The August 7th primary vote includes a millage that would allow for the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) to stay operational through the use of public funds. Similar to the 2008 vote to save the Detroit Zoo, this millage relies on the tri country metro Detroit area to support it. The millage asks voters in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties to pass a tax creating an art authority in each of the counties, which will fund the DIA. This system creates oversight along with an annual audit.
Art is For Everyone is the campaign to pass the millage, which makes an interesting twist on public funding. As found on their FAQ page, this millage is designed to eventually make the DIA sustainable without the use of public funds. In an era debating the size of government, this is an instance where both sides can jump on board. Whatever your public funding philosophy is, this millage only makes sense. Further, the DIA has a great economic impact through building maintenance, employment and the attraction of visitors and professionals from outside the area. Not to mention the passing of this millage allows residents of the counties to attend the DIA for free, with expanded services.
Still though, the facts and answered questions never quite explain how important this institution is. I can remember going for the first time on a school trip, and seeing the Rivera court in the might of the city it represents. I remember seeing my first Picasso, van Gogh, and not always getting the contemporary art exhibit. Yet I still go back because the DIA is not a memory, and it should never be one either. Art plays an important role in free society. Art is seeing what isn't there. It is the way innovation occurs, new products are produced, and how the light catches your eye off the new Chevy grill. Art education provides creative thinking skills that cannot be employed in core disciplines until one is advanced in a profession. Art is pragmatic.
Many people, even in this area, do not view Detroit as an "Art City." This is simply not true and despite strong efforts by some, Detroit art remains overlooked. My favorite is the Heidelberg Project, which I consider one of the must-sees in the world for its originality and engulfing enormity. Art Detroit Now is a community and online guide helping to promote the region's art collective. Yet the art world can be daunting to those who are not continually invested in it. It can feel overwhelming and sometimes it can be hard to find the door. But voters have that door in the form of a ballot, and they can turn the handle with a yes vote. The DIA is still the area anchor and a premier institution that is constantly recognized for its accessibility to a wide range of art from all of human history.
So when the reality TV splurge comes on, remember that artists have been dealing with reality since the beginning of time. The reality we face is a budget that has no easy answers to it, but what is easy to solve is the commitment we have to true public good that last. It is a collective experience we all share from the elementary school field trip to the design of our lives. Art should not be a memory, but a present experience. So support your local art scene and vote yes on August 7th.
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