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Guest Commentary: A Case for the DIA Arts Millage

'The case for the DIA millage is compelling . . . for future growth in the arts and the economy. That is pretty good return for about $15 per year.'

This viewpoint essay by Birmingham area photographer , who's also a certified planner and design consultant, is reposted with permission from his blog at cityphotosandbooks.com.

Voters in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties will be asked Aug. 7 to approve 0.2 mils for 10 years, which is approximately $15 per year for every $150,000 of a home’s fair market value. This money will go to provide one of many sources of funding needed to support a world-class art museum: the Detroit Institute of Arts.

As the vote nears for the Arts Millage in southeast Michigan, I feel compelled to share some of my thoughts.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is an irreplaceable resource that brings incredible works of art, film, music, and so much more to our collective Detroit community. I personally choose to pay for a membership so I can enjoy these treasures many times throughout the year. My experiences at the DIA have been positive, exhilarating, educational, fun, and memorable.

Residents living in counties that approve the millage will receive free unlimited general admission, including students taking field trips to the museum, and there will be enhanced programs for students and seniors and bus subsidies for visits by seniors and students.

Making this resource available to residents of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties for no admission fee will broaden the ability of the DIA to reach out and enrich the lives of the people living here. Additionally, it will put the DIA on sound financial footing, helping to offset the losses in other funding sources that have occurred over many years.

I also see the DIA as a resource that can help lead the Detroit region out of a recession.

Detroit is already attracting young people, and it has particularly seen a surge of young adults under 35 years old with technology-based backgrounds. The writings of economic development adviser Richard Florida and others have documented how young people are seeking "place" over the highest-paying job. A world-class art museum and the other cultural resources in Detroit will help to fuel the growth in young professionals living in the City.

The overall value of the arts in a community is well-documented. Adrian Ellis, a cultural planning consultant, wrote and spoke in 2003 about four sets of partially overlapping arguments that have been particularly influential:

Economic: Investment in certain arts has a high "multiplier effect," generating direct and indirect expenditure, through the first round of construction or other investment related activity and subsequently by attracting inward investment and tourism, and thereby creating jobs.
Social: Investment in the arts can ease social divisions by creating a context in which otherwise socially disempowered groups can participate in society on a more equal basis; and it creates ‘social capital’.
Psychological and personal: Participation in the arts can accelerate intellectual and motor skills.
Civic: The civic argument, an amalgam of the above, is that a city with a vibrant cultural infrastructure, in which a range of different forms of public and private sector investment in the arts are undertaken, can create a virtuous circle of high economic performance, high inward investment, high educational attainment and high levels of civic engagement.

I believe the case for the DIA millage is compelling. Its failure would be disastrous for the region’s economy, its culture, and its people.

By approving the millage, the DIA not only maintains the treasures of the past, it enables the museum and the region to leverage these resources for future growth in the arts and the economy.

That is pretty good return for about $15 per year.

Sue July 31, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Jim, you can vote any you want to for any reason that moves you. Also, there is no police millage on the ballot in Rochester. We pay for our police out of the general fund and not through special millages. You must mean Rochester Hills.
TaterSalad August 01, 2012 at 09:22 PM
This millage request is nothing more than a a request for socialism at the best. Quit asking taxpayers for money. Charge an admission fee just like every other form of entertainment charges. Why did the DIA mis-manage $158 Million from 2001 to 2007 remodeling and now wants to tax citizens for an entrance fee. Why voting in only 3 counties. How about every Michigan county gets to vote then?
Joseph Peruzzi August 03, 2012 at 11:10 AM
To tater; The DIA does charge admission, but like in every major metro area across the country, is also funded by regional taxes across metro areas to keep alive these wonderful treasurers. Clear thinking communities have a responsibility to help fund these type of institutions for the enjoyment of all at every economic rung of the ladder. I can't think of a better place to spend 20 bucks a year, though it might mean one less big mac for tater
Patricia August 03, 2012 at 11:30 AM
If the attitude is every taxpayer must pay for whatever others like and enjoy, we may find ourselves with a long laundry list. Let them raise admission. Let everyone in the State pay for it--why should we shoulder this for everyone? This DIA tax mess allows a few to pay for a all. This is as ill thought of as the Fireworks Law--only difference is, our wallets are forever effected and there is no choice. How about I give you what I like, I can't afford it, you help pay for it so I can enjoy it...Bad management, untrue facts, costly advertising, using our children as pawns, ( the DIA doesn't even want to respond to those yellow school buses) amounts to a NO when I vote. I will personally support it--this is a choice. This is not essential services. My gosh, will the taxation of the working person never stop? It's out of control to satisfy a few and a mismanaged entity paying over a $ 443,000.00 annual salary to one individual alone who cries poor. Cut the salary, save some money. Raise admission, make appropriate cuts. Bring in new management/leaders for a "fresh look" and I bet the DIA will right itself. This hands out at every turn is getting to be old and is taking too much away from those that are still employed here--way too much--the govt is chipping away more and more from the paychecks and it has to stop. We work for ourselves and our families first and foremost-not the other way around.
marooned in Dbn August 03, 2012 at 11:52 AM
You say the city of Detroit owns the DIA. But cant sell items in the DIA to pay it's (Detroits) bills. If I was broke and owed entities money, I would be forced by principle to sell all my worldly possessions on E-bay for cents on the dollar to try and make a payment to somebody, or they would get a court order to seize my possessions to satisfy the debt. Same principle should apply to the DIA and Detroit. Time to bust that 503 status. The stuff they have in that museum sells for hundreds of millions a pop. Time to pay what you owe, just like the rest of us.

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