Arts Advocate
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rochelle riley

Rochelle Riley is a self-proclaimed writer by trade, warrior by necessity, who spent a quarter century challenging, encouraging and informing during a long-time career as an award-winning newspaper columnist. Now, she guides the City of Detroit’s investment in the arts as Director of Arts and Culture. She is overseeing transformative change across a city that is soaring through travails that might have leveled someplace else. Her office, the Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship, is documenting all the city’s murals on the Detroit Mural Map and is transforming nine neighborhood alleys into community gathering spaces. She also is working tirelessly to promote Detroit’s creative workforce, one of the best in the nation. She says that treating artists like the businesses they are is the best way to embolden a new generation of artists to see the creative arts as a career. Rochelle also is writing her third book and will soon visit her 29th country.

Latest News and Updates

November 13, 2023

Nelson Mandela:
Leadership Lessons for Today

The Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship is partnering with The Henry Ford on Mandela: The Official Exhibition and hosts a conversation at 1 p.m. Monday, November 13 with Christo Brand, the South African author and former prison guard of Robben Island Prison. Beginning his tenure at Robben Island in 1978 at 19 years old, Brand was responsible for guarding Nelson Mandela during his lifetime sentence. In 1982, Brand was transferred along with Mandela to Pollsmoor Prison, where the pair developed a close friendship over the course of many years. Brand is the co-author of Doing Life with Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend. In 2018, he retired from his post at Robben Island to pursue storytelling full time.

November 8, 2023

Detroit’s Big Shot Talent Competition

Rochelle is among the judges as ten contestants vie for the title of “Detroit’s Big Shot.” The D Brief hosted the seven-week talent competition for local performance artists in search of Detroit’s next breakout star. The finals happen Wednesday at Planet Ant in Hamtramck, where singers, musicians, comedians, dancers, magicians and more will compete for a prize package worth hundreds of dollars. The competition is judged by representatives from a wide range of metro Detroit cultural institutions, including Arts, Beats & Eats, Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle and Detroit ACE.


November 2, 2023

LeRoy Foster Painting Secretly Rescued by Former Cass Tech Teachers

Cranbrook Art Museum asked Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Detroit, to help with the $7,000 restoration, and her office obliged. In 2022, Detroit’s Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship (ACE) co-sponsored a month-long exhibit of queer artists during Pride month called Mighty Real/Queer Detroit in which Foster was prominently featured. The art appeared in more than 17 venues across the city with work by over 150 LGBTQ+ artists and sparked a renewed interest in Foster’s work.

Author announces major photo exhibit to celebrate African American greatness in history

In honor of Black History Month All Year, Church Street Media is inviting parents to help their children become icons for a new exhibit featuring selected photos of children embodying the spirit of Black heroes. The exhibit was inspired by “That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed The World” by Rochelle Riley, featuring photographs by Cristi Smith-Jones.

Parents and teachers are encouraged to share with their children and students the history of the African Americans they choose, African Americans that all children should know. Then they are invited to help their children dress as these icons and be photographed for a major exhibit in Detroit.

“If we want to change the way America deals with race, we must teach all children all of American history.” – Rochelle Riley

Send photos shot in black and white – and the photo that served as a model – and a letter granting permission for the photo to be included in a public exhibit – to:

Bankable Marketing

Deadline is September 1, 2022

Please enjoy the National Reading of Excerpts from “The Burden”

Please enjoy the National Reading of Excerpts from “The Burden” celebrating the paperback edition of the book. Presented Nov. 17, 2020 with a 40-second opening that allowed audiences to enter. Get your copy where books are sold.

Welcome to the digital home of force of nature, author, essayist and arts advocate Rochelle Riley. She spent nearly a quarter century as a columnist when she left the Detroit Free Press in 2019 to become Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Detroit. But Rochelle remains a writer by trade, warrior by necessity. She is at work completing her first novel and her third book on race.

Letters To Black Girls

“Black girls are under constant attack from racism and sexism. But they can survive. Better: They can thrive. Black women can help girls be healthy and whole if we approach them with love, honesty and vulnerability. There is no more powerful ally for a black girl than a former black girl.”