The Detroit artist discusses the value of art to the neighborhoods.
A door either opens or closes. Which way depends entirely on your perspective. Donna Jackson, a Detroit-based artist and designer, has been inspired by the metaphor of doors as a conduit flowing from the artist to the neighborhood – and opening not just doors but the eyes of those who may not have acquired a taste for high art. This resulted in her installation called Door of Opportunity. Nearing its fourth year, this traveling exhibition – which uses repurposed doors from Detroit homes and buildings as canvases for art – is, in so many ways, another spin on how a multifaceted city tries to connect the neighborhoods to the wider world.
"We know that art is being removed from our schools and then we have all these spaces in our neighborhoods because of people leaving it, because of buildings being knocked down, or because of dilapidation of buildings that's creating a really unappealing space for us in the neighborhoods," she says.
Jackson, a Detroit native who attended Western Michigan University and the College for Creative Studies, has spent time in Houston but ultimately returned to Detroit. Here she helms DMJStudio, which aims to "develop projects about urban communities and narratives using visual art and short digital content," its website notes. For Detroit, this means Jackson has channeled her creative energies to help shape the city's resurgence through art.
"The thing that made me start this process was knowing a lot of artists that live in (the) neighborhoods (are) not getting attention," Jackson says. "If you engage your creative people, you keep them here. If it's lucrative for them, it's going to be lucrative for everyone."
Another desire was to bring art into the neighborhoods, she adds. Last year, DMJStudio focused on displaying the doors in Corktown and southwest Detroit with a larger goal of having an installation at Livernois and Six Mile – thanks to a partnership with Live6 Detroit, a nonprofit whose mission is "to enhance quality of life and economic opportunity in northwest Detroit."
In addition to these partnerships, Jackson has overseen an exhibition called Gilda's Girls, a homage to Detroit artist Gilda Snowden, who died in 2014. She also supports Detroit-based female curators and artists, as well as consults libraries in brand identity development. One of Jackson's proudest moments occurred during a special Door of Opportunity event at the Detroit Public Library. Teens were taking selfies by the doors, engaging with them and having discussions. That enthusiasm and connection to art is the driving force of what Jackson hopes to accomplish in what she calls a series of "breadcrumbs."
"The whole thing is almost like breadcrumbs, hoping that a person sees it in their neighborhood and just follows it to these other spaces and have a change in mind of what art is, and what galleries are, and what museums are," Jackson says. "For me, I'm using art as a breadcrumb to bring it to my people in my neighborhood and then extend it back out to galleries. And maybe our projects will be in museums."
Arts and cultural programming play an important role in showcasing the history and future of our region. Art brings our community together.
At Ford, we believe that creativity and expression enrich our lives by helping to inspire innovation and new ideas. This includes supporting initiatives such as the Detroit Institute of Art's DIA Away initiative, a free, mobile interactive classroom and creative exploration space for students that travels to schools throughout metro Detroit. Through this experience, students discover some of the ways artists think while having the opportunity to try out creative thinking skills at digital hands-on stations.
Ford proudly recognizes Donna Jackson for using visual art and storytelling to educate and engage the community.
– Pamela Alexander, director of community development for Ford Motor Company
If you are interested in Door of Opportunity coming to your organization, school, park or gallery, contact Donna Jackson at DMJStudio to schedule an appointment. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit dmjstudio.com for more information.