Rochelle Riley celebrated among Black History Month Game Changers

Director of City of Detroit Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship uses innovative mindset to promote excellence of creative workforce

February 24th, 2023

DETROIT -- In 2019, Rochelle Riley decided it was time for a change.

After working in newsrooms for more than 30 years, Riley raised a career-altering question to herself.

"I asked myself, 'Do you want to work in a newsroom until it is time for you to retire, then go sit on a beach somewhere? Or do you want to do something else?' I decided I wanted to do something else," Riley said. "But I wasn't quite sure what it was."

Riley spent time reflecting before connecting with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who informed her of a potentially fulfilling opportunity in city government.

"He said he needed a director of arts and culture," Riley said. "I asked what it was, and he said it didn't exist. The first thing I did was kick myself for not lamenting that in my column. We're Detroit, the most creative city in America, and we didn't have an arts and culture department.

"Then I realized if this position doesn't exist and he's trying to create it, I have an opportunity to make up a job. How often do you get to do that?"

The Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and Comerica Bank wrap up this year's Black History Month Game Changers series by proudly celebrating Riley, who helps Mayor Duggan give shape and focus to Detroit's investments in the arts by working with local artists, entrepreneurs and cultural organizations.

Riley and the other Black History Month Game Changers honorees were recognized during the Red Wings' home game on Thursday, where they also received a $1,000 grant dedicated to the charity of their choice.

"We're thrilled to Recognize as a Game Changers honoree for her incredible contributions to local journalism and tireless approach to advancing arts and culture across the city," said Kevin Brown, director of community impact for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. "Guided by a strategic vision, Rochelle is a dedicated champion for Detroit artists and entertainers of all ages to achieve their full potential."

The Detroit Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) focuses on increasing educational and economic opportunities for individuals with creative aspirations.

"Every day is different, but all of them are to meet the goals of guiding the city's investment in our creative workforce," Riley said. "I have to make sure that people understand, both internally and externally, that we have a creative workforce."

Riley said there is a public misconception of the arts, a unique sector that should be treated "the same way as we treat the automobile or restaurant industries because we have amazing talent here."

"I was probably as guilty as most folks by viewing an artist as somebody who is over here on the side," she said. "We look at industry and business as everything we do economically, but it's no different than art. Every dancer, musician and actor is a small business. It's their livelihood and they're passionate about it."

Detroit ACE has three strategic priorities: space, training & entrepreneurship and promotion & branding.

"We do everything from sponsored things to working on major projects," Riley said. "It's about making sure everybody embraces just how valuable and magnificent Detroit arts and culture is."

According to Riley, growth in the city's creative community has been inconsistent. And since being appointed by Mayor Duggan, Riley has worked hard to advance the development of the arts and culture industry.

"We have some of the best art in the world," Riley said. "And there's a whole slew of young artists who are brilliant. I don't want them to be trained to be great, then feel like they must go somewhere else. If we're going to train them to be great, let's keep the greatness here."

To learn more about Detroit ACE, visit