Hey, Detroiter: See that brick building across the street from the Detroit Institute of Arts? The one with the great outdoor garden sandwiched between the Michigan Science Center and the College for Creative Studies? Yes, that’s the Scarab Club.
And the Scarab Club is looking for you.
This is a Club for artists and art lovers. It is a Club that is special but not exclusive, inaccessible or pretentious. Its goal is to bring more people inside its doors, into its galleries, attending its events in an all-out effort to magnify Detroit’s creative scene.
And its heart is in the right place, at the right time. The Scarab Club recently launched a rebranding campaign to bring new people and new life to the 110-year-old arts institution. That starts tonight with a cocktail party for the public, tons of upcoming events and a push to boost memberships at Michigan’s oldest non-profit organization.
Its new branding campaign, created pro-bono by The MARS Agency, focuses on its history and future direction. The marketing message is ideal for this beloved Club: “We Know Detroit By Art.” Catchy. Smart. Succinct. And very true.
After a century of celebrating the arts, the Scarab Club is renovating its facility, building a larger membership roster and seeking more public participation, said Scarab Club Board of Directors President Duncan Campbell.
“Our biggest challenge is we are the best-kept secret in Detroit,” Campbell said. “(With this rebranding campaign), we’ve got amazing programs to share and we want to funnel it into greater awareness of the Scarab Club throughout the community. We are open to the public. Join us.”
Campbell, who has been a longtime Club supporter, became Board of Directors President in 2014. Since then, he has done everything short of shouting about the Scarab Club from the rooftop. He even put sandwich boards in front of the Club door, inviting people inside. He’s dead serious about this campaign as well as the rest of the board.
The MARS Agency and the Scarab Club itself worked side by side to create the new campaign, Campbell said. To that end, it has a bevy of new stuff to unveil: Outdoor banners, a series of brand launch posters, a reimaged book cover for the Club’s Artists’ Annual, exhibition postcards and posters, t-shirts, video, and brand launch invitations. The redesign of the Scarab Club logo was provided by the College for Creative Studies’ Cross Stitch Creative, which is a collaborate effort between The MARS Agency and the College’s nationally renowned advertising department.
“The MARS Agency had the commercial creative marketing expertise we needed to do this,” Campbell said. “We’re putting the pieces together to increase awareness of who we are, what we are and where we are. Out of that, the benefits are going to be that we will have a greater awareness of our artists, events, chamber music series, blues/jazz concert series, weekly sketches sessions. This is part of our DNA; we’re a club of artists and art lovers.”
Internally, there is a renewed drive to do exactly what artists love to do: Change the script. Alter boundaries. Try something new. It might be as simple as boosting social-media posts. It could be a large as a rebranding campaign. It definitely includes new partnerships. It means a new roof. It is anything and everything that might boost interest, Campbell said, but in a fiscally responsible way. That way, more money can go toward the important stuff, like models for the weekly sketch sessions, new events, more renovations.
Some background: Founded in 1907, the Scarab Club began as an informal association of artists and their supporters, who met regularly to discuss and create art, socialize and build community around a shared interest. As the Club grew in popularity, the need for a dedicated meeting and exhibition location became evident, and member Lancelot Sukert, a Detroit-based architect, designed the current building, which opened its doors in 1928.
Located in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the building constitutes one of the great examples of Arts and Crafts architecture in the city of Detroit, and continues to attract thousands of visitors to the city each year. It is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, and as a stand-alone local historic district. The building has six studios, two galleries, and an educational resource center.
Today, the Scarab Club is far more than a membership organization. Recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a registered 501(c)(3) since 1937, the organization serves as a gallery and museum, with dozens of events that are free and open to the public; a resource to local artists, with opportunities for them to display, sell and educate the public about their work; an intimate concert venue featuring local musicians in the chamber music, blues, jazz and other genres; a studio, where both experienced artists and novices can come to cultivate new skills; and a meeting place of deep historical significance, committed to promoting an image of Detroit as a hub of creativity, innovation and inspiration.
One of the long-standing traditions of the Scarab Club is to invite local, national and international artists and art patrons to sign the wood beams within the lounge. Fondly referred to as the “guest book,” the beams pay homage to individuals who have made significant contributions to the artistic community. Signatures of such luminaries as Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Brackman, Norman Rockwell, Eliel Saarinen and many more adorn the beams, one of the Club’s most noted attractions. In 2014, beam-signers included the filmmaker Matthew Barney and Kresge Eminent Artist photographer Bill Rauhauser, along with noted poster artist Gary Grimshaw.
Founder and vice president of sales at Mapping Solutions, a geographic software and consulting firm, Campbell has a BA in History and Art History from the University of Colorado, in addition to studying for a year at the American University of Rome. Campbell also received a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University. His “free time” pursuits include being a docent at the Detroit Institute of Arts and studying for a master’s degree in Art History at Wayne State University.
“This isn’t about lowering the barriers to entry. There are no barriers,” Campbell said.