Actors have been mayors (Clint Eastwood). So have singers (Sonny Bono), high school football coaches (Rob Ford) and media moguls (Michael Bloomberg). Why not somebody from the art world?
On Tuesday, a 39-year-old curator and artist, Ingrid LaFleur, threw her hat into the ring for this year’s mayoral race in Detroit, a city where municipal finances and art have been uncomfortable bedfellows in recent years. During the city’s federal bankruptcy proceedings in 2013 and 2014, creditors pushed for the sale of valuable pieces from the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Ms. LaFleur, a Detroit native, helped establish an artist’s residency program at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and founded an Afro-futurist art and film program, Afrotopia, in Detroit.
She said in an interview that after returning to her hometown after several years in New York and elsewhere, “I was at once very shocked at the state of the city, and at the same time really impressed with all the creative and social justice communities that were growing here.”
“I think this is our moment to reimagine not just the city, but city governing,” she said. “How we can truly govern in a way that supports our citizens in the work that they’re already doing and not create barriers to make it more difficult?”
She said she was nearing the 500 petition signatures needed to get her name added to the ballot to challenge Mayor Mike Duggan, the first white mayor of the majority-black city since 1973, who has announced he will run again. (Ms. LaFleur is African-American.)
The Detroit Free Press reported that 15 people had taken out petitions so far to run for mayor but that no significant challenger to Mr. Duggan, a Democrat elected in 2013, had yet emerged. The primary is Aug. 8, and the nonpartisan election Nov. 7.
Ms. LaFleur said she considered her lack of campaign or governing experience a plus in a city with a long history of municipal corruption.
“I’m hyperaware of what I’m doing,” she said. “I’m not naïve about the political landscape of Detroit. But I’m a person who’s not beholden to anyone except the citizens of Detroit. I can be someone to reimagine the role of politician because I don’t have that kind of background.”
She added: “As curator and artist I’ve learned how to bring people together, to solve problems creatively, to be a good organizer, a good researcher.”
What about a good fund-raiser? “I know that Duggan raised $3 million for his run,” Ms. LaFleur said. “I won’t say I can’t do that. I’m just going to say that’s not our focus.”
“We plan to tap into the huge art and creative community that has taken root in this city, to reach voters through them,” she said. “Of course, if we could raise that kind of money we’d be very happy, and we’d use it wisely.”