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Inside|Out brings 80 reproductions of masterpieces from the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) museum’s collection to the streets and parks of greater metro Detroit, pleasantly surprising and delighting residents of the participating communities and engaging them in dialogue about art.


Inspired by an outdoor exhibition during a visit to London in 2007, the director of the DIA saw how art could serve as a catalyst for public dialogue and shared cultural experiences. The first Inside|Out exhibition was included as part of the DIA’s 125th anniversary in 2010, and the program has grown to become the cornerstone of the museum’s community outreach and is a highly anticipated event for the public. The DIA offers free museum admission to residents of participating communities encouraging the public to come to the DIA to experience the works of art in person.



  • Supported the millage tax, raising $23 million annually for the DIA and providing free general admission to the museum for 10 years to Wayne County residents.
  • Created 120 masterpiece reproductions from the DIA and created 12 site-specific exhibitions for different neighborhoods in greater Detroit.



The museum employs a part-time Inside|Out program coordinator and relies on additional staff during the exhibition session. And the program continues to grow. Originally, 40 reproductions of select masterworks from the DIA were produced; now it’s twice that. The structure of the program has also evolved from exhibiting one work in each city, to exhibiting seven to ten reproductions clustered within walking or bike-riding distance of a single community for three months. Each city plans itsown activities centered around its Inside|Out works. Previous events have included a wine-tasting bus tour, bike and walking tours, talks at local libraries, and interac- tive performances. Partners include Parks and Recreation, small businesses, and neighboors.

BudgetDIA Inside|Out

Inside|Out runs on a $125,000 annual budget. A majority of the program expenses go to part-time staff, permits, and insurance. Thanks to technological advances, an average reproduction costs only $400. The DIA has cultivated great partners and created a streamlined production schedule for the exhibition, which has significantly decreased program costs.


The program is currently funded by the Knight Foundation, which funds projects that engage and inspire communities through art. The DIA will seek additional grant fund- ing and sponsorship in the future.


While participation has grown primarily through word of mouth, the program now boasts a community waiting list. Thousands of students, parents, neighbors, and other community members come out and experience the pop-up collection. Art is just around the corner from where they live, work, and play.

DIA Inside|OutInspiration

Art inspires and engages communities, giving them shared cultural experiences to discuss and appreciate. This small outreach of public art allows the public to become more invested in the DIA. Once community members are comfortable looking at art in their own backyard, they are more likely to see the importance and value of the museum.


Actions Taken

  1. Dream Big and Start Small. Do not be intimidated by a BIG idea. The DIA took its idea to action by making a plan. It carefully considered budget, scale, resources, and time to plan an exhibition. While being realistic about feasibility, they also set out to accomplish BIG goals. Today, the project has doubled in scale and serves as the cornerstone of the museum’s community outreach program.
  2. Create the Art. It took the DIA three years to develop the best technique for producing high-quality reproductions that could withstand the elements during a three-month temporary outdoor installation. The museum uses a graphic printer to fabricate vinyl images that are laminated to aluminum plates. The plates are then encased in pretreated wooden frames, creating a first-class reproduction. The lifespan of a work will vary depending on temperature, moisture, and additional physical conditions. While the prints are constructed for a temporary lifespan, they can last for several years. A friendly printer will also be able to easily assist if one becomes damaged. Inside|Out has not had a single case of vandalism or theft.
  3. Use Unexpected Curators. The DIA looked to community leaders to help build the exhibition. These ambassadors were made unofficial curators, selecting exhibi- tion sites that would be most meaningful to the residents of their communities. Cultivating strong partnerships with parks and recreation, local businesses, and additional city officials builds relationships and future support for the work.
  4. Get Permits and Insurance. Remember due diligence. Safety is always the DIA Inside|Outnumber one priority when planning an exhibition in a public space. It was very important for the DIA to visit with city officials, public art experts, community members, and business owners about potential liabilities and concerns. They can help apply for permits and user agreements. It is also important to add additional insurance riders to plans or buy temporary event insurance to cover potential onsite injuries and property damage.
  5. Install the Exhibition. Bring a toolkit and make a tight installation schedule. An engineer or city official might also want to supervise the installation and deconstruction processes. A small team from the DIA begins installing the 80 reproductions two weeks prior to the exhibition’s official opening.
  6. Make Documentation and Marketing a Priority. Design is not an afterthought when constructing an exhibition in a public space. Like art, good design inspires and informs! Let the community know where to be and when to be there. Because the project is both new and temporary, make clean maps, an interactive website, and onsite signage. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can also help spread the word. Being proactive about design, documentation, and surveying has benefited the DIA’s community engagement and fundraising efforts.
  7. Build an experience. Initially, the DIA created programming for each exhibition; however, as time has passed, community members have become proactive about creating cool experiences and showcase opportunities highlighting their neighbor- hood masterworks and local talent. From a Cezannewich at the local cafe to a fake shark attack in the Detroit River, clever teasers and experiences have kept the public excited and engaged in the project. There’s no telling where the community will go with inspiration and involvement.
  8. Embrace the Temporary. If the locations are stagnant, the public will becomeDIA Inside|Out desensitized to the art. Change it up, keeping the project fresh and evolving and exposing more communities to the artwork. After the three-month exhibition, it is often difficult for community members to give up Inside|Out. People become very protective of their art and space, but keeping the exhibition temporary and flexible is part of the nature of the program.
  9. Evaluate the Process. Each year the program is evaluated and restructured based upon previous experiences and site-specific conditions. An honest evaluation of success and failure will help build a stronger project.

Lessons Learned

Break out of the Institution.
“Listen to the community, and see how you can fit that into your organization, culture, or business model. Community engagement is very powerful, and this is how you connect people to your project.”

Dream Big, Start Small, and Move Fast.
“If you have a creative idea, look into it. Keep pursuing it. It’s OK to start small, take baby steps, and be patient. If we had just done this as a one-off, people might not be copying us today. We tried it and saw that there was something really powerful and continued. Each year it gets better because we evaluate our process and impacts.”


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