Blog: Rebekah Johnson

Bravo! Bravo! Rebekah Johnson, public relations coordinator for the Michigan Opera Theatre, is staging a program to open the curtains on a younger crowd's appreciation of music and libretto.

Post 4 - Detroit, the Opera: Act IV

Speaking up, signing up, standing up

"Art is the signature of civilization." – Beverly Sills

This quote from Beverly Sills, the legendary opera star and impresario, is a moving statement about the impact of arts and culture on a community.  The economy may fluctuate, but arts and culture outlast our generation and leave a mark on civilization.  As a member of the Millennial generation, I know that Michigan's leaders' eyes are on me.  They want to know whether I will stay in the state or contribute to Michigan's "brain drain" and move to another city with a lot more perceived economic potential.  I was born and raised in metro Detroit so most of my family and close friends live here.  But many of my graduating class members went to Chicago, New York, Washington D. C., or California, desperate to go anywhere but Michigan.  Don't get me wrong, I love to visit those places.  But Michigan is the land of opportunity!

Detroit has given me opportunities in the arts and cultural community that I would never have had anywhere else.  Arts and culture in Detroit is a small world.  Most people know each other and they work together, even more so now that resources are so limited.  Arts and culture are an important part of a community – they are the lifeblood, the fibers of connectivity.  And I would go so far as to say that without them, there is little reason for Millennials to stay in Detroit.

Detroit's arts and cultural organizations are some of the best in the country, if not in the world.  However, when we talk about the city, we have trouble saying anything positive about it.  We hang our heads when we talk about our city and change the subject around our friends from Dallas or Denver.  As Detroiters, we have a major inferiority complex about our own city, and we even perpetuate this negativity with outsiders.  But Detroit's arts and culture measures up to those of any other major city and boasts some of the highest-quality performances and works.  It's time we stop trash-talking our own city and start to have some pride in what we have here – and it’s really pretty amazing stuff!

There is no pretense when you talk to Detroiters.  They are passionate people, deeply rooted in what they believe in.  And when young professionals, my peers, decide to transform our city, we can leave our own mark on civilization, as Beverly Sills describes so eloquently.

So, you may be wondering how these last few posts apply to you, and what you can do to make a difference.  Young professionals can make a significant impact in a number of ways.  Here's what we can do to help keep the arts alive in Detroit:

Attend a Performance or visit a Museum.  Then, blog and Twitter about it.  Tell others what you thought about it.  Become a fan of that organization on Facebook.  Let the organization know what you thought.  Many arts organizations offer special rates and opportunities for students and young professionals to attend performances or exhibits, similar to Michigan Opera Theatre's Access program.

Become involved as a volunteer.  Many arts organizations need volunteers now more than ever – everything from mailings and marketing help to fundraisers and simple office work.  The possibilities are just about endless.

Consider becoming a member or giving on a small level.  Sure, you may still have student loans or just bought that new house.  We're all feeling the pinch of the economy right now.  Many organizations offer smaller memberships or a giving level of small amounts that is not only tax deductible, but that can also make a big difference.  

There are many other ways to get involved as well, so don't let this short list hold you back!   Ultimately, how much we get involved in preserving Detroit's arts and cultural community determines our generation's signature on civilization.  Let's make it one that is strong and thriving.