Organizational History

Founded in 1991, the Arts League of Michigan (ALM dba the Carr Center) has a long and storied history of providing strong programming that focuses on artistic excellence to the Detroit community. A large part of our legacy has been dedicated to supporting artists in the creation of new work  and providing a platform for the presentation of a wide array of artistic product to a broader audience.

Our mission is to preserve, present, promote, and develop African and African-American cultural arts traditions within our multicultural community. In 2009, building on a solid legacy of community service, the Arts League founded the Carr Center, and it is through the Carr Center’s programs that we realize our mission.

When the Carr Center first opened, we focused our efforts on creative placemaking. We moved into a downtown neighborhood that the city had targeted as a hub for African American culture and entertainment. Most storefronts in that neighborhood were empty and neighborhood occupancy was only 30%.

In addition to our programming, our efforts focused on creating the Center as a destination and as the neighborhood’s core. We did so by offering programs in the building and in the park directly across from the building, which served as the Carr Center’s “front yard”.

We activated the park with concerts, dance performances, dance parties, festivals and temporary art installations.  Our placemaking efforts resulted in attracting up to 50,000 visitors annually to the Center and the park.

During our tenure the neighborhood occupancy reaching 100%.  It also resulted in the city recasting the vision for the neighborhood, for private commercial developers coming in to make new investments.  As a result, the Carr Center was displaced and had to relocate. We are now anchored in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood.

Our larger scale performances and our educational programs  are housed at Detroit School of Arts and in the Fall of 2019, we will open our new visual arts gallery and smaller scale performance/rehearsal studio. The Contemporary, at the Park-Shelton.

In 2016, the Carr Center hired its first artistic director, the internationally renowned jazz pianist and jazz educator Geri Allen. Geri’s vision was to “expand and nationalize the Carr Center.”

During a single year, she moved the organization toward that vision bringing strong national and international artists to join local and regional artists in performances and exhibitions. Despite her untimely death in 2017, we continued to move the Carr Center forward.

In Fall 2017 we welcomed  triple Grammy and Tony award winning jazz icon and actress, Dee Dee  Bridgewater, and three-time Grammy winner, composer, drummer,  producer Terri Lyne Carrington to serve as co-artistic directors. This stellar artistic team brings strong leadership to all our programs, and they curated a phenomenal 2018-2019 season.