Blog: Kate Baker

Ferndale's progeny became this hip city's prodigy. Meet Kate Baker, director of development at Wayne State University Press and Ferndale city councilwoman. Kate, who goes down in legend as the city's youngest-ever elected official, will be writing about community development and culture in Metro Detroit.

Kate Baker - Post 2: Culture

My friends' two-year-old daughter loves the Detroit Institute of Arts. She is equally fascinated with and terrified by the African masks, "teaches" other visitors about the colors and shapes found in modern paintings, and marvels at the suits of armor in the Great Hall. She has been taught to enjoy life experiences beyond television, spending most Fridays with either her father or mother at the DIA, the Detroit Zoo, Cranbrook, or The Henry Ford. As a result, she is one of the most inquisitive children I've met, and will surely grow up to value, appreciate and support the world-class cultural institutions that we in metro Detroit are so lucky have in our community.

Arts and cultural institutions are among the community resources that many cherish yet take for granted in metro Detroit. We are proud to boast a world-class symphony, but likely have little idea of the types of performances taking place. We have fond memories of childhood field trips to Greenfield Village, but likely have not been back to The Henry Ford in a decade. We may own a copy of American City or AIA Detroit, but don't realize that they were published by the local, nonprofit Wayne State University Press. Our cultural institutions are dynamic organizations – not staid or boring – with programming and exhibits that are constantly changing and evolving, giving all us of plenty of reasons to visit regularly.

In a time of economic downturn, Detroiters should reevaluate what they value in their community and support the things that make Detroit Detroit with their time, passion and dollars.  If our region is serious about getting out of this economic quagmire and breaking our dramatic boom and bust cycle, we need to change the ways we think about community and understand the symbiotic relationship among business, education, and arts and culture.  In order to attract new businesses and create and retain an educated workforce, we must respect, support and value the cultural institutions that so positively impact the quality of life in our region.  

I don't want to lecture anyone, nor do I want to make anyone feel guilty for not taking their two-year-old to the art museum on a regular basis.  I am hopeful, though, that I've inspired you to move to the top of your spring to-do list a visit to your favorite Detroit-area museum, playhouse, gallery or community art center.  Your support and participation, whether in the form of membership renewals, ticket purchases, cold cash or volunteer hours, are vital to the survival of the places we love – the places we want our children to be able to experience as we did.