About Us

Vision – Artrain’s vision is that every person, classroom and community should have access to quality arts and cultural programs regardless of where they are located or their economic status.

Mission Artrain’s mission is to delivery discovery and – through the galvanizing power of arts and culture – transform lives, organizations and communities. Artrain serves as a community catalyst, utilizing cultural education and engagement to increase participation in and support for the arts. Artrain is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan; its programs have reached across the United States and Ontario, Canada.

History – In the late 1960s, a group of arts activists who believed that the arts should be available to everyone everywhere, came together to establish the Michigan Council for the Arts (MCA and now known as MCACA). Led by its first executive director, Mr. E. Ray Scott and its first chair, former Michigan First Lady Mrs. Helen Milliken, MCA had three goals in mind: to foster the development of local arts organizations throughout Michigan; to provide people in Michigan’s villages, towns and cities access to outstanding art programs and education and to build awareness for MCA. The flagship program was Artrain, a train converted into a museum that housed world-class art exhibitions and would travel to underserved Michigan communities for a couple of years and meet MCA’s three goals. Launched in 1971, during its first year, 191,000 visitors in 28 Michigan communities climbed onboard. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) took notice and asked Artrain to share its programs across the country. In 1973, Artrain headed out on its first national NEA-sponsored tour to eight states in the Rocky Mountains. Artrain didn’t stop there and in 1975, it became an independent nonprofit agency.

Now more than 45 years later, Artrain has shared award-winning exhibitions and many of the world’s greatest artists with millions of people during hundreds of community visits across the United States and, more recently, Canada. Artrain’s mission is to deliver discovery and – through the power of arts and culture – transform lives, organizations and communities. Countless individuals – from schoolchildren to grandparents – have experienced Artrain programs. Many have become art and creative practitioners, consumers, supporters, advocates and/or volunteers. Since its founding in 1971, Artrain has helped start or strengthen hundreds of cultural organizations. In recognition of its legacy, Artrain received the National Medal for Museum Service – the nation’s highest award for museums – in 2006.

Originally a museum-on-a-train that used America’s rail system to deliver art exhibitions, Artrain has adapted throughout its history in order to stay relevant while remaining true to its mission and original purpose. Its most significant change was prompted by the reluctance of the national rail industry to continue to move the train museum.  As it faced the difficult choice to retire its train museum or cease operations, Artrain was pushed to review its mission, program offerings, funding resources and its definition of program delivery. Its mission and purpose remained solid: communities were in need of quality programming as well as assistance in building appreciation for the arts and creative industries.

Artrain was aware of many arts and cultural organizations with collections and programs worthy of sharing with under-resourced communities. Artrain had the project and tour management experience that could assist these agencies in getting programs to the communities in need. Artrain decided to broaden its offerings and seek new ways to deliver its programs to under-resourced communities.

Artrain retired its rail museum in 2008. Today, it produces and delivers cultural outreach programs of all types – art, cultural, history, science, environment, etc., through a variety of methods, including mobile touring exhibitions and cultural education and engagement programs. Additionally, Artrain remains committed to strengthening and building capacity for nonprofit arts and cultural organizations through fiscal sponsorships and/or administrative contracts. Artrain’s target audiences are communities and their residents who have limited access to traditional museums or collections.

Artrain, Inc. is sponsored in part by:

  • (MCACA, NEA ArtWorks.gov)

Get Involved

Artrain greatly appreciates that people want to help it serve its mission and reach its goals. Artrain offers a variety of ways for people to get involved. For more information about these opportunities please contact Deb Polich at deb.polich@artrainusa.org or by calling 734.747.8300.

Become a Board Member

Reflecting a mission that extends to communities large and small across the country, Artrain has a national board of directors, recruiting accomplished, influential and demographically diverse board members with a passion for Artrain’s mission. Artrain is currently undertaking the significant expansion of its organizational and programmatic reach by aligning its core competencies with the needs of communities and site-based cultural institutions. Board members are needed to continue our tradition of strong leadership, guide this transformation and foster awareness and networks of support while building upon a foundational 40 years of experience.

Become a Volunteer or Intern

Interning or volunteering is a great way to get involved in what Artrain is doing. We look forward to meeting you soon! : If you live in the greater Ann Arbor, Michigan area and would like to learn more about volunteering or interning in the home office, please call us.