A reproduction of “A Day in June” by George Wesley Bellows was installed outside the Tucker Senior Center in Harrison Township. The 1913 painting is one of 120 Detroit Institute of Arts Inside|Out installations around Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

A reproduction of “A Day in June” by George Wesley Bellows was installed outside the Tucker Senior Center in Harrison Township. The 1913 painting is one of 120 Detroit Institute of Arts Inside|Out installations around Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Photo by Dean Vaglia

DIA Inside|Out returns for 14th season

By: Dean Vaglia | Metro | Published May 18, 2023


METRO DETROIT — The Detroit Institute of Arts may take its name from the city it resides in, but the DIA’s reach does not end at the north side of 8 Mile Road.

Between the mileages and the pool of guests that visit the museum, the many communities in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties all play a part in helping the DIA be what it is.

So why not bring the art to them?

Inside|Out has been doing just that since 2009, displaying replica pieces of the DIA’s collection across metro Detroit.

“Our former director, Graham Beal, saw a similar exterior artwork display in London,” said Ian Rapnicki, DIA public affairs officer. “The Tate Modern was undergoing some renovations, so out of necessity … they put (the collection) out there so people could see it during the renovations. (Beal) loved the idea and modified it. It wasn’t just meant to be a temporary thing for renovations, but he saw it as a way to get art into interesting contexts and in front of people, and it just was really popular and stuck around.”

Of course, the DIA is not taking the actual paintings off the wall or out of storage and sticking them in parks for the summer. About 120 re-creations of select pieces are spread throughout various communities and partner organizations like community college and hospital campuses, but the fact that they’re re-creations does not mean the DIA is skimping on their presentation.

“We work with two local businesses to do these things,” Rapnicki said. “The first is Eric’s I’ve Been Framed Shop in Detroit on the north side. He’s a framer, and he’s a really great guy. … He gets the frames over to LaVanway Sign Company out of Southfield. They put reproductions in the frames, they install it for us, they deinstall it for us, they store it for us, so we’re really lucky to have these local companies to work with.”

By placing the art out in public spaces, audiences are able to contextualize the content and develop meaning from them based on the surroundings.

“There’s often really interesting opportunities for selections,” Rapnicki said. “We have a painting called ‘Fire in a Haystack’ and if we’re installing it in front of a fire station, it seems like a really obvious and impactful choice, but sometimes there isn’t that kind of obvious thing and you put something that almost seems random or totally unrelated, but even in those situations, people find the meaning in the context. The painting in a different context, to see it in a different way, maybe they notice something about it they would not otherwise.”

Painting selection usually comes down to the DIA itself, which prioritizes spacing out the artworks so similar ones are not grouped together, but requests from partners are honored.

“We had a couple suggestions regarding family, but they’re the ones that know which paintings, by size, would fit,” said Sue Keehn, chair of the Harrison Township Beautification Commission. “We had options to select. I kind of wanted a Van Gogh because Van Gogh was recently here.”

Harrison Township is hosting Inside|Out for its second time, a phenomenon that Rapnicki says is common these days. Now turning 14, Inside|Out has visited many communities around the metro area and beyond. Communities apply to have Inside|Out installations, while some partners, like each county’s community college system, annually take part. Keehn said that applying for Inside|Out was a collaborative effort between the Harrison Township Beautification Commission and the Board of Trustees, with the commission drafting the documents and the board approving a motion to apply.

“(The applications) discuss the exposure (of) your residents and visitors, where they would see these particular paintings and gatherings we might have that would be a good social area for people to see them,” Keehn said.

Being 14 years into the program, it is clear to the DIA that Inside|Out has been successful at its goal of letting people experience the DIA’s art outside of the museum. Inside|Out has even become an anticipated event of its own, as Rapnicki experienced when a Bloomfield-area mother reached out to him.

“She told me that her son and her made an annual tradition of on his birthday — they would go out and find an Inside|Out installation somewhere and spend time exploring,” Rapnicki said. “She said she was in Oakland County, and I told her all the communities we would be in in Oakland County. … We’re at the Johnson Nature Center this year in Bloomfield Township, and I told her that it was shaping up to be a really special installation (of)10 pieces in this 40-acre beautiful park. I told her this would be a good place to spend a birthday, and she replied that she happened to be just a few minutes from where she lived.”

As for how many people have been inspired to visit the DIA, Rapnicki said the museum has not tracked that information but is including a reminder on Inside|Out displays that Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County residents can visit the DIA for free.

“Our strongest asset is this incredible collection of genuine artifacts and artworks, but that’s not the goal of this program,” Rapnicki said. “This is to bring art to people who might not have the opportunity to come to the museum. We’re reaching out to the furthest stretches or the tri-county area with this program. In some cases, it’s an hour away from the museum, so this might be the only chance they have to engage, and we want it to be an enjoyable experience.”

Inside|Out pieces will be on display around the metro Detroit area from May until late October. Information about where to find Inside|Out installations can be found at dia.org/insideout.

2023 DIA Inside|Out program host cities, campuses and neighborhoods

Macomb County

Harrison Township

Lenox Township

Shelby Township

Village of New Haven

Washington Township

Freedom Hill County Park, Sterling Heights

Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, Clinton Township

Macomb Community College


Oakland County

Johnson Nature Center, Bloomfield Township


Commerce Township

Pleasant Ridge

White Lake

Oakland Community College


Wayne County


San Bernardo Community, Detroit

Southwest Detroit


Highland Park, Avalon Village


Wayne County Community College District