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Sunday, July 29, 2012

A few words in support of Michigan, art and the DIA

As we struggle with our own anti-tax, homophobic extremists in Troy (Janice Daniels, Glenn 'takes-one-to-know-one' Clark, Bob Gosselin and Doug Tietz), Rochester/RH has its hands full with just one who creates enough trouble to match our scoundrels on his own. Tom McMillin is behind many of the make-Michigan-weak-stupid-and-unattractive bills in Lansing (just look him up -- it will stun you). So I asked a person familiar with museums, public funding, and McMillin to send a few words in support of something they all seem to find evil -- funding one of the world's great museums, right here in Michigan.

from Diane Young:
A lot has been said about the DIA’s proposed millage. First, I must admit I believe the DIA will survive for a while if the millage proposals don’t pass. However, it would show the state and the world how little vision we have in our community. If this millage doesn’t pass, it would mean severe cuts to an already stressed budget. It would mean students from less advantaged school districts would lose out on field trip opportunities. This small millage would give the DIA time to build up its endowment to the size of similar art museum around the country and give students and family’s access to its collections.

I am a financial planner, and as part of my community service I sit on several non-profit boards, including a local non-profit art organization. I am very familiar with how non-profits run and how they struggle. Since the state stopped supporting the DIA several years ago, it has struggled to replace the lost operating income. Please understand the operating income is different than endowment money. Endowed funds can only be used for the income that they generate generally up to 4-5% of the fund. The bulk of the operating funds come from memberships, ticket sales, grants, and gifts. If the DIA relied solely on ticket sales to cover the cost of operations, they would have to charge $62 for every man, woman and child to enter the museum. Ultimately, fewer and fewer people would attend and a vicious cycle of rising ticket prices would possibly cause the doors to close. Donors would stop giving, art donations would plummet, and the museum would not have the resources to buy art or host exciting exhibits.

On the other hand, we could come together as a community and pass the millage. Homeowners would pay a nominal fee to ensure that all in the tri-county area have unfettered access to this cultural gem.

Recently, I was in New York City visiting friends and we went to the Museum of Modern Art. They were exhibiting Diego Rivera’s traveling murals that he created for the MOMA when it first opened in the early 1930s.This work was done several years before his Detroit murals. It was amazing. Two weeks later, my friends were in Detroit visiting me so we went to the DIA to compare the murals. They were speechless. Lucky for us there was a professor giving a lecture to college students so we huddled in close to hear what he had to say. We learned so much about the work and about Diego Rivera. What a treat.

What shocked my New York friends most about the DIA was how empty it was. Didn’t people know what wonderful work was in here? Perhaps if the barriers of admission were lowered more folks would come to be inspired.

My own state representative, Tom McMillin, has decided to lead the opposition to the DIA millage. I asked him how he decided that the citizens of Rochester were against the millage. Did he take a poll or a survey? No-- he just looked at the financials and decided he knew what was best. Does he have a background in art curation? Art exhibits? Did he read the recent study that shows that art is one of the main economic drivers of a region? NO. He just looked at some numbers and thinks he knows best. Because CPAs know numbers. Well, perhaps that is true but they sure don’t have vision. I don’t see too many people standing in line to see a completed 1040 tax return from a hundred years ago. But I do see them lining up to see “The Faces of Jesus” or the art of Degas.

I also asked Mr.McMillin when was the last time he had been to the DIA. He admitted it had been years. How can you advocate for the demise of an organization when you have not even investigated it? This is a terrible lack of leadership on his part. He also forgets that he is taxpayer funded and receives over $70,000 a year plus benefits and perks to work for the citizens of Rochester-- not to go run around Troy trashing the DIA.

To me, this millage is about re-building our whole region. It shows the world we care for our cultural gems and that we are willing to invest in our future. The generations that preceded us made such an investment – we owe it to our children and our grandchildren to be responsible enough to do the same.


  1. I'm starting to think CPAs are this community's worst nightmare. Deb DeBacker points to her CPA background as key to her strange take on Troy's budget. McMillin endorses her for State Rep, I believe. Can you imagine these two working together in Lansing? I wonder if the people of Rochester/Rochester Hills realized what this McMillan really was about when they voted him in. I bet not. Troy can empathize, that's for sure.

  2. These people do not represent CPAs. Please, please, please do not think they do. I worked to hard to become certified to be cast with this lot.

    1. I'm sorry for your profession's reputation, I'm getting a bad take on CPA's as well, given Howrylak is touting that he is one too. They seem to have the attitude that they know everything dealing with finances because they are CPAs when in fact they are using it to push their no-tax agenda.
      Regarding the DIA, I get the idea that McMillin may see the numbers but is purposely not delving into the details of restriction on how resources can be used, i.e., endowment funds cannot be spent away (only the interest used) and art collection cannot be sold off piecemeal (because of terms of donation).

  3. I remember growing up in the Detroit area and visiting the DIA, the Detroit Public Library and the Detroit Historical Museum. Those three institutions for me said that I was not living in the boondocks; art, culture, history and learning MATTERS here. I am surprised that any educated person, or any person who has aspirations for their children or grandchildren would not care to preserve the magnificient DIA.

    Every major metro area I have visited has an art museum. To not support this millage is to further put a nail in the coffin of SE Michigan.