities, athletes, artists and everyday Motor City enthusiasts celebrating their hometown—native or adopted—in their own words.

Click on the following links to enjoy excerpts from "I Am Detroit" related to arts and culture.







Ahh, the refreshing words and sounds of people who are the heart and soul of Detroit.  This town is all about its creative talent and how we use it to showcase the truly positive things about us.  People talk about the "rebirth" of Detroit...who ever said it was dead?  Have you been to the Jazz Festival or a Tiger's game at Comerica Park?  Strolled on the river walk in front of GM's Winter Garden or taken in a show at Chene Park?  C'mon!  The museum district and the Fox Center area are truly showing what commitment to our city's re-structuring can achieve. Detroit has always been about cars, but the movement in independent film making is proving Detroit to be as creative in entertainment content and development as anywhere else in this country or the world.  Don't laugh, I'm serious!  The quality of production firms, graphics and animation artists and editors, sound and music designers, as well as some of the most innovative web-based solution providers are all here in Detroit, and anxious to show you why going to New York or L.A. is just an excuse for a boondoggle...not to get a better project!  Ok, put some palm trees on the Detroit River shores if you must, but I've worked in New York and it's got nothing on Detroit except a lot of congestion and egos.  We have some of the strongest commercial and corporate production agencies in town that rival any, ANYWHERE, the key is to keep that work at home and support this production community.  The creative forces in this town should always be the first choice of any local or national production projects that emerge using our fine city and its culture, do your part to keep the vibe alive!

Gary C. Shifflet
VP Operations
KINETIC, Southfield

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