Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

October 5, 2013

Museum plans to prevent art sale

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit Institute of Arts lobbyists plan to keep seeking a buy-in from Gov. Rick Snyder on a proposal to stave off any effort to sell artwork from the museum’s massive collection to satisfy part of the city’s debt, an institute official said Friday.

The plan, which only exists in draft form for now, has been floated by officials at the state level. But Annmarie Erickson, chief operating officer for the arts institute, said officials approached about the plan have already told the museum’s lobbyists that it’s a “political non-starter.”

“We don’t believe that,” Erickson told The Associated Press. She declined to name the officials.

Considered one of the top art museums in the country, the institute has about 60,000 pieces. At least 3,300 of those are owned by the city of Detroit.

State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr alerted institute officials this spring that city-owned pieces could be considered assets by creditors if Detroit was allowed into bankruptcy. On July 18, Orr filed for Chapter 9 protection, making Detroit the largest U.S. city to do so.

Orr has estimated the city’s debt is at least $18 billion.

Museum officials began developing their proposal in late summer.

“The emergency manager has been saying ‘come up with some solutions,’” Erickson said. “He’s even been saying the DIA hasn’t been doing anything. The truth of the matter is we have been doing some things.”

Under the plan, the state would fund Detroit an unspecified amount of money each year over an unspecified number of years.

“We would ask the state to develop a funding mechanism to the city,” Erickson said. “An example could be $20 million over 20 years.

“The state would fund the amount of money the emergency manager hopes to realize from the DIA,” she added. “First we were told it was north of $500 million. More recently we’ve been told $400 million to $500 million.”

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