DETROIT — After years of serving music fans, the Motown Museum will reopen in late summer with a new expansion that will broaden the Motown experience.
The museum was founded by Esther Gordy Edwards, Berry Gordy’s sister, in 1985. Its aim was to preserve the legacy of Motown Records, the famous label founded by Gordy in 1958.
“My grandmother, Esther Gordy Edwards, laid the groundwork. She even had the foresight to preserve the birthplace of Motown, and so the story begins there with the foundations she laid,” said Robin Terry, CEO of the Motown Museum since 2014.
Motown was a dominant record label in the 1960s and was home to artists such as The Temptations, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross and the Supremes. The studio was located in Detroit in Gordy’s two-story house. Gordy is the originator of the word “Motown”, which is commonly used to refer to the city of Detroit.
“Those two words Motown and Detroit are synonymous,” said Terry. “They represent a very rich legacy of music and excellence, the best in Detroit.”
In 1972, Berry Gordy decided to move Motown Records from Detroit to Los Angeles to pursue opportunities in the film industry and bring more spotlight to its artists.
“As a kid growing up in east Detroit, Hollywood was an unattainable mystical fantasy,” Gordy said at a ceremony to unveil Berry Gordy Square in 2019, according to the Los Angeles Times. “But as Motown grew, our success made me realize that there was no limit to what we could go. I wanted my artists to reach their full potential, so we came here. at Hollywood.
This decision left the famous blue and white house inactive, but many fans continued to visit the interior. Gordy Edwards noticed what was happening and decided to turn the house into a museum.
Since its opening, fans from all over the world have visited the museum. As it has grown, the Motown Museum has been able to provide more opportunities for members of the community, including the Hitsville Next program, which provides educational experiences for those interested in creative outlets such as developing their own music.
“It was a wonderful program. I learned a lot about the music business: songwriting, artistry, all these different things,” said former summer camp member Carrington Simone.
Motown offers three programs for Hitsville Next: Motown SPARK is a daily summer camp for middle school students, Ignite is a daily summer camp for high school students, and Amplify is a program for adults who want to develop their careers as musical artists.
“Throughout my camping career, I’ve certainly had a lot of experiences with different professionals, understanding the art of songwriting, understanding the art of business, and then being mentored by Rhonda Ross Kendrick , who is the daughter of Diana Ross and Berry Gordy,” said Simone, a music student at Oakland University.
“It was amazing to be able to ask her about her experiences, things she knows, how to really be a real performer because she’s a jazz musician and her performances are amazing. C So it was truly an honor to be part of this program because it definitely helped me gain as much knowledge as I have today about music and something that I’m so passionate about.
In October 2021, five years after the expansion was announced, the museum was closed for construction. He received a lot of support, including a $5 million grant from philanthropist Mackenzie Scott. The whole project cost $50 million, according to the Motown Museum.
The expansion will take place in three phases. The first phase will connect three homes that Gordy purchased to create a space where Hitsville Next will operate. The second phase will create a place where people can meet and connect with other Motown fans. The final phase will contain a new immersive exhibition space, café and performance theatre.
With these changes, it is hoped that the Motown Museum will become an interactive space for the community where people can relax and catch pop-up shows.
“Motown is becoming this place where you can just hang out and just like in the mid-60s, you never know who you’re going to see and you’ll never know what activity is going on. So we’re looking forward to bringing that activation plaza to the community,” said Terry.
As Motown prepares for expansion, the plan to increase fan engagement goes back to the brainchild of Gordy Edwards’ museum.
“I have the honor of leading this project,” said Terry. “For me, it’s personal and I’m very proud of it and I’m honored because it leads the iteration of my grandmother’s dream for the world to know the story of Motown and continue to engage with history.”