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Michigan Governor Suggests State Funds Could Go Towards Detroit Institute Rescue

MIchigan Governor Rick Snyder

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

The “Grand Bargain” is gathering momentum.

In comments to the Detroit News editorial board yesterday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder revealed that he “wouldn’t be close-minded” to proposals to allocate state funds towards protecting the Detroit Institute of Arts, “if it were part of settling the case.”

Similarly, Kalamazoo-based radio station WKZO reported on comments by Snyder that he “is leaving the door open for state support of a fund that could save the Detroit Institute of Arts from creditors seeking cash from the city. The governor told reporters that it would be a ‘challenge’ to get legislators to support a measure if the money was being used to pay debts. He said he would not object to contributing to a fund of private foundations to shield the artwork at the DIA.”

This is the closest the Governor has come to publicly tipping his hand regarding proposals to monetize works from the collection (a portion of which has just been appraised by Christie’s at the behest of the city’s emergency manager). As I wrote in my post about the IFAR panel discussion on the DIA’s plight, Graham Beal, director of the museum, had lamented that “we cannot get to the Governor”—a particularly troubling circumstance because Snyder’s approval is required for any plan that might be advanced by Detroit’s emergency manager to sell works from the museum’s collection worth more than $50,000.

The Grand Bargain, if it succeeds, would provide the city with $500 million raised from various sources (now possibly including state financial support) on the condition that Detroit be allowed to become an independent nonprofit institution, permanently released from the city’s ownership and control. It would then become master of the fate of the collection, which is currently owned by the city.

In response to my query today, the museum’s press spokesperson declined to comment on how much progress has been made towards raising the $500 million that Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, has said he wanted the museum to come up with (by selling its art or otherwise) to help the beleaguered city emerge from its fiscal crisis.

But the DIA did release today this reaction to the Governor’s favorable stance:

The Detroit Institute of Arts is pleased that the negotiations around the thoughtful and creative plan initiated by mediators Chief Judge Gerald Rosen and Eugene Driker continue to progress. The positive comments regarding potential state support by Governor Snyder and other lawmakers will continue to provide momentum to the discussions.

The DIA is actively engaged in these talks and continues to be optimistic about a positive outcome.

Still unknown, though, is whether stakeholders in the city’s financial workout the would accede to this bargain or contest it.

an ArtsJournal blog