CultureSource is a nonprofit art service organization based in Southeast Michigan that operates in the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, Monroe and St. Clair. Primarily member-based, the group hosts professional development workshops aimed at helping to grow creative and leadership capacities, while also creating programs that help to exchange ideas about art and culture in Metro Detroit.
At the end of the day, the group aims to bring together stakeholders interested in maximizing the public’s access to creative expression, while also providing skills and opportunities to members who need them.
Managing Director, Erica Schopmeyer, who had a background working on the business side in media in Detroit before transitioning into her current role this past January, sat down with us to discuss arts and culture in the city, and what the future can look like amid the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.
WHAT DOES YOUR CURRENT ROLE WITHIN CULTURESOURCE LOOK LIKE?
My role is kind of just ever-evolving. I met the crew back in December when they were looking to grow a little bit and have a couple of people join the team. So I and our new communications manager, Hailey Dukes, joined at the same time. My role has been really more about internal managing, I work really closely with [Executive director] Omari Rush, and we are evolving and shaping things.
It’s been really interesting to join at this time of transition because almost all of us in a new role at this point because everybody’s kind of figuring out how to navigate the space. So, for me, it’s been really about trying to keep things on track while also pushing things forward and trying to make sure that we’re working through our values and our vision. But then still being creative. We’ve outlined this idea that we’re trying to focus on about relief, resiliency and innovation, and pairing some of that with research.
It’s been a really cool opportunity in a lot of ways to grow, and really see where CultureSource can fit in terms of navigating things for our sector. I think that has been the spirit of what we’ve been trying to carry through.
HOW DOES CULTURESOURCE ENGAGE IN CREATIVE DIALOGUE?
I think first and foremost we see ourselves as a leader right now and we want to offer a space where our member organizations and really anyone in the arts and culture sector can come and feel like they have someone who is, you know, sort of, moving things forward and pioneering and pushing the conversations about what are we going to do when they reopen, and what does that look like, and what is our sector’s response. You know in a cohesive kind of way.
So I’ll use the word opportunities, to kind of step up and be that leader for the sector. Many of our members encompass such a vast array of arts and cultural organizations in the region. So we’re going to advance their work and we’re here to cultivate that creativity, but we’re also here to shine a light or a kind of guiding feeling and sense that we’re here and we’re thinking about what’s next.
You know, the first day that things kind of started to get really real with COVID-19, Omari was already in the office ready to go, saying things like, “we’re going to create a resource and we’re going to do research and we’re going to do these things” and it has been really incredible to not only see, but we’re also sticking to that and building it out and it’s really becoming who we are now.
WHEN YOU HAVE WORKSHOPS AND PROGRAMS, ARE YOU PACKAGING THEM AS A RESOURCE ON YOUR WEBSITE?
That was actually one of the first things that we implemented when we got things going so we built a section on our website called COVID-19 updates, and it has really just become a huge resource and repository for information about our programs, information about best practices that we’re learning and hearing about. There is a section for artists, organizations, and nonprofits. There’s information about different kinds of funds or general information like articles that we’ve read and enjoyed and found useful.
We have a section about the closing and reopening, obviously closing is less relevant now, but at the time, our initial thought was maybe everybody’s going to want a place to come and to say, who’s doing what and how. We’ll use that place once folks start to reopen, and they can come there and get some information about, you know what people are doing and how they’re doing it.
Then we have a government stimulus and advocacy and data surveys section, so that’s been kind of the main force that we’ve been directing folks. Everything ends up on the site and we’ve gotten a lot of really wonderful responses from people about it, and it certainly seems like it’s helping. So that’s really wonderful to hear.
WHAT ARE SOME NEEDS YOU’RE NOTICING MOVING FORWARD?
I think that everybody right now is really focused on that idea of reopening. I’ll say, not in a way that everyone’s trying to rush to reopen or accelerate the process but making sure that we have kind of a cohesive messaging, and a cohesive plan, as a sector. We’ve been hosting weekly CEO calls and also weekly senior staff calls with members from our member organizations to make sure that each week we’re on the same page and we’re talking about how to move forward.
If we’re not planning, then what else are we doing? We’ve got to have something in place so that when the day does come, we can be ready, and it can feel good for our patrons, and it can not be confusing. That includes sanitation, that includes signage, that includes you know any number of things that we, as guests to a museum or a zoo, might not think about but all of our senior staff and CEOs are thinking about.
I think that’s something that’s really been emerging. I’ll also say that the research component of this has been really interesting, we are partnering with WolfBrown on surveys so that we can have you know kind of do a temperature check of audience feelings about entering places again.
Lastly, I think people are still trying to figure out how to navigate what is to come. The arts and culture sector is also made up of theater and musical performances, and all of these organizations that rely so much on ticket sales. I think that is clearly, of course, going to be really affected by the pandemic. We have launched a fund in partnership with local foundations that stays open until May 1 geared to nonprofits. There are going to be $10,000 grants offered to approximately 50 nonprofits in the region to kind of provide some relief. I think funding is a big thing on people’s minds as well.
WHAT IS CULTURESOURCE’S ROLE IN COORDINATING THESE PROGRAMS?
With the fund specifically, our role was organizing in part with the foundation. This fund is going to provide relief for nonprofits in the region and is one aspect of what we’re doing.
I wouldn’t so much say that we are in the business of providing advice, more convening folks and creating a space for collective thinking going forward so that you know during these senior staff and CEO calls, people have access to one another so that they can say, “What did you do in this situation? So maybe I could do what you did and take some pieces of advice.” We’re really trying to just make sure that there are as many possible opportunities for those kinds of conversations to happen.
We’re also launching a Slack community for the alternate arts and cultural region. So that, you know, people can have a space that isn’t something that we’re monitoring on a phone call or providing each week, but they can really just come together virtually and have conversations.
That’s another thing that we’ve been trying to think about but really it’s about providing a place for people to just bounce ideas off of one another and share best practices.
We are in this place of figuring out how this transformation can lead to more opportunities and what our sector will look like coming out of this. I think that’s a collective goal that we all have and so the more we can be aligned and CultureSource can provide that leadership and alignment, the better.
It’s been really, really wonderful to be involved, and to feel like what we’re doing is providing a service for folks. You know, we’re seeing things like funds being launched and I really hope that it makes an impact.