DIA Director’s Letter — Millage Proposal Explained

DIA Director’s Letter — Millage Proposal Explained



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Director’s Letter
New on View
Double Discount

Director’s Letter

Graham W.J. Beale, Director

After examining several options–including higher admission and fees and additional cost reductions–the Detroit Institute of Arts developed a plan to request support from the residents of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties. This ten-year millage would allow DIA fundraisers time to build an operating endowment of sufficient size to support museum operations, creating a sustainable financial model for the future. As can be expected any time a tax increase is involved, the response from the opposition to our proposal has been very vocal. In some cases the facts surrounding the millage effort have been inaccurate, so please, let me respond to some of the assertions being made:

  • money will be diverted to the City of Detroit
  • art will be sold to pay city debts
  • the DIA pays rent to the city
  • proceeds will fund pensions and other legacy costs.

None of the above is true. If passed, the millage will provide funds to operate the DIA and give a level of financial security that this great institution has not had for some years. These funds will be released to the DIA according to contracts signed by specially appointed art authorities in each county (Macomb, Oakland, Wayne) and the DIA, whereby we commit to provide particular services. If the authorities have any reason to believe this is not happening, they can withhold the funds and even suspend the tax. The DIA will provide an annual financial audit and activity report.

According to an operating agreement signed in 1998 by the City of Detroit and the DIA’s Founders Society, the DIA is run as a 501(c)(3) organization called the Detroit Institute of Arts Inc. Under this agreement, DIA Inc. has complete discretion on how to run the museum as long as it adheres to “accepted professional practices.” Such practices only allow for the sale of art if the proceeds are used to buy more art for the collection. As long as the agreement is in force, no entity can come in and sell art to settle bills. And, to be sure, even though there are other legal possibilities, there are considerations that lead me, personally, to say an ungrammatical “Ain’t Gonna Happen!”

As to pensions and rent, indeed, we have pension liabilities, as do most municipal governments and businesses across the country. A few current DIA employees have rights under what we refer to as “the old city benefits” as well as a pension fund that is now frozen, and the DIA has made the required ERISA contributions and will continue to manage to that standard. The DIA’s current defined-contribution pension plan is completely separate. We pay rent to a private company for a warehouse that stores everything from surplus publications of yesteryear to art that is neither highly valuable nor subject to changes in temperature and humidity.

More to the point, if passed, the millage will ensure the continuation of a vital cultural and economical asset that enhances the quality of life of the region, and for $10 for every $100,000 of assessed property value (about $15 on average) the citizens of each county will get unlimited, year-round, free general admission to the DIA!

Graham Beal Signature
Graham W. J. Beal

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Detail of page from The Nuremberg Chronicle


onceOnce Upon a Time
Prints and Drawings that Tell Stories

Closes May 13
Schwartz Galleries of Prints and Drawings

Page from The Nuremberg Chronicle
The Nuremberg Chronicle

Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, German, and Michael Wohlgemut, German; The Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493; woodcuts. City of Detroit Purchase

Only a week remains to see this exhibition of prints and drawings that tell stories: some old and familiar, others more obscure, some using words and pictures, and others images alone. Works were created to illustrate specific stories from the Bible to classic literature and modern fiction, tell more general tales that would have been recognized by contemporary viewers, or relay a private narrative to a public audience. In all cases, the artists wanted their works to be “read” as clearly as possible.

On a few occasions the subject matter is not fiction at all, but fact. An early example can be found in the two versions of the Nuremberg Chronicle, a history of the world from creation until 1490, published in the German city of Nuremberg in 1493 in Latin and German. The text, credited to Hartmann Schedel, is accompanied by approximately 645 woodcuts created by printmakers Wilhelm Pleydenwurff and Michael Wohlgemut and their assistants. Of these hundreds of images, individual ones were used repeatedly and interchangeably to depict more than 1,800 specific places and people. Exactitude was not the issue; the representations of scenes and figures served only as generic visual diversions for the reader.

The opposite is the case of six watercolors created by Tonita Pena in the early twentieth century depicting the step-by-step process used by Native American women in the Southwest to make, glaze, and fire clay pots. No text accompanies the images, which stand on their own as a manual of instructions.

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DPSSeventy-Fifth Annual Detroit Public Schools Exhibit

April 28 through June 3
Walter Gibbs Learning Center in the Wayne and Joan Webber Education Wing

Jacqueline Hunter, grade 12, Renaissance High School; Smoothie, photograph.

The range of artworks in the Seventy-Fifth Annual Detroit Public Schools Exhibit is best exemplified by two group projects: a patchwork quilt by kindergarten students and mixed-media images pieced together in a similar rectangular style by high school juniors and seniors.

The quilt squares are filled with the exuberance of the youngest of artists exploring the world around them, in this case the world of Nigeria. Each square contains, above the artist’s name, an image of flora or fauna found in that African country. The teacher, Ms. Holland, is represented by a giraffe.

On the other end of the artistic scale is Piece Peace by students at Finney High School. Not only is the art more sophisticated, as befitting teenagers in their last years of school, but the title is a play on words, denoting that the large rectangle is pieced together from individual squares containing symbols of peace.

This annual exhibition features 325 works of art by students in kindergarten through high school from thirty-two Detroit Public Schools. Paintings, sculpture, video art, fiber creations, and jewelry are all part of the exhibition. To see images of works in the show, including the two pieces mentioned above, check out the albums at the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. For interviews with student artists, click here and here.

The Seventy-Fifth Detroit Public Schools Student Exhibition was organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Public Schools, and is made possible with support from the Charter One Foundation and the Ruth R. Cattell Education Endowment Fund. Additional support was provided by the City of Detroit.

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PattiPatti Smith
Camera Solo

June 1 through September 2
Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography

Patti Smith, American; Jesse with Flower, 2003; gelatin silver print. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Purchased through the gift of Robinson A. and Nancy D. Grover, 2011. Image © Patti Smith

Pioneering musician, poet, author, and artist Patti Smith has made her mark on the cultural landscape throughout her forty-year career, from her explorations of artistic expression with friend and vanguard photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the 1960s and ’70s to her profound influence on the nascent punk-rock scene in the late 1970s and ’80s.

The more than sixty black-and-white images in this exhibition explore the themes that are significant to Smith: poets and writers; portraiture, including symbolic portraits; travel; and art and architecture. Smith’s photographs, taken with a vintage Polaroid camera, highlight the rich relationships between art, architecture, poetry, and the everyday. Her titles, such as Roberto Bolaño’s Chair, Herman Hesse’s Typewriter, and My Father’s Cup, reference varied muses. Such objects are tightly cropped and detached from their surroundings; divorced from their original function, they become devotional images.

Smith began taking 35 mm photographs in 1968 as components for collages and took up the serious use of the Polaroid Land Camera in 1995. Her photos are infused with personal significance and possess the same unfiltered, emotional quality prevalent in her poetry and song lyrics. The allure of her photographs is their often dreamlike imagery, and their modest size belies their depth and power.

This exhibition was organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut. In Detroit, the exhibition is supported by the City of Detroit.

Patti Smith Concert, June 1, SOLD OUT

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DFTDetroit Film Theatre

Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge look to the heavens in a scene from Marie Losier’s award-winning documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, an Adopt Films release.

In celebration of the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Friday Night Live and the Detroit Film Theatre have teamed up to present a special music and film double-bill on May 25: a concert by the electronic music duo Moon Pool and Dead Band, followed by a screening of The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, a portrait of the life and work of ground-breaking performance artist and music pioneer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and his other half and collaborator, Lady Jaye.

The evening gets under way with a 7 p.m. performance in the theater by David Shettler and Nate Young, whose syncopated electronic sound is created live, without overdubs, on analog synthesizers and various percussion instruments to create a unique brand of Detroit Techno.

In the early nineties, the industrial-rocker P-Orridge went to New York, where he met and married a young dominatrix who called herself Lady Jaye. Their romantic and artistic partnership is depicted–tenderly, unstintingly, and in surprisingly intimate detail–in the documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. The couple played music together, but their key project, which they named “Pandrogeny,” involved extensive plastic surgery that made them resemble each other. This dual portrait, using home movies, archival footage, plenty of music, and extensive interviews with P-Orridge (Lady Jaye died in 2007), brings amazing stories to light.

For a complete DFT schedule or to buy tickets, click here.

The DFT is presented by Buddy’s Pizza.

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onviewNew on View

Hendrick Maertensz Sorg, Dutch; Musical Company, 1954; oil on canvas. Lent by Mr. A. Alfred Taubman

Hendrick Maertensz Sorgh’s Musical Company (1661), a long-term loan from A. Alfred Taubman currently on view in the third-floor Dutch galleries, expands on the themes of wealth and leisure in seventeenth-century Dutch painting as represented by the DIA’s The Sinfonia (1671) by Michiel van Musscher, in the same gallery. Painted at the height of Sorgh’s artistic career, Musical Company is a masterful example of Dutch genre painting, with considerable delicacy in the handling of color, chiaroscuro, and detail.

The painting shows a man and a woman listening intently to a recital by two men playing stringed instruments accompanied by a female singer. Sorgh specialized in peasant interiors and market scenes, but this elegantly dressed couple, seated in a room full of symbols of wealth, including the many instruments and the servants attending to household chores, marks a shift in Dutch taste toward depictions of the republic’s new-found prosperity and to Sorgh’s increasing social standing. Music, the painting’s most overt theme, is mixed with potential allusions to love and passion, symbolized by the bird in the cage and the seated woman posed resting her head on her hand.

Musscher’s The Sinfonia portrays an elegantly dressed woman listening to her husband play a viola da gamba, or bass viol. A serving girl stands at the table. Here, music signifies marital harmony and fidelity, a foil to Sorgh’s symbols of a more passionate nature.

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mosaicMosaic Youth Theatre

The award-winning Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit wraps up its twentieth-celebration season with a revival of the hit musical Now That I Can Dance–Motown 1962 at the Detroit Film Theatre auditorium May 11 through May 20.

Now That I Can Dance recounts the early days of Motown, before Diana Ross reigned supreme, Little Stevie became a legend, and five young girls from Inkster, Michigan, were destined to make musical history. When the Marvelettes recorded Motown’s first number one hit, “Please Mr. Postman” in 1962, most of the label’s artists–the Supremes, the Marvelettes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Contours, and Stevie Wonder–were between the ages of twelve and twenty-one, the same age as Mosaic’s young artists.

Tickets are available online at the DIA or Mosaic websites. Tickets for the May 11 opening night performance, which includes a reception with original Motown artists, are available at the Mosaic office only, 313.872.6910, ext. 4024.

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doubleDouble Discount

It’s the Museum Shop’s semi-annual Members’ Double Discount days through Sunday, May 13, just in time for the spring gift-giving season. Members receive a 20 percent discount, double the usual amount, on all purchases made at the shop or online. Browse the decorative arts objects, jewelry, educational items, craft kits, paper products, and publications for gifts for moms and dads on their special days, the new graduate, or the newlyweds.

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