August 9, 2012

Public funding for the arts is a springboard for recession-ravaged Detroit

Screenshot via Detroit News
The news for Detroit has not been good in recent years. In fact, it's been downright terrible. Last year, the website, AreaVibes, featured an article on the 10 Worst Cities in America. They had this to say about Detroit, which they listed as number one. 

"Like the long suffering NFL Lions, Detroit has been mired in a serious slump. High unemployment and crime usually goes together like peas and carrots, and Detroit offers up hearty servings of both. The unemployment rate is a staggering 14.3% (34% percent higher than the national average). Even more damning is the poverty level of 26.1%, a whopping 112% higher than national levels. Fueling this fire is the worst violent crime index in all of America, which is 457% greater than the national average! In 2010 alone car thefts are up 83%, robberies are up 50% and property destruction is up 42%. Throw into the mix a dismal, freezing climate, crumbling architecture and a high concentration of toxic waste dumps and it doesn't get any better (or worse) than this.

If you are considering moving to Detroit we suggest you look elsewhere, like maybe Afghanistan or North Korea. It's safer in both of those places and there is actually the possibility of finding a job."

How does Detroit deal with insults like this? More importantly, how does a city teetering on the brink of complete economic disaster make a comeback? Well, for starters, don't take it lying down. Secondly, have some strong arts leaders and arts advocates in place to show you how a little bit of public funding for the arts can create a springboard for positive headlines, community pride and economic success. 

Last night, the three largest counties in Michigan passed a .2 millage to help sustain the Detroit Institute of Arts. Two of the counties passed the millage with over 60 percent. Oakland County passed it at 67 percent and Wayne County at 64 percent. The third county came down to the wire at 51 percent. Homeowners will now pay an estimated $15 for every $150,000 of their home value.

The resulting funds will provide around $23 million in annual funding for the museum for each of the next ten years. The museum will build up their endowment to over $400 million dollars to ensure that they never need to ask for public funding again following the end of the millage.

Aside from the obvious benefits of the museum, residents in each of the 
three counties will now receive unlimited free admission!

According to the leadership at ArtServe Michigan, sister advocacy organization to Oklahomans for the Arts, this is a great win for Michigan. Voters totaling 40 percent of the state's population said YES to funding the arts.

A screenshot of today's homepage of the Detroit Institute of Art website.

Last year, the Governor of Michigan increased the Michigan Arts Council's budget by nearly $4 million. A former governor had previously nearly eliminated all funding to the agency. ArtServe hopes to restore funding to previous levels, about $8 million. 

Congratulations, Detroit, Michigan! When one city wins public funding for the arts we all win!
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