The Craig Fahle Show

"Grand Bargain" Gets Corporate Support

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Detroit Institute of Arts Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Annmarie Erickson and bankruptcy reporter and Next Chapter Detroit blogger Sandra Svoboda join Craig to discuss a $26 million contribution the DIA received yesterday from the Detroit Three automakers.

In accordance with terms spelled out in the “Grand Bargain,” the contribution puts a substantial dent in the $100 million the museum is required to provide toward pensions if city employees end up voting in favor of the Plan of Adjustment.

While Erickson says she and others at the DIA are very grateful, she emphasizes the conditions of this contribution. “The dollars the autos are giving do not go toward the DIA, they go to pensioners.” The whole goal is to move Detroit through bankruptcy as fast as possible, because as long as “we have the bankruptcy over our heads, it’s hard to move forward,” explains Erickson.

The DIA’s endowment campaign has been put on the back burner as a result of the $100 commitment to pensioners, but Erickson notes that overall, museum attendance is up since Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County residents gained free admission after approving a millage for the DIA in 2012.

There were many notable guests at the press conference in Rivera Court yesterday, including Governor Rick Snyder, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and Reid Bigland of Chrysler. The court was a fitting location for the conference, Erickson says of the iconic industrial murals that cover the walls of the museum’s Rivera Court.

With the $26 million contribution, the DIA still has to find a source of funding for the remaining 30% of the $100 million they’re expected to provide for city pensions. Supplier companies and other corporations have come forward with some funding, and Erickson says there are several museum organizations also considering a gift of some sort to the “Grand Bargain.” Erickson says at this point, it’s about planning carefully, identifying new donors and moving forward.

Sandra asks Erickson about the unique nature of the museum’s involvement in the bankruptcy. “The DIA is unique in that it’s owned by the city, most museums are private,” says Erickson, which is why the handful of municipally-owned museums across the country are watching the bankruptcy proceedings closely. While the DIA essentially is already operating as a 501(c)(3), Erickson says recent legislation will “close the legal loops.”

The museum will also do more state outreach and expand programming. “We’re going to be doing more, we really do believe that the DIA is a statewide asset and everyone in the state should have an opportunity to enjoy that,” she says. Part of the expansion will include a statewide exhibitions program.

Although there is still opposition from some people in Detroit and even from a few legislators at the state level, Sandra points out that this bankruptcy is unprecedented and thus, a new process for all involved.

--Annamarie Sysling

Find more coverage of Detroit's bankruptcy and its impact on people and neighborhoods on WDET's Next Chapter Detroit blog.

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