At a star-studded event on Monday evening, the Motown Museum in Detroit celebrated the grand opening of Hitsville NEXT, a new educational programming and creative hub, and the newly established Rocket Plaza that was funded by a $5 million contribution from Rocket Cos. and the Gilbert Family Foundation.
“The vision for this ambitious project that was first announced in 2016 — and that so many generous and committed supporters have contributed to — is now a reality,” says Robin Terry, chairwoman and CEO of the Motown Museum, and a grandniece of Motown founder Berry Gordy. “Not only are we back, but we are back, bigger, and better than ever.”
Highlighted by energetic musical and spoken word performances, Terry was joined Monday by numerous Motown stars like William “Smokey” Robinson, Otis Williams, and Martha Reeves.
“Rocket Cos. and the Gilbert Family Foundation are dedicated to making philanthropic investments that build a strong social and economic foundation for all Detroiters,” says Matt Rizik, chief tax officer at Rock Holdings, part of the Rocket Family of Cos. in Detroit. “The history of Motown is inextricably linked with the history and legacy of Detroit, and we are proud to support the expansion of the Motown Museum. This expansion will both celebrate our history and will be a strong foundation for the next generation of musicians, entrepreneurs and proud Detroiters.”
The festivities of the evening were highlighted by commentary from Williams, an original founding member of The Temptations who gifted microphones to the museum from his personal collection, and Robinson, who spoke about the importance of inspiration as an artist and why the expansion — and specifically Hitsville NEXT — is so meaningful because of the significance of inspiring emerging artists in the place where the Motown legacy was built.Hitsville NEXT offers a signature slate of impactful, community-focused programs, workshops, and events designed to activate and inspire future generations of creatives, artists, and entrepreneurs.
Headquartered within three historic refurbished homes at 2654-2658 W. Grand Boulevard — previously owned by Motown Records and located immediately east of the Motown Museum — Hitsville NEXT now features professional recording pods, community activation space, and premier programming to foster emerging talent.
Programs featured in the Hitsville NEXT line up include its spoken word competition Motown Mic; Amplify, a singing competition; The Lyric Project songwriting workshop; and its Ignite and Spark summer camps.
Inspired by a time when young Motown acts like Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and so many others would hang out in front of Motown’s headquarters, the plaza, which spans the front of the Motown Museum (renovated from two former homes) and the three homes that make up Hitsville NEXT, will serve as a Motown-inspired community gathering space.
The plaza is made up of a lighted granite paver expanse surrounded by flowers, plantings, park benches, and a pop-up performance stage complemented by a sound system playing Motown hits.
Hitsville NEXT and the Rocket Plaza were designed by Detroit-based architectural firm Hamilton Anderson & Associates. The expansion design is led by the North Carolina practice of global architecture and design firm Perkins&Will.
Marking the completion of construction, the museum is welcoming the community to its Founder’s Day celebration in honor of its late founder, Esther Gordy Edwards (sister of Berry Gordy), on Saturday, Aug. 13, from noon to 5 p.m. Community vendors and performances from Hitsville NEXT program participants will be performing on the new plaza. Founder’s Day is an annual, free, and open to the public celebration hosted by the Motown Museum.
The museum also is welcoming visitors back for tours of Hitsville U.S.A. beginning Sunday, Aug. 14, though it will be a soft reopening with the museum offering abbreviated walking tours of portions of Hitsville U.S.A., including Studio A and the museum’s campus, as the museum’s singular elevator is out of service due to water damage that occurred in summer 2021.
The museum is anticipating full tours will resume on Saturday, Oct. 1. Guests and groups can purchase tour tickets at motownmuseum.org.
Founded in 1985 by Esther Gordy Edwards, Motown Museum is a 501(c)(3) not for profit, tax-exempt organization in Detroit. The museum is committed to preserving, protecting, and presenting the Motown story through authentic, inspirational, and educational experiences.
Announced in late 2016, the Motown Museum expansion will grow to become a 50,000-square-foot world-class entertainment and education tourist destination featuring dynamic, interactive exhibits, a performance theater (still to come), recording studios, an expanded retail experience, and meeting spaces designed by renowned architects and exhibit designers.
The construction of a new building behind the Motown Museum and Hitsville NEXT is undergoing capital fundraising, and will be completed in the next few years.