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Motown Museum’s Founders Day Event Brought the Greatest in Motown Music to Detroit

Connecting the Past to the Future and Activating on Inspiration and History


On Sunday afternoon at 2648 West Grand Boulevard there was dancing, singing, sunshine, and a great “only in Detroit” kind of energy as hundreds gathered to celebrate the Motown Museum’s annual Founder’s Day.

The community event honored Esther Gordy Edwards, who founded the museum in 1985 at the home of Motown’s original Hitsville, U.S.A., office and studio. The older sister to Berry Gordy, Edwards was a staff member of the Motown label during the 1960s. She also served as president of the Motown Museum and has been called the “Mother of Motown.”

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Said Motown Museum CEO and chairwoman Robin Terry, granddaughter of Edwards, “When the Motown label moved to LA, my grandmother set in motion to preserve the house and keep it in Detroit. She wanted the world to know what happened in that building and now nearly 40 years later our goal is to activate that inspiration.”

The Spinners, who were honored at the museum Friday and played Music Hall Saturday, made a surprise appearance at the Founder’s Day event and played two songs. Other Motown stars in attendance included Martha Reeves, Miller London, Joe Herndon, and Paul Riser. Reeves danced and sang among the delighted crowd as the DJ played “Dancing in the Street.”

As part of the event programming, Terry introduced longtime Motown advocate U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow as “My grandmother’s dear friend,” who said, “I feel like I’m coming home when I’m here.”

In late 2022, the senator secured $10 million in federal funds for the museum, – the largest single contribution to date.

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The $65 million expansion, announced in 2016, will grow the museum to a 50,000-square-foot world-class entertainment and education tourist destination featuring dynamic, interactive exhibits, a performance theater, recording studios, an expanded retail experience and meeting spaces, and more.

The expansion includes three phases.

Phase one – Hitsville NEXT – launched in September of 2019 takes up three historic houses on Grand Boulevard that were previously owned by Motown Records. It is a creative hub for entrepreneurship and education offering professional record pods, community activation space, and programming.

Phase two of the expansion – Rocket Plaza – launched in August of 2022 and serves as a community gathering space and features a lit granite paver expanse, landscaping, park benches, and a pop-up performance. The plaza is inspired by the time when young music artists would gather in front of the Motown headquarters.

Phase three, Terry said will “sit right behind the houses and where we are celebrating today and we will break ground soon.” The planned 40,000-square-foot building will house interactive exhibits, the Ford Motor Company Theater, an expanded retail experience, and more.



“It’s about celebrating community and activating what my grandmother set in motion,” said Terry.

The Founder’s Day event kicked off the 2023 inaugural full summer season on Rocket Plaza, which will offer live, free entertainment and a summer-long series of community events that will make the plaza a vibrant and activated community gathering space.


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