DIA

Funding the Arts

Jul 16, 2012

I have been a member of the Detroit Institute of Arts for many years, and I have to confess that I don’t go nearly often enough. A couple times a year, maybe, and more often to its courtyard, a wonderful place for lunch if you are in the city.

Yet even when I can’t get to the museum, I am always happy to know it is there. Detroit and Michigan have seen more prosperous days. But it is nice to know that this city and state are still home to one of the nation’s top six comprehensive fine arts museums.

Having that quality continue, however, depends on the outcome of a small millage request on the primary ballot in just the three core Detroit-area metropolitan counties - Wayne, Oakland and Macomb.  Voters will be asked to approve two-tenths of a mill for the DIA for the next decade.

Translated into dollars, that means that if you own a house worth one hundred and twenty thousand, the DIA will cost you a dollar a month. If you rent, voting for the millage costs you nothing.

If the millage passes in all three counties, it should mean about twenty-three million a year for the DIA, depending on what happens with housing values. It will mean the museum will be able to continue to do the same quality exhibitions it has been doing.

Plus, citizens of any counties that approve the millage will get in free, and the art institute will stay open more hours and days.

I was assured of all that by Annmarie Erickson, the museum’s chief operating officer. She is cautiously optimistic that this time the millage will pass. What if only one of two of the three counties approve? Well, Macomb has a provision that its citizens will only have to pay if the other two counties also approve the millage.

If voters in either Wayne or Oakland County approve, however, the millage would be collected there. Those who support the DIA are cautiously optimistic, even though voters turned arts funding down twice about a decade ago. Those elections proposed appropriating money for an assortment of agencies; this one is for the DIA alone.

There are a number of misconceptions around. One is that the museum already gets city and state money. It used to; it doesn’t anymore. Another is that it is an exclusively a Detroit-area institution. But the DIA currently has art out on long-term loan to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, and often makes its treasures available elsewhere. DIA experts have assisted and advised museums across Michigan.

Some have complained that the public shouldn’t have to pay for art. But is like saying public education should only be for the rich. One legislator suggested the museum should spend its endowment, and some have even suggested the DIA sell its art work to keep going. Those would be short paths to institutional suicide.

The value of public treasures is hard to quantify, mainly because it is beyond value. Metropolitan Detroit may not be as rich as it once was, but that’s no reason our public spaces should look like North Korea’s. We still have a world-class art museum.
 If that isn’t worth a dollar a month, I don’t know what is.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Political Analyst.  Views expressed by Jack Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, the University of Michigan.

Matisse - Circus, 1943
Pamela Marcil / Detroit Institute of Arts

 

The Detroit Institute of Arts opened a new exhibition today comprised of works by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

"Picasso and Matisse: The DIA's Prints and Drawings" will run through January. Showcasing the institute's collection, the exhibit explores the artists' stylistic progression, with 110 prints and drawings across a broad range of media.

DIA

The Detroit Institute of Arts is looking for new revenue streams.

The DIA is owned by the struggling city of Detroit and hopes to get a millage proposal in front of voters in Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties this August.

Wayne and Macomb county commissioners voted to create county arts authorities. The county arts authorities would be responsible for drafting the millage request that would go before voters.

Now, Oakland County has taken a step toward creating a county arts authority.

More from the Detroit News:

A committee of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners agreed Monday to send a millage request from the Detroit Institute of Arts to a vote by the full commission.

The general government committee's 6-4 approval means the measure will go before the full 25-member commission at its next meeting May 17. At that point, it will be voting on whether to create a five-member county arts authority responsible for crafting language that would appear on the August ballot.

Macomb and Wayne counties have each approved an arts authority.

If the renowned arts museum cannot raise the revenue, the museum could go into what the executive vice president of the DIA called a "controlled shutdown."

Annmarie Erickson, executive vice president of the DIA, says the  museum is operating at "bare-bone levels." She says if they can’t secure more money, the museum will go into what she calls a “controlled shutdown”:

"We will lose hours, we will probably lose most of our programming, we will certainly lose visitor amenities. Special exhibits like the very popular "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus" - we would no longer be able to afford those."

Erickson said the revenue raised by the millage would be temporary. It would give the museum more time to raise private funds to build its endowment.

(courtesy of the DIA)

DETROIT (AP) — Paintings, prints, drawings, photography, ceramics and other pieces of art created by Detroit Public Schools students are on display in an exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The 75th annual exhibition began Saturday. It runs through June 3. Viewing is free with regular museum admission.

The artists and their parents attended an opening reception Saturday afternoon.

Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts said at the reception it was "incredible" to "see these young people express themselves and find their voices."

Detroit Institute of Arts
Photo courtesy of the DIA

The Detroit Institute of Arts wanted to ask Macomb County residents to pay a tax to help bring in much-needed cash for the museum, which has already cut 20 percent of its staff and reduced its budget.

But county commissioners killed the idea.

Wayne County Commissioners last month voted to create an arts authority to look at getting a DIA millage proposal in front of voters.

Photo courtesy of the DIA

The current exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts is shaping up to be the museum’s most popular exhibit in recent history.

Pam Marcil is director of public relations at the DIA. She says attendance at "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus" has been "really overwhelming almost. We’ve had about 60,000 people to date."

She says the “exhibit has brought in 3,500 new and renewed memberships to the museum.

A new exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts looks at life in the Motor City over the past decade. 

The exhibit - Detroit Revealed - includes videos and photographs of city residents and community gardens. It also includes images of the city’s decline: abandoned buildings and empty, overgrown lots - what some call “ruin porn."

Photo Courtesy of the D.I.A.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is struggling to raise money in this tough economy. It doesn’t help that Detroit is still reeling from the recession, and a quarter of its tax base, which helps fund the museum, has fled the city over the past decade.

To help relieve a little pressure, DIA director Graham Beal asked permission to take money from funds dedicated solely to acquisitions, and temporarily use it to cover operating costs. In his monthly newsletter, Beal explained it like this:

Andrew Jameson / wikimedia commons

Today's topic for What's Working - "What can help Detroit?"

Morning Edition host Christina Shockley spoke with Susan Mosey, the President of the University Cultural Center Association (UCCA) at Wayne State University.

The UCCA aims to guide development, encourage reinvestment, and celebrate the cultural assets of Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood.

Lately, Midtown has become a source of optimism for Detroit.

You can listen to the interview here:

(courtesy of the Detroit institute of Arts)

The Detroit Institute of Arts has sold a piece of Americana.    A flag that flew as General George Armstrong Custer's troops were defeated at the Battle of the Little Bighorn was auctioned off today.


The Associated Press Reports: 

Detroit Institute of Arts
Maia C/Flickr

A bill approved today in the state House would allow the Detroit Institute of Arts to ask taxpayers for more money. The Associated Press reports the bill would:

...allow counties to form authorities that could ask voters for property taxes to fund arts institutes... The property taxes would have to be approved by voters in the region to take effect. Art institute authorities could ask for up to 0.2 mills.

The bill now heads to Governor Granholm for her signature. The state Senate already approved the measure.

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