Cultural Enthusiasts Support Art and Music in Their Hometown

Kate Opalewski
By | 2016-09-01T09:00:00-04:00 September 1st, 2016|Uncategorized|

Rex Dotson and Max Lepler are Governing Members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as well as members of the Volunteer Council and the 1887 Society. Their commitment to the DSO, expressed by supporting the Planned Giving Campaign, helps the people who make art and music possible in the community. Photo courtesy of Max Lepler.


Lifelong Detroiters Max Lepler and Rex Dotson are both longtime supporters of fine and performing arts in Michigan. In fact, they believe Detroit is one of the greatest regions in the world for both of them.
It’s time, Lepler said, that “we come to appreciate what we have and how much.”
The couple resides in Royal Oak, but they have been fortunate enough to travel to many notable tourist centers in the U.S. Places such as San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
While they have experienced the top-touted cultural and entertainment offerings in each of those cities, Lepler said they “strongly believe, across the board, that Southeast Michigan offers the greatest number of fine and performing arts venues and institutions in the U.S.”
The problem, he said, is that many people don’t make a good effort to take advantage of the events and activities, which could easily fill all the free days in someone’s calendar.
“We have access to an unbelievable wealth of objects in our museums, for example, that the rest of the world would love to have,” he said. “Our negative image of ourselves influences our belief that other places are far greener when they’re not.”
In an effort to change our community’s perspective, Lepler shares his enthusiasm and knowledge about some of the offerings in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Flint, and even Toledo.
What are some things the average person might now know about the Detroit Institute of Arts?
The DIA is the fifth largest general art museum in the entire U.S. This living museum is 658,000-square-feet with more than 100 galleries. If art is coveted for exhibition elsewhere, the DIA is able to replace it 90-percent of the time with art they have in storage because we have so much art. There are 66,000 pieces of art at the DIA and 60,000 of those pieces could be worth as much as $8.5 billion. It can hold its own against world-renowned museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Louvre in Paris.
Share some fun facts about the Flint Institute of Arts.
Their current expansion project will be designed by Los Angeles-based architect Frederick Fisher, the same architect who remodeled Bette Midler’s penthouse overlooking Central Park. In 2002, their collection was designated a National Treasure by the President’s Committee on the Arts. They have federal funds to spend on storage units to protect their art from flooding and humidity.
What makes Orchestra Hall so unique?
There are a lot of articles being written about shoebox-shaped halls. Conductor Simon Rattle is leaving the Berlin Philharmonic, which is coming to Ann Arbor in November for their last U.S. tour. Rattle will lead the London Symphony Orchestra next year, but there is talk about building a new concert hall in London because they do not have a good hall. It’s a bad shape. The argument in the Aalto University of Finland study is that the best classical concert halls are shaped like a shoebox, which is what we have.
How has the DSO’s music evolved?
Leonard Slatkin is one of two premier American conductors who emphasizes modern and contemporary music mixed with traditional classical. It’s a robust sound. People are getting up and cheering because of the current style of playing at the symphony.
What is available for LGBT people to connect with?
The Fisher Theatre has a great lineup this year with gay-themed shows like Fun Home, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Rent and Book of Mormon. The Toledo Museum of Art is featuring the iconic gay painter Paul Cadmus…the painting of his lover, Jerry, in bed. Also, the great American portrait painter, Fairfield Porter. He painted Frank O’Hara who was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art and an outstanding poet with works containing gay themes. The University Musical Society in Ann Arbor will host the Mark Morris Dance Company this year. Morris is one of the great innovators of modern dance as a gay person.
Why are you so personally invested in the arts?
I’m just an enthusiast. It’s wonderful here. I live here and get the opportunity to see some of the most famous paintings from other parts of the world. For example, Flaming June by Frederic Lord Leighton. The FIA is the only Midwest venue where the Masterpieces of European Paintings from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico traveled in 2008. The collection was only there for half its run. It had to leave because it was scheduled to be in an exhibition at the Museo Nacional Del Prado in Madrid.
What does it mean to be a part of the 1887 Society?
Rex and I have been attending Detroit Symphony Orchestra concerts since the 1980s. As strong DSO supporters, we decided to name the DSO as a beneficiary in our will. This type of special commitment makes us eligible members of the 1887 Society. We know how much the DSO means to us and our community. And this gift will help that continue. We are two people who have stepped up to give to the orchestra and encourage others to follow our lead.
What can the community do to help?
Most museums and orchestras don’t have much money. We give because we want these places to be around while we’re still alive and successful and strong. But it takes everybody. You have to be willing to contribute regularly, even just a little bit of money, so we can continue to enjoy these places.

About the Author:

Kate Opalewski
Kate Opalewski is BTL's features editor and has been since 2015. She has covered a variety of topics ranging from art, politics and community outreach. Recently, she was honored by the Detroit Police Department LGBT Advisory Board for her work for the local LGBTQIA community.