Local voters approve millage for DIA

By Jeff Karoub

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Voters in southeastern Michigan on Tuesday approved a special millage to support the Detroit Institute of Arts, providing an economic lifeline to the longtime cultural institution and allowing it to offer free admission to residents in the Detroit area.

The 10-year millage passed separately by voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. But the cumulative effect is a $23 million a year boost for the museum, which works out to $20 annually on a home worth $200,000. That's nearly as much as the institution's current annual operating budget.

"People have resoundingly voted for the DIA and the quality of life in this region," director Graham W. J. Beal told The Associated Press late Tuesday night, adding the support comes despite "incredibly difficult times" and an "anti-tax mood."

The museum will get a decade to focus fundraising efforts on building its endowment, with the long-term goal of becoming financially independent.

If the proposal failed, the museum would have been forced to cut its hours, opening only two or three days a week. Some galleries would have closed to the public, and the museum would no longer have staged special exhibitions.

Beal said the museum will offer free admission immediately to residents of the three counties, "even though we don't start getting any tax money until next year."

The museum was funded by the city of Detroit until the 1970s, when state support replaced local funding. That backing has since disappeared. In 2009, the museum cut its budget from $34 million to about $25 million and shed nearly 20 percent of its employees, but it says the high cost of maintaining its facilities and protecting its collection make further cuts unworkable.

Many residents said the millage was one of the main reasons they went to the polls on Tuesday.

Supporter Laura Hamilton of Dearborn said "it's important to have such a wonderful institution continue," and Kafi Kumasi of Grosse Pointe Park said art "brings communities together."

Still, not all were swayed by the campaign.

"If I want to go to the DIA, I'll go," said Mike Kerby of Livonia. "And I'll pay."

Published: Thu, Aug 9, 2012