The Detroit Institute of Arts is asking officials in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne County to put a renewal of the museum’s millage on the March 2020 ballot. This request comes earlier than expected: the millage was first passed in 2012, and it was not set to lapse until 2022.
Dave Woodward is the chairman for the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. He says the DIA was transparent about their reasons for wanting the proposal pushed up to the 2020 election.
“It is a statewide election. Things at the top of the ballot pay for the election, so it's an election that's already paid for, that will draw a lot of attention. And so, it seemed like an appropriate time to place a renewal question on the ballot,” he says.
The proposal will have to be approved by both the Oakland County Board of Commissioners and the Oakland County Art Institute Authority. The Wayne County Art Authority and the Macomb County Art Institute Authority will each have to vote to approve the proposal in order for it to appear on their counties’ respective 2020 ballots. Woodward says he anticipates a lot of support for the millage.
“I think the public overwhelmingly supported it, I think we’re getting incredible community benefit from it, and I think the voters are going to approve it. So, I am very optimistic that we are going to approve placement on the ballot, I expect my neighboring counties to do the same, and continue on the success that we’ve already been making with this effort,” he says.
Salvador Salort-Pons is the director of the DIA. He says when the museum’s management received the millage in 2012, they didn’t know two things.
“One was that the city of Detroit was going to go bankrupt, and after that situation, the museum would come up independent from the city of Detroit, and now we own the collection, we own the building, we own the grounds, and therefore we own our destiny," he says. "The second thing that they didn’t know is that this millage, with its service agreement, was going to change the culture of the organization. In the past, the DIA was a museum that, generally speaking, was looking inwards. Today, we are an organization that is looking outward. We’re going beyond the walls of the museum and serving the counties and their residents.”
Woodward says the millage has allowed county residents unprecedented access to arts education.
“When you look at what it costs the average homeowner in Oakland County, about $20 a year, and it comes with free admission, free transportation for kids and seniors, millions of dollars of investment in community partnerships to advance arts and culture, and professional development to help supplant and support arts and cultures in our schools. It is well worth the investment, and I think it’s an asset we can all cherish and be supportive of,” he says.
According to Salort-Pons and Woodward, the millage program has allowed for free field trips for more than 62,000 students from 700 schools from the three counties, free transportation for both students and seniors, unlimited free admission, and has allowed the DIA to increase its operating hours, including adding an additional hour to the daily schedule so school groups can arrive early.
If officials in all three counties vote to approve the proposal, the millage will appear on the March 2020 ballot. The Oakland County Board of Commissioners will vote on November 20, and the Art Authority will vote on November 21. There is no date scheduled yet for a vote for the Macomb and Wayne County art authorities, but they will have until December 17 to vote on the proposal.