On Tuesday, Detroit-area voters cast their ballots in favor of a new property tax slated solely to fund the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). As of last night, the election results were undecided; the vote was split 50/50 and voter turnout was low, hovering around 10 percent. The final numbers submitted this morning, though, show that the “DIA tax” will pass.
The 10-year tax will pump an estimated $23 million a year into the long-floundering museum. Leading up to the vote, high-level museum staff had been adamant that this tax would be the only way to save the museum from imminent closure. Earlier this year, the Detroit Science Center shut its doors due to a lack of funding.
The dismal state of DIA’s finances can largely be blamed on poor state-wide funding. For years, the museum has not received funding of any kind from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), causing museum staff to withdraw funds from its its now-dwindling endowment. According to an email from DIA, the downhill trend started in the “early 1990s, when they cut our $16 million grant by 40%. The grant decreased each year and in our 2010 fiscal year [it] was $20,000.” After that, the museum stopped asking for money from MCACA, an organization that has itself suffered from state-wide budget cuts. In 2012, the Michigan government allotted MCACA a mere $2.56 million.
DIA hoped voters would feel differently about supporting the city’s only long-standing art museum. The city’s only other art museum, Detroit’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MOCAD) opened just five years ago and is a non-collecting institution. Like DIA, it currently receives no grant funding at the state level.
Promised along with the property tax, all Detroit residents in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties will receive free admission to the museum. This starts Wednesday, August 15th.