Considering the unique and vast area of metro Detroit, do the suburbs have a duty to chip in and keep the Detroit Institute of Arts open and thriving?
On August 7, residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties will vote on the Art Authority millage, which will determine if the DIA keeps its doors open. On the high end, a yes vote would cost an average household $15 per year. In return, local residents will have free admission, which currently costs $8.00 for adults and $4.00 for children.
I hit the streets to find out what some people in my home … Macomb County … thought about the upcoming vote. Most everyone I talked with spoke of the value the DIA brings to the area and fundamentally had no problem with such a millage. Here are some of their comments.
“Even in these tough economic times, this is one of the few taxes that I support. I already voted (absentee ballot) to keep the doors open of the DIA open. I would have done so even if free admission hadn’t been part of the deal. This institution is not only a Detroit jewel, but a Michigan jewel as well… I would hate for the youth of today and tomorrow miss the great experience of the DIA and the beauty found within its walls.” – Marta Kwitkowsky, Sterling Heights
“Closing the DIA would be one more kick in the pants for Detroit and surrounding area. It would take such a miniscule percentage per household to keep it open. I can’t imagine why anyone would not vote to keep it going” – Marianne Geyer, Warren
“I am definitely in favor of a millage to keep the DIA open. Anything from the past is something we need to cultivate.” – Greg McGrath, Sterling Heights
To be fair, some concerns were cited. Steven Peterson. from St. Clair Shores pointed out, “Where does taxing to save institutions end? What will need saving next?”
There is precedent for this type of millage. Other large cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have a consolidated metropolitan area to create large tax bases to support their cultural institutions.
The DIA opened in 1885, and its collection is among the top six in the United States. It is pretty clear it has served as a consistent gem to Detroit throughout the years. The museum covers 658,000 sq. ft. and has more than 100 galleries. Unsurprisingly, the museum has been impacted by the economic challenges of the city.
An effort has been organized to promote the millage at www.artisforeveryone.org. Please check it out.
Ultimately, the sense of the community, at least from my travels, is the DIA is too important to jeopardize.