news & recent appearances

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February 22, 2024

Nominations sought for Detroit’s poet laureate and composer laureate

“When Detroit’s longtime Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett died, she was a towering figure, her New York Times obituary was legendary,” Rochelle Riley, director of Detroit’s office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship, told WDET. “And we knew that we would have to have someone in that post because of the rich history of poetic excellence in Detroit.”

Riley says the positions will work like Detroit’s city historian to ensure that people inside and outside of Detroit understand the rich cultural and artistic heritage the city has to offer — and that includes our musical legacy.

February 15, 2024

Rochelle talks arts and culture on nat’l Soulivity show

The February 15 season premiere of THIS MORNING with SOULIVITY featured Rochelle as a special guest and described her as an author and fine arts advocate who has been a staple in the development and support of Detroit’s creative workforce. Formerly a Detroit columnist, she took on the role of Detroit’s Director of Arts and Culture and used her knowledge and influence to find creative solutions for some of the problems that plague her city. Most notably, she was the genius behind fifteen Covid-19 city-wide memorials in 2020— the United States’ first citywide memorial to Covid-19 victims. The conversation was about the importance of arts and culture to a city’s development. To watch the show, visit:

January 29, 2024

National Museum of African American History still shines years after first pre-opening visit

Rochelle walked into the National Museum of African American History and Culture on her birthday, January 29, for the first time since her visit before the museum opened years ago. Her take:

Awe is not a strong enough word. All I kept thinking as I walked through the contemporary exhibits was: There is no way that they cannot see us now. Who is “they?” Anyone who has attempted to minimize the contributions of Black Americans to culture, government, music, literature, art…. life.

I’ll have to write about it at some point, and I have to go back to see the exhibits from the past, which were too painful for my birthday. But I’m so proud of what stands there at the corner of 14th and Constitution, a bulwark against those who would erase history, a reminder that we have always mattered.

If you haven’t visited, visit. If you have, visit again!


January 25-27, 2024

Detroit ACE was proud to celebrate Sphinx during annual weekend 

Rochelle was among the more than 1,000 participants for Sphinx Connect, celebrating the largest and longest-standing convening dedicated to diversity and inclusion in classical music January 25-27, 2024! With over 30 sessions designed to inspire and ignite action and spark collaboration, the event featured more than 90 speakers, keynote addresses by luminaries and trailblazers and more.

January 17, 2024

Rochelle joins board of The Parade Company

Rochelle joined the board of The Parade Co., the iconic organization that hosts America’s Thanksgiving Parade,®  which for more than 75 years has been a one-of-a-kind spectacle of fantasy, holiday spirit and community enthusiasm. The Co. also hosts the annual Nobble Gobble,® a black-tie fantasyland for children and adults — and the Ford Fireworks, a Detroit kick-off to summer that lights up the Detroit River.

January 13, 2024

Detroit ACE co-hosted “Too Hot To Handel” fete at the Opera House

Rochelle Riley opened the January 13th performance of “Too Hot To Handle” at the Detroit Opera House with a rousing salute to excellence and a reminder to the audience that, unlike typical opera, they were expected to dance and shout.

January 12, 2024

Rochelle Riley interviewed Santita Jackson about MLK and the civil rights movement

Rochelle joined civil rights leaders and entertainers for Wayne State University’s annual tribute on January 12 to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that focused on Detroit’s impact on the Civil Rights Movement and in-depth conversations with political commentator Santita Jackson, the daughter of civil rights icon the Rev. Jesse Jackson. 

January 7, 2024

Detroit ACE co-hosted “Too Hot To Handel” convo at Marygrove

The City Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE)  partnered with Rackham Choir and Ralco Industries to nurture a new generation of classical music lovers with the choir’s 20th anniversary performance of “Too Hot To Handel,” the jazz-soul-R&B-gospel reinterpretation of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” at the Detroit Opera House. The free January 7th panel discussion “Mighty Sounds: The Legacy of Detroit’s Jazz and Gospel” on January 7 was moderated by the City’s Director of Arts and Culture Rochelle Riley. It features: jazz critic Mark Stryker, author of Jazz from Detroit; Deborah Smith Pollard, professor emerita at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and co-host: “Sunday Morning Inspiration,” MIX 92.3 FM, and Too Hot To Handel pianist Alvin Waddles. 

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.

October 19-20, 2023

Just Lead – A New Detroit Conference
Advancing Racial Equity

National and local speakers will offer participants compelling perspectives on racial equity, racial justice, and tangible ways of taking action and getting involved. Participants can choose from learning paths designed for varying knowledge levels and experiences. This conference will provide leaders with up-to-date information on key issues related to racial equity and equip them with motivation, tools, and support to advance racial equity individually and collectively. This will be a collaborative space to address today’s critical issues with the goal of sprouting a collective vision for creating a region, nation, and world free of racism.
Chuck Stokes at the 2023 Detroit NABJ; photo by Montez Miller

September 30, 2023

40 years of support for Black Detroit journalists celebrated with roast of local news icon

Fancy folks, dancing blokes and pokes at Stokes. It was a night of heartfelt tributes and lighthearted jabs as the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) celebrated its 40th anniversary with a gala at MotorCity Casino and Hotel to honor the history of the chapter and its founding Black journalists. The Sept. 24 event paid tribute to impact the chapter has made on journalists with scholarships, mentoring and professional development opportunities since its founding in 1982.

August 23, 2023

Detroit and Philadelphia team up for National Street Art Summit featuring Sydney G. James

Detroit’s Black-led mural festival BLKOUT Walls is fast approaching. In the lead-up to the festival’s highly anticipated return this September, the City of Detroit and Philadelphia will host a National Street Art Summit with art leaders from around the country on Friday, Sept. 8.
MLK JR. Statue Unveiling in Detroit

July 18, 2023

Hart Plaza Gets a New Statue to Commemorate the Fight for Civil Rights

According to Rebecca Salminen-Witt of the Detroit Historical Society and Detroit Historian, Jamon Jordan, more often than not people are surprised to hear that 60 years ago 125,000 people marched down Woodward Avenue to peacefully advocate for racial justice and equity as part of a Walk to Freedom alongside Martin Luther King Jr. The march took them to what was then called Cobo Hall where King delivered a version of his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech two months before delivering it in Washington, D.C. where it became famous.
Statue of Denmark Vesey

July 2, 2023

Denmark Vesey is honored. His slave revolt was thwarted and he was executed

Tucked away on the edge of a city park, miles from historic homes and carriage tours, a bronze statue of Denmark Vesey stands tall among lush palms and live oaks. A flyer for a celebration pokes out from a potted peace lily placed at Vesey’s feet. The man who planned the most sophisticated rebellion by enslaved people in our nation’s history was remembered this weekend in Charleston on the 200th anniversary of his failed uprising and public hanging.
Rochelle Riley

June 24, 2023

Detroit Arts Director joins VIP guests at opening of nation’s newest AA museum

Rochelle was a VIP guest at the grand opening of the International African American Museum (IAAM), on the site where Gadsden’s Wharf, the disembarkation point of up to 40% of all American enslaved persons, once stood. Construction of the IAAM began in January 2020 after 20 years of planning. It is home to 12 permanent exhibitions that include nine galleries, one Special Exhibitions Gallery and an ongoing series of digital exhibitions. It also explores the transformative impact of enslaved people who labored on plantations in South Carolina and helped build the lucrative rice industry.

David Rodriguez Munoz, Detroit Free Press

June 23, 2023

Martin Luther King Jr. statue unveiled ahead of march

When a crowd of 150 people shuffled out from under a tent and into the rain for the unveiling of a new statue at Hart Plaza on Friday,
umbrellas aloft, exalted shouts of joy and awe went up as Detroiters saw the artwork for the first time: Martin Luther King Jr. standing at a
podium, his mouth open mid-declaration, one arm stretched up toward the heavens. 

The life-size sculpture reveal was timed with the 60th anniversary of King’s historic 1963 Walk to Freedom down Woodward Avenue.

June 22, 2023

Detroit NAACP unveils statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Detroit is getting its very own Martin Luther King Jr. statue. As part of the Detroit Branch NAACP’s June Jubilee: A Celebration of Freedom events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Detroit Walk to Freedom, the organization unveiled a bronze sculpture of Dr. King in Hart Plaza Friday, June 23.
National Archives and Records Administration

June 13, 2023

Detroit NAACP to honor leaders at June Jubilee

The Detroit Branch NAACP’s June Jubilee kicks off next week. The
series of back-to-back events, from June 22 to 25, honors the 60th
anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Detroit Walk to Freedom and the continued fight for justice and equality. Detroit NAACP leaders on
Tuesday announced awardees who will be recognized for their work
advancing civil rights locally and nationally. The June Jubilee features a commemorative walk down Woodward Avenue, the unveiling of a statue of King at Hart Plaza and the NAACP’s annual Fight for Freedom Fund dinner.

Photo by WXYZ-TV 7

June 9, 2023

Getting Detroit ready for the history behind June Jubilee

On Sunday, June 11, Spotlight on the News will get Detroit ready for the history behind the upcoming June Jubilee weekend. Historian Jamon Jordan and Detroit Director of Arts and Culture, Rochelle Riley, will discuss the real story behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 civil
rights march and how it will be celebrated in a couple weeks. Spotlight on the News, now in its 58th season, is Michigan’s longest-running weekly news and public affairs television program. It airs every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. on WXYZ-TV/Channel 7 in Detroit, is streamed live on
Still frame from video

May 31, 2023

Detroit Arts Director Wows the Business Crowd at MPC

MACKINAC ISLAND: Rochelle Riley wowed business and community leaders at a Detroit policy conference in a presentation about remaking an American city with beauty and art. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s keynote address at the Mackinac Policy Conference on Wednesday, May 31. Coined the Land Value Tax Plan, the proposal is an innovative approach to fixing Michigan’s broken property tax system that would bring much-needed relief to homeowners and most businesses while making owners of blighted and vacant properties pay their fair share.
Sign "Oakland Urban Farm"

May 25, 2023

Rochelle gives UNC journalism school commencement address

Rochelle Riley ’81, director of arts and culture for the City of Detroit, will give the UNC Hussman keynote address. Previously, Riley worked as a columnist for the Detroit Free Press for nearly 20 years where she was a leading voice on government responsibility, education, race, and children’s issues. Riley was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 2016 and the NC Media & Journalism Hall of Fame in 2019.
An activated alleyway in Detroit. Photo by Nick Hagen.

May 23, 2023

City seeks stewards for Arts Alley initiative

The Detroit Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship (ACE) has put out the call for nine stewards of the city’s new Arts Alley initiative, a program that will transform long-neglected alleyways into community-revitalizing destinations. Applications for the program, which will award nine $10,000 fellowships, are due by midnight on Friday, May 26.

Photo By Ken Lund

May 17, 2023

Detroit Arts Alley Fellowship program

The City of Detroit’s Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship has launched a new Arts Alley Fellowship program, where fellows serve as liaisons between city officials and community members. The creative alleyways are also being designed to maintain flood zones with cost effective methods. The initiative aims to create beauty out of blighted neighborhoods.
Sign "Oakland Urban Farm"

May 10, 2023

Alley art project aims to beautify neighborhoods

“The city of Detroit is targeting blight in every neighborhood,” said Jessica Parker, chief enforcement officer for the city at a briefing held earlier this spring to announce four new art projects. “For decades, alleys were forgotten places in our city that became havens for illegal dumping and overgrowth. But now, we are transitioning from blight to a city of beauty.”
Still frame from video

March 11, 2023

African Americans Who Changed The World | Rochelle Riley | TEDxDetroit

Rochelle Riley seeks to fill in gaps in the history that American children have been taught for generations. For African American children, it will prove that they are more than descendants of the enslaved. For all children, it will show that every child can achieve great things and work together to make the world a better place for all.

Rochelle Riley

April 14, 2023

To help our kids, we have to listen to our kids

“They are a third of Detroit’s population. They are the future of our city. They could be in trouble. And we’re not talking enough about them and the traumatic chaos that many live in. I’m talking about our children.”

Rochelle Riley

April 1, 2023

Rochelle Riley ’81 to speak at 2023 Commencement for UNC Hussman

Rochelle Riley ’81 still remembers holding the green “Newswriting 101” book in her hand and knowing that she had found her path.

She was a high school student in eastern North Carolina with a love of writing and an interest in people. Those interests and talents tied together and eventually led her to UNC where she studied journalism.

Still frame from video

March 29, 2023

Detroit community leaders transforming alleys into art spaces

In the past, alleys in Detroit were neighborhood eyesores. Now community block clubs are transforming them into gathering spaces. For 10 years, Victoria Thomas has been working to create a safe place for kids to play.

She had a dream to create a bike trail in a neighborhood alley, called “The Yellow Brick Road.”

Photo by David Guralnick, The Detroit News

March 29, 2023

From ‘forgotten places’ to ‘gathering spaces’: City announces new Arts Alleys

Many alleys in the city over the years have become “havens for illegal dumping,” and a city initiative aims to turn those “forgotten places” into arts-focused gathering spaces.

Rochelle Riley, the director of the Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship, announced four more new locations for the city’s Arts Alley initiative.

March 10, 2023

That time Rochelle asked a question at the Dungeons and Dragons premiere at the #SXSW festival in Austin

“I’m Rochelle from Detroit, my question is for the creators, can you talk a little about the decision to cast gorgeous men-” Rochelle began, but was interrupted by applause and peals of laughter from the audience.

Akash Pamarthy, Detroit Free Press

March 9, 2023

Detroit Youth Choir comes home for spring concert with Tony-winning Broadway star

The Detroit Youth Choir (DYC) will present its first hometown concert since finishing up its latest run on “America’s Got Talent All-Stars” this Sunday, March 19 at 5 p.m. at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall.

Getty Images for SXSW

March 10, 2023

Chris Pine and Regé-Jean Page Win Over ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Fans SXSW Premiere

The high point of the Q&A came when Rochelle Riley, director of arts and culture for the city of Detroit, asked the filmmakers if their decision to cast “gorgeous men” in the film was a “revenge of the nerds kind of thing.”

Still frame from video

March 10, 2023

Students to Shine in the Spotlight During Detroit Public Schools Community District’s “An Evening of Fine Arts” at the Fox Theatre May 18

More than 200 middle and high school fine and performing arts students will showcase their immense talent during a public event at the historic Fox Theatre for the Detroit Public Schools Community District’s (DPSCD) “An Evening of Fine Arts,” at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18.

Still frame from video

February 17, 2023

Detroit seeks artists to create 200 murals to honor rich history of city’s neighborhoods

The Motor City is coming back. After the USA Today declared Detroit to be the fourth best citiy for street art, they decided to do something to increase that ranking. Now they’re looking for artists to create 200 murals. To get involved email

February 7, 2023

Ten Detroit arts groups get $23M in multiple grants to boost digital presence

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced this week a sweeping round of grants totaling $23 million, all devoted toward the digital future of the arts in Detroit. The investment includes multiyear grants to 10 Detroit arts organizations.

For info contact

February 1, 2023

Detroit Partners to Commemorate Black History

“Mayor Mike Duggan has made clear that it is our duty as public servants to ensure opportunities for all residents to have everything they need to thrive in work, education and joy,” said Rochelle Riley, the city’s Director of Arts and Culture. “That includes ensuring that we embrace the cultural diversity of Detroit.”

January 18, 2023

Detroit takes control of freeway litter cleanup from state

Mayor Mike Duggan thinks the city can clean up its littered, overgrown freeways better than the state. We’re about to find out if Duggan is right — Michigan agreed to let the city take control of freeway cleanup for $650,000 a year, a Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson tells Axios.

Clarence Tabb Jr, Detroit News

December 26, 2022

Detroit unveils 30-foot-tall Kwanzaa Kinara in Campus Martius

The city’s third cultural monument was unveiled Monday in the heart of downtown as gatherers celebrated the beginning of Kwanzaa. A 30-foot-tall Kwanzaa Kinara was displayed in Campus Martius to honor the seven-day celebration of African American culture and heritage that will continue through Sunday.

Detroit's Kwanzaa Kinara. Photo by Alkebu Lan Village

December 8, 2022

Detroit is getting the world’s largest Kwanzaa kinara

For years, Detroit has celebrated the holiday season with an enormous Christmas tree and a 26-foot-tall Hanukkah menorah in downtown’s Campus Martius Park. But one of the largest Black-majority cities in the nation has not celebrated Kwanzaa with a large kinara — until now.
Robert Smalls. Photo by Library of Congress

Originally Posted on the Root

Which Slave Sailed Himself to Freedom?

Just before dawn on May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls and a crew composed of fellow slaves, in the absence of the white captain and his two mates, slipped a cotton steamer off the dock, picked up family members at a rendezvous point, then slowly navigated their way through the harbor.

Murals in the Market by Brook Ward on Flickr

November 29, 2022

Detroit turns to tech to enhance its vibrant art scene

Two resulting tools launched in October now help city residents find and learn about the art in their city: a map, which can be found on the ACE website, and an app, created by art technology company CANVS, which now includes information about Detroit artwork and creators. The map is also powered by CANVS technology.
Photo from by Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press

October 29, 2022

Detroit launches effort and an app to document all of city’s murals

The city’s Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship has launched an initiative that empowers residents and tourists to use their smartphones to identify Detroit murals and artists and include them in an official registry. The new site and map launched Friday at A video about the efforts will air at 10 a.m. Sunday on “Flashpoint” on WDIV-TV (Channel 4).
Photo by Malachi Barrett for BridgeDetroit

October 27, 2022

Elite street art: Detroit wants to become ‘the Mural City’

“My work is about who monuments are made to, who can be revered and who gets to be remembered,” Cortez said during a Friday bus tour of Detroit murals. “They (artists) do famous people and whatever, but my experience growing up where I grew up, these are my famous people. These are people who impacted their communities, who people know and love.”

Photo by Ravi Patel on Unsplash

October 28, 2022

Detroit on a mission to build ‘largest library of street art anywhere on the planet’

Earlier this year, USA Today ranked Detroit No. 4 in the country for the best street art, with the Grand River Creative Corridor standing out with nearly 100 murals between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Warren Avenue. Philadelphia ranked third, Cincinnati second and Oklahoma City was ranked first.

Detroit has set its sights higher.

Image captured from video

October 28, 2022

New app offers guided tours of Detroit’s murals

New app, CANVS, offers guided tours around the city to see Detroit’s murals.

Photo by Liz Weddon on Unsplash

October 27, 2022

Detroit to launch mural map, app hoping to become No. 1 in nation for street art

Just weeks after being recognized by USA Today for beautiful murals, the City of Detroit announced a new effort to draw attention to these works of art. 

The Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (ACE) announced they will launch a new mural map and an app to accompany it. Organizers said the app will allow residents and tourists to use their smartphones in front of any of the city’s murals to identify the artist.

Courtesy of City of Detroit

October 25, 2022

City of Detroit To Celebrate City Historian’s Anniversary with First Annual Detroit History Lecture

The City’s first Official Historian, Jamon Jordan, will give his first annual lecture at Gordon Park, at the corner of Rosa Parks and Clairmont, site of where the ’67 rebellion began. The public and media are invited to hear Jordan, who was appointed by Mayor Mike Duggan on October 25, 2021, talk about his tenure and hundreds of history tours and lectures he has given over the past year.

Photo by Ravi Patel on Unsplash

October 24, 2022

Talking about Detroit solely in terms of loss and decay is a mistake

Talking about Detroit solely in terms of loss and wreckage and decay is a mistake. And we have to stop it. We must stop charting Detroit’s progress by measuring it from its lowest point, the 1967 rebellion borne of decades of discrimination and centuries of mistreatment.

Image captured from video

October 19, 2022

How to help document Detroit’s murals

Detroit is looking for people to find and capture photos of artwork around the city. Learn more:

Courtesy of University of Detroit Mercy

October 14, 2022

University of Detroit Mercy School of Law launches Arts & Entertainment Law Clinic

The Arts & Entertainment Law Clinic expands the Detroit Mercy School of Law clinical program. The clinic aligns with the institution’s Jesuit and Mercy traditions through a focus on service learning, providing access to justice and efforts to educate the complete lawyer.

Courtesy of University of Detroit Mercy

October 14, 2022

University of Detroit Mercy School of Law launches Arts & Entertainment Law Clinic

The new clinic enhances the culture richness of Detroit by providing pro bono legal services to artists such as musicians, independent filmmakers, and photographers, among others. Combined with existing patent and trademark clinical programs, the Arts & Entertainment Clinic provides students access to a comprehensive intellectual property law practice experience.

Image captured from video

October 10, 2022

Detroit Eight Mile Wall, once used to segregate Blacks and whites, gets historical dedication

That wall from Eight Mile Road to Pembroke Avenue, built in 1941, was used to segregate Black and white neighborhoods. It allowed a white developer to get home loans from the Federal Housing Administration that were not available to Black people due to redlining.

Courtesy of University of Detroit Mercy

October 10, 2022

Detroit ACE Partners with U-D Mercy to Offer Legal Advice to Artists, and More

In addition to the legal services, the clinic also is partnering with Detroit ACE on special workshops and programs designed to help creatives protect their products and performances. It continues Detroit ACE’s commitment to treat members of the city’s creative workforce as small businesses. Detroit ACE offered a year of free entrepreneurship and business training last year thanks to the Kresge Foundation.

Photo by City of Detroit

October 4, 2022

Detroit Sculptor to Build Statue Honoring Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson

Detroit’s own Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson is being honored with a statue of his likeness in Rouge Park.

After a month-long search for an artist worthy of the task, the Detroit office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship chose local sculptor Austen Brantley to build the monument. It’s a full circle moment — a Black Detroiter being called on to salute another Black Detroiter with a public work of art.

Photo by Kirthmon F Dozier, Detroit Free Press

September 29, 2022

Detroit Opera Director Names to TIME List of 100 Emerging Leaders

Last summer, the New York Times posed the question, “Is the future of American opera unfolding in Detroit?”

This week, TIME responded with a ringing affirmation.

“To see the most innovative opera company in America, visit Motor City,” reads the magazine’s assessment. “Yuval Sharon has long used unconventional settings in unexpected ways, but now, as the artistic director of the Detroit Opera, he is breaking new ground.”

From the archives

Inequalities in education between white and Black chidren

Mackinac Island, MI

In 2018, Rochelle joined in on a panel at a major business conference in Mackinac Island MI. The topic was the inequitable education between white and Black children in Michigan. Watch below.

Courtesy of the DRCFA Art Foundation

August 24, 2022

“Floating Citadel” Sculpture by Scott Hocking Unveiled at Huntington Place, and More

“Great cities have great public art and Detroit is gaining a national reputation for its murals and other forms of beauty we are creating across our city,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “We are fortunate to have this beautiful new work by internationally acclaimed artist Scott Hocking to add to our public collection and to welcome visitors to Huntington Place, which has its own great collection of art to explore and enjoy.”

Photo by City of Detroit

August 17, 2022

Detroit Issues Open Call for an Artist To Create Statue To Honor Tuskegee Airmen

The Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) has issued an open call for an artist to create a statue honoring the late Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, whose service as a Tuskegee Airmen helped win World War II. He died in June at age 100.

The statue, made possible by the generosity of Cynthia and Edsel B. Ford II on behalf of the Henry Ford II Fund, will anchor the new Jefferson Plaza at Rouge Park where  Jefferson flew model airplanes as a boy.

Image from Local 4 News

July 27, 2022

Spirit of Detroit transforming alleys into art

The Motor City is known for manufacturing cars. If you’ve traveled throughout various neighborhoods, you could certainly believe it is the city of murals based on the incredible building art found in the nooks and crannies throughout Detroit’s communities.

So cue that creativity regarding neighborhood alleys, like the one Zachary Heard lives near.

Photo by City of Detroit

July 27, 2022

Detroit aims to transform alleys

The city of Detroit wants to transform alleys across five neighborhoods into walkable galleries of local art. Detroit City Council approved $3 million for the project through the American Rescue Plan Act, and it is receiving financial support from the Ford Foundation, said Rochelle Riley, the city’s arts and culture director.

Photo by City of Detroit

July 27, 2022

Detroit ACE, residents to revitalize city alleys

“Alleys in our city for years have been havens for illegal dumping and overgrowth and we’re steadily changing that,” said Mayor Duggan. “Activating neighborhood alleys in this creative way is going to help turn them into real community assets and attractions.”

Photo by City of Detroit

July 27, 2022

Duggan and Detroit ACE announce Arts Alleys

The project, called the Arts Alley Initiative, is funded with $3 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) approved by Detroit City Council. The Arts Alleys project, which is part of Mayor Duggan’s “Blight to Beauty” campaign, is also supported by the Ford Foundation. The Art Alleys project is being conducted first as a pilot for possible future neighborhood alley activations by residents in neighborhoods throughout the city.

July 25, 2022

Detroit honors seven Tony Award winners, nominees

It’s been a huge year for Detroiters on Broadway and the city is celebrating. On Sunday afternoon, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan honored seven Detroit natives for their contributions to theater at a special press conference and event called “Broadway Comes Home to Detroit.” Held at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, it coincided with the Black Theatre Network holding its annual conference in Detroit this week.

July 8, 2022

City of Detroit seeks artist to paint mural at Farwell Rec Center

The Detroit ACE has announced an open call for an artist or collaborative team for a mural project on the Farwell Recreation Center to honor community heroes and to provide an opportunity for the community to heal from the COVID-19 pandemic.

June 29, 2022

Focusing on Freedom of Artists with Detroit ACE

The first project the department set out to create was a census to determine the amount of creatives in the city in order to find support for them. They then launched a website to promote new and emerging art around the city. It was then that they set out to honor the history of Detroit’s lost neighborhoods.

June 25, 2022

Tuskegee Airman, lifelong Detroiter Alexander Jefferson dies at 100

Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, World War II prisoner of war and lifelong Detroiter, died Wednesday. The Tuskegee Airmen were the nation’s first African American military pilots, and Jefferson was among the first to escort bombers in WWII.

Detroit Ace partners with Motor City Sings on community songwriting project

June 10, 2022

Motor City Sings is currently searching for Detroit-based singer/songwriters, lyricists, and music producers who identify as Black/African American to join our summer artists collective for Boa Me: A Community Songwriting Project.

Mighty Real/Queer Detroit art exhibition is a ‘community defining ourselves’

June 1, 2022

Now, Burton is shining a light on queer identity, art and culture — and hoping young gay people will see themselves reflected — as curator and artistic director of a massive new exhibit that opens this week in galleries across Detroit and some suburbs.

Where to celebrate Pride 2022 in metro Detroit

June 1, 2022

Pride feels a little bit different this year. For the last two summers, Pride has been modified to adjust to the ever-changing climate of the pandemic. Well, outside is back open and there are a lot of reasons to celebrate. While June might be Pride month, the celebrations are not limited to just those 30 days. They stretch across three months — meaning everyone can dance and celebrate their authentic selves all summer long.


Detroit Murals Can Soon be Accessed with an App

May 13, 2022

Detroit Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship (ACE) announced it is partnering with CANVS, an art technology company, to identify all the art on the city’s walls. The ACE initiative will both identify all the murals to honor some of the city’s best artists who are transforming the city with color and beauty and launch an app that will allow residents and tourists to use their smartphones to identify the mural and artist in front of them.


New app identifies and tracks murals around Detroit

May 12, 2022

Ever seen a mural in Detroit and wished you knew who painted it? There’s an app for that. The Detroit Office of Arts, Culture, & Entrepreneurship is partnering with art technology company CANVS to create a digital map of murals around the city, with photos and bios of the artists who painted them. The map will be featured on ACE’s website as well as the CANVS Street Art app.

Detroit celebrates 16 artists and patrons with Ace honors

April 12, 2022

Presented by Mayor Mike Duggan, the Mayor’s speech was named the State of the Arts, where he and the Director of Arts and Culture, Rochelle Riley, acknowledge the immense talents that come out of Detroit.

Detroit-area children become Black historical icons

March 11, 2022
Black History Month may be behind us, but Detroit is keeping the celebration going.

Parents and children are invited to participate in an upcoming art exhibition showcasing children depicting icons of Black history.

Symphony Orchestra
neighborhood performance

February 17, 2022
Typically, patrons see Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians play at Orchestra Hall in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood. On Feb. 9, the show is taking place in St. Hedwig Catholic Church.

Collective Will Launch Public Arts Campus

February 14, 2022
Detroit is nearly unrivaled as a music town, at least when you count its contributions to musical history, from jazz, soul and Motown to punk, techno, garage rock and beyond.

For music entrepreneurs, Detroit is fertile soil

February 7, 2022
Detroit is nearly unrivaled as a music town, at least when you count its contributions to musical history, from jazz, soul and Motown to punk, techno, garage rock and beyond.

Detroiters take over a Broadway theater, celebrating the Motor City

February 6, 2022

Detroiters have been taking over the stages of Broadway in New York this season, and at one show Friday night, a Detroit audience stole the spotlight, too.

Broadway shows boast record number of Detroiters

February 1, 2022

Mayor Mike Duggan will make his Broadway debut Friday when he joins New York City Mayor Eric Adams in a red carpet celebration of Detroit’s influence on theater.

African Bead Museum founder Olayami Dabls named 2022 Kresge Eminent Artist

January 27, 2022

Olayami Dabls is the Kresge Eminent Artist for 2022. The award, presented by the Kresge Foundation, includes $50,000 in recognition of lifetime achievements in the arts and contributions to metro Detroit culture.

Get Down and Dirty Talking Art

January 19, 2022

WJZZ’s Debbie LaPratt and Colibri The Artist talk with Rochelle about Detroit’s arts and culture, the impact of Covid-19, her book The Burden, the impacts of slavery, the intersection of arts, civic engagement, and the economy – and so much more.

Committed to serve: MLK Day events planned throughout

January 12, 2022

“Fight what he fought and died for and just use his birthday as a day to recommit yourself to being what he was,” said Riley, who will be part of an MLK Day celebration this year at the Detroit Historical Museum.

November 15, 2021

Lt. Col. Jefferson will forever be etched in the city’s history for his noble service

“You were a boy who grew into a young man who have become a decorated pilot, and again, I say this with all seriousness, who helped save the world,” said Rochelle Riley, Detroit ACE Director.

Kresge Foundation among first annual City of Detroit arts and culture honorees

Oct 27, 2021

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan commemorated International Artist Day this week with an announcement of the inaugural Detroit ACE Honors, which salute  achievement by artists and arts patrons who have contributed more than 25 years of service to the Detroit arts and culture scene.

A ceremony, to be held in January, will present each honoree with a Detroit ACE medal of excellence. The event will also unveil the members of the Detroit Council of the Arts, who will choose recipients in subsequent years.

New Arts Complex Aims to Build Community in Detroit

Oct 26, 2021

“If we knew how the gallery world worked, I don’t know that we would have jumped into it,” said JJ Curis, who, with her husband, Anthony Curis, founded an art gallery, the Library Street Collective, in 2012, in a once-derelict alleyway. But she feels their naïveté going into that first venture may have allowed them to conduct future business with an unconventional mind-set.

Mayor Press Conference Detroit ACE Honors

Oct 25, 2021

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggin on local ACE honors for International Artist Day.

Duggan appoints Detroit’s first historian to highlight African Americans’ contributions to the city

Oct 25, 2021

Mayor Mike Duggan on Monday announced the appointment of Jamon Jordan, an educator and history tour guide, to serve as the city’s first historian, an honorary position intended to highlight Detroit’s unique and compelling story.

In Conversation with Rochelle Riley at Browseabout Books

Oct 20, 2021 @ 5pm EDT

Rochelle Riley in conversation at Browseabout Books of Rehoboth Beach, DE for this virtual event.

Critical Conversations: World Afro Day

Sep 15, 2021
The City of Detroit spoke with professional hair stylists and Detroiters on their personal experiences and tips for rocking their hair naturally.

Examining art and creativity’s role in healing the community during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

Sep 1, 2021
“My office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship was thrilled to partner with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and Cranbrook Art Museum and the TCF Center to do The Healing Memorial one year after we did the memorial on Belle Isle to give people the chance to mourn.”

New Healing Memorial at TCF Center creates space to reflect, remember

Sep 1, 2021

A blank wall in Detroit’s TCF Center is a now a large scale art installation dedicated to loss and healing amid COVID-19 — one pouch at a time.

The installation, called the Healing Memorial, was unveiled Tuesday on the third floor of  TCF’s north end near the intersection of Congress and Washington.

Healing Memorial at TCF Center memorializes COVID victims

Aug 31, 2021

Starting September 4, you are welcome to visit The Healing Memorial installation located at TCF Center. Please enter the TCF Center at the corner of Washington and Congress and take the first elevators or escalators you see up one floor to level 3.

Young readers see Black icons as children like them in ‘That They Lived’

Aug 30, 2021

Heroes spur all children toward greatness. A new book introduces youngsters to inspiring lives in Black history. “That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World,” by Rochelle Riley and Cristi Smith-Jones (Wayne State University Press, Feb. 2021, 160 pp. $16.99), highlights achievements rooted in perseverance and love of humanity.

New Headstone for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Jamerson

Aug 27, 2021

Rochelle joined family and friends to unveil a new headstone at the grave of James Jamerson, named by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest bass player of all time. One of Motown’s Funk Brothers, Jamerson played on almost all of Motown’s hits in the 1960s and early 70s. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

City of Detroit Pays Tribute to Aaliyah

Aug 25, 2021
Rochelle and Detroit ACE hosted a City of Detroit tribute to Aaliyah on the 20th anniversary of her death. The celebration featured videos of the 22-year-old superstar projected into Detroit’s City Hall above the Spirit of Detroit statue.

Historical marker commemorates Detroit’s late, great Black Bottom neighborhood

August 9, 2021
On Monday community leaders, historians, and those who called Detroit’s famous Black Bottom home, gathered to celebrate the dedication of a historical marker to honor the once-famous neighborhood and to recall the truth about its past.

Detroit’s Former Black Bottom Neighborhood Gets Historical Marker

July 26, 2021
Rochelle and the Detroit ACE Office helped dedicate a new state historical marker for Black Bottom, the vibrant neighborhood that, along with neighboring Paradise Valley and Hastings Street, once made up the main commercial corridor for Detroit’s African American communities. The area was destroyed decades ago because of urban renewal programs and highway construction.

NWS Presents: An Evening with Rochelle Riley

May 13, 2021
Every famous person was once a child who, in some cases, overcame great obstacles to achieve success. That’s the enduring lesson of Rochelle Riley’s “That They Lived,” which features the biographies and photographs of famous African Americans.

Evita of Nomadness Travel Tribe interviews Rochelle Riley; celebrating been-ups and start-ups

May 1, 2021
Evita stops by EastEats, to chat with Director of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (ACE) for the City of Detroit, Rochelle Riley. Hear how the evolution of Detroit and it’s magnetism is powered by its native and residents that stayed, helped and continue to help the city grow.

NWS Presents: An Evening with Imbolo Mbue

March 22, 2021
From a sub-Saharan African village to Flint Michigan, the National Writers Series discusses the inspirations for and the creation of Imbole Mbue’s newest book, “How Beautiful We Were.” With guest host Rochelle Riley, the director of Arts and Culture for the city of Detroit, and an award-winning former columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

Rochelle appears at the Northwest African-American Museum

February 28, 2021
Join author Rochelle Riley and Brenda Leaks, Head of Seattle Girls’ School, for a riveting conversation about Riley’s newest book “That They Lived.”

Detroit ACE: Source Booksellers

February 27, 2021
Join author Rochelle Riley, Alice Randall, and Detroit mayor Mike Duggan. 

Witness to History: Les Payne and the search for Malcolm X

February 25, 2021
Les Payne, The late Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for Newsday made it his life’s work to uncover the man behind the legendary Black Muslim minister and activist. Payne’s thirty-year journey led him to pen “The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X.” Recently published following his death in 2018, Les Payne’s daughter Tamara joins his friends and colleagues to discuss the National Book Award winning biography, the author and the responsibility of Black journalists like Payne to chronicle history as it is.

Detroit Arts Culture and Entrepreneurship Official Discusses Art Healing Society and Her New Book

February 17, 2021
Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts and Culture at the Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship for the City of Detroit and Author of “That They Lived” talks about her new book, as well as the importance of arts and culture to the City of Detroit and as an ambassador for the motor city.

A Zoom Talk with Rochelle Riley

February 11, 2021
Author Rochelle Riley discusses her newest book “THAT THEY LIVED –
African Americans that Changed the World”

Pages Bookshop Virtually Presents Rochelle Riley

February 11, 2021
We are thrilled to have author Rochelle Riley back at Pages virtually for her latest book “That They Lived” a book that fills in gaps in the history that American children have been taught for generations. For African American children, it will prove that they are more than descendants of the enslaved. For all children, it is a book that shows that every child can achieve great things and work together to make the world a better place for all.

Ferndale Library Podcast Interview with Rochelle Riley

February 4, 2021
Rochelle Riley recently ended a 20-year career as a nationally-syndicated, award-winning Detroit columnist in 2019 to become the City of Detroit’s Director of Arts and Culture. In 2018, she published ‘The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery,’ and she’s just followed that up with a new book, ‘That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World.’

New Kids Book By Former Free Press Columnist Highlights Accomplishments Of Black Americans

February 3, 2021 | Published on
As part of Black History Month, WKAR’s Scott Pohl talks with Riley about “That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed The World”.

That They Lived: African Americans That Changed The World

February 2, 2021
MLK, Jr Birthday Committee and the Teaneck Public Library Present “That They Lived: African Americans That Changed The World” –An Interview with Author Rochelle Riley.

Rochelle Riley interviews Elizabeth Atkins, Stephanie Williams on telling black stories

February 2, 2021 | Published on
Rochelle Riley interviews Stephanie Williams of Wayne State University Press and Elizabeth Atkins, CEO of Two Sisters Writing and Publishing about helping more African American authors tell their stories. It’s a part of the Undefeated campaign to celebrate Detroit’s contributions to American excellence in arts and culture.

Detroit Kicks off a Yearlong Celebration of Arts and Culture With Black History Month Programs

February 2, 2021 | Published on
The city’s Undefeated initiative will showcase local artists and performers with digital events.

City of Detroit showcases artists as kickoff to Black History Month

January 31, 2021 | Published on ClickOnDetroit
Yearlong celebration of arts and culture will showcase Detroit’s creativity and contributions.

Stand for Something: Martin Luther King Jr. Day Panel Discussion

January 18, 2021 | Streamed live on YDetroit
The YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit presented this panel with Rochelle Riley on Monday, January 18th 2021 from 10:30 to 12:pm on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X Author Talk

October 30, 2020 | Streamed live on YouTube
Source Booksellers hosted this interview full of insights on the life of Malcolm X.

How Do I Do That? with Rochelle Riley and Lisa Sauve

September 29, 2020 | CultureSource
Public arts projects, whether large or small scale, can feel incredibly daunting. So how do they get done? Tune into a series of 30-minute conversations with innovators and leaders in local and national public arts where we’ll race the clock to hear about their work and how do it.

Women in #Activism

September 12, 2020
Video from the Women in #Activism: Steps to Take Everyday to Make Change #DetroitTogetherDigital Panel.

Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts & Culture for the City of Detroit

June 3, 2020
Rochelle Riley, the Director of Arts & Culture for the City of Detroit and the former columnist at the Detroit Free Press, joins Seth and Becky to talk about the protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Columnist Rochelle Riley: On Race, Journalism, and Healing

June 2020 | Hannah Davis on Facebook Live
Rochelle Riley is an award winning columnist with a career spanning nearly 40 years. Her book, The Burden, explores the enduring legacy of slavery in American society. Link to her book here!

Former Dallas Morning News Writer Reflects on Race in Latest Book

June 2020 | NBCDFW
Rochelle Riley has dedicated much of her life to finding and writing about the truth, NBC 5’s Laura Harris reports.

Former Dallas Morning News Writer Reflects on Race in Latest Book

June 2020 | NBCDFW
Rochelle Riley has dedicated much of her life to finding and writing about the truth, NBC 5’s Laura Harris reports.

Views On The Pandemic From 3 Swing States

May 10, 2020 |

NPR’s Don Gonyea discusses how the pandemic has affected politics in three battleground states — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan — with Charles Franklin, Salena Zito and Rochelle Riley.

Rochelle Riley’s acceptance speech for NC Media and Journalism Hall of Fame

Apr 23, 2019 | Detroit Free Press

The North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame at the University of North Carolina inducted the Free Press’ Rochelle Riley. Watch her speech.

Rochelle Riley, ‘The Burden’

Nov 13, 2018

Columnist Rochelle Riley spoke at the 2018 Southern Festival of Books on a panel about race in America.


How Do You Mourn a Pandemic? See How Artists Around The World Are Building Monuments to Those Who Died of COVID-19

March 12, 2021 | artnet

As the world continues to battle the spread of disease, artists and architects are helping memorialize those we lost.

10 Women Innovating Local Government

March 8, 2021 | John Hopkins University

Whether it’s addressing the many crises of the global pandemic or tackling preexisting challenges, female city leaders have been key to developing, executing, and scaling up some of the most impactful innovations of the past year.

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating 10 women who’ve made big strides for their communities.

‘Black Bottom Saints’ playing cards to celebrate Detroit’s Black culture, history

February 27, 2021 | The Detroit News

New York Times best-selling author Alice Randall announced that the images of icons with Detroit ties will be featured in a set of playing cards called “Black Bottom Saints,” named after her latest book.

Randall joined Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the city’s Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship Director Rochelle Riley for a virtual presentation Saturday afternoon.

Detroit launches Undefeated, a yearlong effort to celebrate arts and culture

February 11, 2021 | Detroit Free Press

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the city’s Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (ACE) have launched a creative initiative titled Undefeated, which is being billed as “a yearlong celebration of Detroit arts and culture.”

Children portray icons like Aretha Franklin and Frederick Douglass in new photo book

February 10, 2021 | Detroit Free Press

There is a wonderful close-up photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking from a podium, holding on to it firmly as if he is leaning in to the enormous task ahead.

In the new book “That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World,” that photo is paired with a portrait of Rochelle Riley’s grandson, Caleb, then 8, who is wearing a similar suit and tie and copying the civil rights icon’s pose with an intensity beyond his years.

That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed the World by Rochelle Riley and Cristi Smith-Jones

February 1, 2021 | Wayne State University Press

In February 2017, Rochelle Riley was reading Twitter posts and came across a series of black-and-white photos of four-year-old Lola dressed up as different African American women who had made history. Rochelle was immediately smitten. She was so proud to see this little girl so powerfully honor the struggle and achievement of women several decades her senior. Rochelle reached out to Lola’s mom, Cristi Smith-Jones, and asked to pair her writing with Smith-Jones’s incredible photographs for a book. The goal? To teach children on the cusp of adolescence that they could be anything they aspired to be, that every famous person was once a child who, in some cases, overcame great obstacles to achieve.

Award-winning journalist writes book about African Americans who changed the world

February 1, 2021 | The Oakland Press

Riley came up with the idea in February 2017 when, scrolling through Twitter, she saw a series of photos of then 5-year-old Lola Jones recreating historical photographs – like Rosa Parks’ mug shot. Riley reached out to Lola’s mother, Cristi Smith-Jones, and asked to feature her photos in a book she was writing. 

In an interview with CNN, Smith-Jones said, “Since it’s a heavy topic, we wanted to find a way to make learning about black history fun for (Lola). … Her ability to emulate them is uncanny.”


As Rochelle Riley leaves the Free Press, readers lament losing her fierce voice

May 19, 2019 | Detroit Free Press

For two decades, Rochelle Riley’s words have made things happen, and for about half of that time, as a Free Press columnist, she told stories, exposed truths and stimulated action.

“I am proud to be a journalist,” Riley said during her induction into the North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina. “I am leaving the newsroom behind — I’m in my last month of work at the Free Press — but, I will never give up that mission, and none of us should.”

Racism, Discrimination And Calling The Police On Black People

July 19, 2018 |

Disturbing stories this summer about white people calling the police on black people for cutting the grass or using the swimming pool. Guests Rochelle Riley with Paul Butler, professor of law at Georgetown University and author of “Chokehold: Policing Black Men.” (@LawProfButler) and Steven Brown, associate at the Urban Institute, doctoral candidate in sociology at Harvard University. (@KregSteven).