Rochelle Riley was appointed the city of Detroit’s director of arts and culture by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. The appointment is meant to reaffirm the city’s commitment to its creative community. Riley is expected to start her in her newly created role May 27.
“This is a roll I have wanted to fill for some time, but had not found the individual who had both the stature and passion needed for supporting and growing arts and culture in Detroit — until now,” says Mayor Duggan. “Rochelle has the respect and credibility to build relationships between the city and its major cultural institutions and potential funders, as well as budding artists and entertainers. She will serve as the strategic leader and coordinator for all of our efforts to support Detroit’s creative community.”
Riley will be responsible for shaping and giving focus to the city’s investments in arts and culture as well as advocating opportunities for Detroit. Riley will work with artists, cultural organizations, philanthropic funders, and entrepreneurs to promote, advocate for, and develop arts and culture. She will work alongside Kimberly Driggins in strategic planning and Adrian Tonon, Detroit’s night time economy ambassador. Riley will also work with Detroit’s planning and neighborhood departments to ensure vibrant arts endeavors across the city.
“It is time for Detroit to not just celebrate its past and better support its present, but to create a future where innovation and new art and music and theater and dance are not just welcome, but celebrated and supported,” says Riley. “The arts and culture and entertainment industry is a multi-billion industry in this city, one that can produce jobs and opportunities that will reestablish Detroit as a thriving creative epicenter.”
Riley was previously a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, which she joined in 2000 after working at newspapers including The Dallas Morning News, The Washington Post, and The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal. She is editor of The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery, a collection of essays by African American writers, artists, and others about how slavery in America continues to impact the lives of black Americans. Riley is also co-founder of Letters to Black Girls, a project dedicated to pass words of encouragement to black girls and young women from other black women.
Riley has won several national, state, and local honors, including a National Headliner Award for local column writing, the 2017 Eugene C. Pulliam Editorial Fellowship from the Society of Professional Journalists, and the 2017 Ida B. Wells Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.
Riley was inducted in 2016 to the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame and into the North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame in 2019.
The Kresge Foundation and the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation have partnered to grant the city of Detroit $125,000 to support planning to integrate arts and culture into the city’s planning and neighborhood revitalization initiatives.