November 21, 2010


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I stopped by 1515 Broadway to get some tea when this gentleman walked in. As he entered, he was filmed by a young man inside the shop with a digital video camera.

I figured he must be an interesting person if someone saw fit to record him doing something as mundane as coming into a coffee shop. Based on that deduction, I struck up a conversation with him.

He told me his name was David. I instantly forgot his name, because that's what I do when strangers tell me their names. That's probably because strangers make me nervous.

Or because I have Juvenile Alzheimer's.

Even still, I managed to remember his occupation. He said he was director of the Detroit Opera House; which happens to be across the street from 1515. Being wholly uninitiated to all things even moderately associated with speaking in a foreign language, I naively asked,

"Oh yea? How long have you been doing that?"

He laughed, smiled, and demurely answered,

"Oh. For sometime now..."

After David left, I spoke with the young man who had filmed his entrance and our subsequent conversation. Craig Atkinson is a field producer with New York-based documentary film company Loki Films (The Boys of Baraka, Jesus Camp). Craig is originally from Royal Oak and is in the city working on a documentary tentatively titled Detroit Hustles Harder. He clued me into the fact that David was much more than just the director of the Opera House.

I went home later and Googled "Director of Detroit Opera House." His modest "..sometime now" actually meant "The Detroit Opera House would not exist if not for me."  Dr. David DiChiera is the Opera House's  director and founder. He acquired the property in 1989 and  raised $24 million to bring the DOH into existence.

Craig and I talked about the purpose of his documentary. It's about highlighting the innovative, motivated people propelling themselves and the community forward. It is of course impossible to move forward successfully without clear sight of where you are headed.

Dr. Dichiera saw a void in the Detroit cultural scene, and created an institution to fill it.


Addendum: A friend of Dr. DiChiera's daughter saw his photo of Flickr and his daughter contacted me. She let me know that her father was recently honored by the National Endowment for the Art. Check this link to learn even more about this outstanding person in Detroit:

[View the ongoing project and meet more of: The People of Detroit ]


Confessions of a Candegirl said...


mallit18 said...

Awesome post!

Unknown said...

This picture is amazing. Def. caught my eye. One of my friends (Erica Watson) directed me to check out your site so I'll most def. be looking through your older stuff

Tafari said...

Noah man, you have to get up on your who's who of Detroit. Mr. DiChiera I'd a true gem of the city's and is all about Detroit and acclaimed internationally for his spectacular works.

He works hard to bring diversity to the forefront in the shows at the DOF and has a commitment to engage young theater goers in the operatic scene.

And.... He was recent featured on NPR for his hard work in keeping the arts community vibrant when sonmany other cities are struggling.

Stepping off my soap box now.

The People of Detroit said...

@ Tafari: Yea, I never followed opera, so that probably has a lot to do with why I didn't know anything about the Opera House's founder. After meeting Dr. DiChiera, I will definitely have to check out an opera or two. He was extremely affable. Enjoyed chatting with him.

The People of Detroit said...

@ Everyone. Thank you for the feedback. This is one of my favorite photos so far also.

Caryn said...

I love your blog! What a great way to bring positive attention to a wonderful city. I am attempting to bring similar positive attention to the state of Michigan with my blog,

I would for you to check it out!

Steve Gutterman said...

Thanks for great coverage: minor correction. Dichiera started both the Michigan Opera Theater and the Detroit Opera House, which houses the MOT.


Anthony Brogdon said...

I know of a documentary being produced by local filmmaker Anthony Brogdon. "The Great Detroit? It was-It is-It will be" should be released before year's end. The film examines what's right about Detroit from many aspects.  For more information go to and there is a fund raising campaign at
He also have a blog at