In an effort to deal with bankruptcy, it had been proposed that Detroit sell its fabulous art collection to meet city pension fund obligations of roughly 800 million dollars. I wrote about this here and provided an update link here. More recently, at the end of January, private funds and government sources had come up with pledges that come close to the 800 million dollars needed for the pension fund so that it would not be necessary to sell the art. A BBC article provides vivid reminder of just what not having a pension fund would mean. This would be a cruel bind, a killing blow to the city’s retired workers. It would be hard to justify keeping the art if it turned retired city workers into paupers.
Part of the plan would turn the museum over to a private not-for-proft organization instead of continuing as city property, thus, hopefully, saving it from being a pawn in future municipal budget difficulties. None of this is certain yet. But it is a promising start. If it succeeds, I hope the Institute will expand its reach into Detroit communities, so that it becomes a living presence which all kinds of citizens can be part of.
I knew nothing about the Institute until I realized that among its most valuable treasures was a huge mural created by Diego Rivera the famous Mexican muralist, called Detroit Industry. Far from being hoity toity art, this mural is a passionate and beautiful portrayal of working Detroit. I haven’t seen the original, but even online it is impossible that it not draw you in.
Today’s economic situation in Detroit is not altogether different from what it was during The Great Depression when Diego Rivera created the mural. And the mural reveals roots of today’s crisis. In some subsequent posts, I’ll talk about this as well as about Mexican connections and about how art and our lives really do go together.