Connecting the business and cultural communities: a day in the life of Maud Lyon, executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Southeast Michigan.

Author:Strong, Michael

When Detroit Mayor David Bing laid out his recovery plans for the city, he did so in the impressive digs of Orchestra Hall. When former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson hosted a party during Super Bowl XL, the Detroit Historical Museum was the venue.

It's these non-traditional uses of these venues and other creative solutions that are emanating, in part, from the Cultural Alliance of Southeast Michigan. The organization represents more than 100 non-profit arts and culture-oriented organizations in seven counties in the region.


Created three years ago, the alliance helps these organizations find ways to work together pooling resources and easing budgetary strains, said Maud Lyon, executive director of the alliance. In an era of shrinking budgets, the work of the alliance may be more important than ever, but the goal remains the same: "To have arts and culture at the heart of community transformation," according to Lyon.

The idea of having arts and culture play an integral role in the revival of Detroit and the growth of the surrounding areas may seem a bit strange. Often it's thought of what's born out of the business success of those areas. However, Lyon points out that as Southeastern Michigan looks to shift from a manufacturing economy to a multi-faceted one, the ability to attract and retain the talent necessary to make it work will depend largely on what there is to do.

"When you're trying to appeal to a younger crowd, and you're imagining the city differently, you need cool things in the city and fun things to do. For younger professionals, what arts and culture does is provide evidence of a vibrant community," Lyon said.

To that end, the alliance works diligently to forge relationships with the business community. Many businesses are familiar with some of the larger members of the alliance, such as the Detroit Zoo, Detroit Science Center or the Detroit Institute of Arts, and their ability in host outings or meetings. However, there are dozens of smaller groups that my better fit a particular need.

Through the use of the Cultural Concierge, the alliance helps business looking for venues to host meetings, workshops, parties and other events. The idea is to provide these enterprises venues that highlight the cultural legacy of Southeastern Michigan.

"If you contact Denise Asker, she can rattle off any venue in the seven county area. She's just amazing," Lyon said.

Some of the smaller entities include the Anton Art Center in Mount...

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