Campfire
Aaron Timlin - detroit contemporary
Jun 28, 5:00 PM UTC

Aaron Timlin has never been surfing, but he knows how it feels: like being a small business entrepreneur. 

“A good thing to remember about business is that you have to learn when a wave is coming. It requires paying attention, and then you have to ride the wave,” Aaron shares. “Really good surfers— and entrepreneurs— know when the right wave is on its way. It’s about paying attention and listening to your intuition.”

It’s a skill that has served him well, launching and running businesses and organizations for over 30 years within Detroit, MI. 

“I don’t really have one thing that I’m doing,” Aaron admits. “The Chalfonte Foundation, where I’m Chief Financial Consultant, is something that my mentor, the late Father James Meyer, founded over 20 years ago. I’m also in charge of his trust.”

The Chalfonte Foundation’s strategic plan includes Aaron’s detroit contemporary gallery, Detroit Broadcasting Co, Detroit Culture Club, and other social enterprises. Each business and/or facet has its own mission, goals, and objectives. 

While Aaron now combines all of his business efforts under the foundation, he’s been running detroit contemporary since 1998. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” he confesses. “But if you believe you can do something, you can!”

He looks at the space not only as a place for art, but a hub for everyone in the neighborhood and beyond to come together. Located in Detroit’s flourishing Midtown, Aaron’s committed to keeping the space safe from rising gentrification.

“When I bought [the building] in 1994 it was a rough neighborhood, but I believed in it. Now I’m in a unique position where I have to turn away developers making bigger and bigger offers,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity to do stuff in the middle of all the change that is happening now and not allow us to be pushed out.” 

Learn more about Aaron’s devotion to community and culture, and how he still feels like a new entrepreneur three decades in at the Weekly Campfire. 

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