Be part of the movement to guarantee healthy arts funding and arts education in America. Join the Arts Action Fund
Detroit has long been the poster child for economic decline in the United States. Now, with the economy more stabilized than in recent years, the Detroit Institute of Art has successfully asked the three counties that make up the bulk of their visitors to pay a tax in order to keep the museum open. This tax, a 0.12 millage tax, is on property, and amounts to an annual fee of roughly $15 - $20 a year per household for the next 10 years. In response to paying the tax, residents of these three counties (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb) will receive free admission to the DIA and reap the benefits of a museum with a larger budget to institute educational programming.
This measure comes at a critical time for the DIA who has received a steadily declining share of financial support from the state and city since 1990, resulting in no state support as of July 1st of this year. Although not in debt, despite a number of crises over the past decade, the DIA simply does not have enough money to cover its day-to-day operating costs and can no longer rely on individual donors to keep the museum running. The millage tax generates $23 million, virtually the museum’s entire annual budget, which is available right away.
This reverses a bleak future for the DIA that its director, Graham Beal, portended mere weeks ago. If the vote on the tax had not passed, the museum would have basically shut down, perhaps opening only once during the week with a skeletal staff, a reduced permanent collection, no special exhibitions and no extra educational or cultural enrichment programs. This would have been a travesty for the DIA, long heralded as one of America’s great museums with a vast collection of American, European and African-American artwork.
Luckily, the tax easily passed in Oakland and Wayne counties and maintained a slim majority of the votes in Macomb County. Although only 51% of Macomb County residents fought to keep the DIA, the numbers show that, overall, those who voted positively in the vote represent 40% of the entire population of the state of Michigan. Mike Latvis, director of public policy at ArtServe Michigan and chair of the State Arts Action Network noted, “This is a great win for arts and culture in Michigan.”
This is also heartening news for arts advocates everywhere, showing that the American public cares enough about the arts to do the one thing they hate most, pay more taxes.
Detroit Institute of Art. Photo by: Tom Pidgeon