Inclusion in the Arts

Community Conversations

Community Conversations

Join the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and CultureSource on October 12 at 1 p.m. for our next Community Conversation about Inclusion in the Arts. During this conversation we will be hearing from some of southeast Michigan’s arts and culture leaders who have been implementing efforts to embed inclusion into their programming.

This series of conversations will seek to inform the grantmaking strategy of the funds which the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation has provided to support southeast Michigan’s arts and culture sector for years to come. By bringing people together and learning alongside partners in the field, we are building capacity for adaptable and inclusive arts organizations.


Guest Panelists

Romain Blanquart

Romain Blanquart was born in France and has called Detroit home since 2002. Photography and journalism have been Romain’s compass to navigate the road map of life. He studied photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology and has worked as a visual journalist for 25 years, 16 of these years were spent documenting life in the Motor City on the staff at the Detroit Free Press.

“My camera gave me a way to converse with the world. Journalism showed me how to engage with my community on a deeper level, to learn from and share with people who I would not have crossed paths with otherwise.”

After producing a documentary film about the toll of homicides on Detroiters, a city whose residents lived through over 3,300 homicides between 2003-2012 and seeing how many lives one murder shatters, Romain started looking at how he could contribute to preventing young people from doing things that would take away their chance of finding purpose and growing up into healthy, productive and fulfilled adults.

In 2016 Romain and his friend Khary Mason created Capturing Belief out of their common desire to contribute directly to guiding young Detroiters to build a strong foundation for their future.

Ajara Alghali

Ajara Alghali serves as the Director of TéMaTé Institute for Black Dance and Culture, an organization dedicated to equity in the arts. Through this institution, she reimagines traditional African dance as an integral component of the classical dance canon. TéMaTéInstitute strives to create an artistic landscape characterized by equitable access, heightened visibility, and the rightful recognition of Black dance culture. Ajara promotes the intrinsic value of traditional practices and informal community-building by cultivating a broader perspective on culture and sustainable relationships with the physical and built environments. Also a versatile artist, and urban planner, Ajara’s work explores the connection between the African diaspora, community, and scholarly inquiry.

Phil Gilchrist

Phil studied photography and ceramics, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Northern Michigan University in 2005, and a Master of Public Administration from Wayne State University in 2013. Phil has served in leadership roles in local organizations, helped to found new nonprofit Macomb County Pride, serves on the Marketing and Programs Committee of the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce and Program Councils for Leadership Macomb and Junior Leadership Macomb programs. Phil is an appointee to the Macomb County Art Institute Authority where he serves as Chair, and to the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority, also serving as its current Chair.

Under Phil’s leadership, the Anton Art Center has expanded programming, sought new opportunities for support and growth, and advocated for the value and importance of the arts across Macomb County. In addition to a regular schedule of classes, offsite artmaking activities, public art projects, year-round exhibits and opportunities for artists to participate through artwork sales, the Anton is also helping to spearhead the construction of a new affordably priced arts-focused residential development in downtown Mount Clemens with a national nonprofit developer, Artspace.

As a nearly life-long resident of Mount Clemens, Phil is passionate about making a difference in his community through the arts and focuses on creating opportunities for people throughout Macomb County to experience creativity firsthand. He takes interest in how the arts support education, health, community and economic development, and the role that arts play in different cultures and communities. In 2021, Phil received recognition from Crains Detroit Business as a Notable LGBTQ in Business, and from the City of Sterling Heights, receiving its Diversity Distinction award.

Khary Mason

Khary Mason was born and raised in Detroit, he is a former Detroit Police Homicide Detective, now working in the Conviction Integrity space. Initially photography and writing were nothing more than tools that he used to aid in the capture, and prosecution of others. As time went on Mason noticed no matter how many people he, and his colleagues arrested, society did not seem to be getting any safer. Understanding the negative uses of words and imagery, Mason believed that they also possessed liberating powers.

Reflecting on the impact that image making, and writing have had on his life, Khary said, “The camera changed the way that I saw the world, it was as if a veil had been lifted…Poetry taught me how to question, and challenge, the difficulties I saw in society, that I was no longer blind to. I believe that both forms have the capacity to make us better stewards of our shared human experience.”

Mason would go on to become a multidisciplinary artist who has harnessed the power of art and friendship to mentor and enrich the lives of the next generation. In 2019 Mason became a Documenting Detroit Fellow studying the effects of incarceration on individuals and their families. In 2021 Mason became a Salzburg Global Fellow working with peers around the globe on issues of youth violence, safety, and justice.

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Greg Yankee

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Greg Yankee