ARISE Detroit! exhibit celebrates local activism

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer
ARISE founder Luther Keith points out a picture in the exhibition at the Detroit Historical Museum.

Worried about the future of Detroit’s neighborhoods? Here’s a quick remedy.

Check out the “ARISE Detroit!” exhibition in the Detroit Historical Museum’s Community Gallery, and see if you don’t walk out with a lot more confidence that things are going in the right direction.

The Detroit-based nonprofit is celebrating 10 years of its Neighborhoods Day, which last year brought out 300 different community groups to build houses, clear trash, plant gardens and organize school supplies for kids all across the city’s 139 square miles.

Neighborhoods Day 2017 will occur Aug. 5. Organizations wishing to participate can register by going to

“You watch the news,” said ARISE founder and former Detroit News editor and columnist Luther Keith, “and you always hear the same thing: Great downtown, great Midtown, terrible neighborhoods.”

It’s a simplistic summary that galls him.

“You’d think there’s nothing good going on in Detroit neighborhoods,” Keith said, “that nobody’s doing anything. But you walk in here,” he added, gesturing at the colorful placards documenting 10 years of community activism, “and you say, ‘Wow! I had no idea there was so much positive energy in Detroit.’ ”

The exhibition is mostly photographic. Organized by year, large panels celebrate the volunteers who’ve turned out on Neighborhoods Day ever since 2007, when just 55 groups — St. Louis Luce Community and Muhammad’s Mosque No. 1 among them — took part in the hard work and fun.

Also on display are the proclamations and awards ARISE has garnered over the years, which range from Spirit of Detroit awards to an official citation from former Gov. Jennifer Granholm recognizing the nonprofit’s work.

At one end of the gallery, there’s even a panel with some amusing ARISE history — “Luther’s Idea,” the magic-marker doodle that started it all.

While still at The News in 2005, a year before he launched ARISE, Keith brainstormed on a whiteboard, teasing out his thoughts creating an organization bent on “actuating resources in empowerment and service.”

What he created in ARISE is an organization that connects groups working to improve neighborhoods with like-minded organizations as a way of leveraging their impact. Neighborhoods Day is the most visible part of that program, but ARISE is at work all year long.

Today, participants in Neighborhoods Day include block clubs, faith-based groups such as Rippling Hope, and big-league players in rebuilding neighborhoods, like Habitat for Humanity. Sponsors this year include the Michigan Chronicle, Quicken Loans, Meijer, DTE Energy, Comerica Bank, the Detroit Medical Center and the Erb Family Foundation, among others.

The bottom line, Keith said, is that Detroiters are taking their city into their own hands.

“They’re not just waiting around hoping to be saved,” he said. “They’re willing to work for their city.”

(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

The ARISE Detroit! exhibit will be at the Detroit Historical Museum through June 18.

‘ARISE Detroit!’

Through June 18

Community Gallery

Detroit Historical Museum

5401 Woodward, Detroit

Admission: Free

9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays

(313) 833-1805