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 The Detroit Institute of Arts is reaching out to the public to promote an upcoming millage renewal that allows affordable access to its impressive collection including the renowned murals by artist Diego Rivera, pictured.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is reaching out to the public to promote an upcoming millage renewal that allows affordable access to its impressive collection including the renowned murals by artist Diego Rivera, pictured.

Photo provided by Christine Kloostra


DIA making presentations about upcoming millage renewal vote

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published February 14, 2020

 Pam Lavers, the Director of Public and Community Affairs for the DIA, and Ian Rapnicki, the Macomb County Community Engagement Manager for the DIA, speak at the Eastpointe City Council meeting on Jan. 21. It was one of several community meetings the Detroit Institute of Arts took part in to spread the word about an upcoming millage renewal benefitting the institution.

Pam Lavers, the Director of Public and Community Affairs for the DIA, and Ian Rapnicki, the Macomb County Community Engagement Manager for the DIA, speak at the Eastpointe City Council meeting on Jan. 21. It was one of several community meetings the Detroit Institute of Arts took part in to spread the word about an upcoming millage renewal benefitting the institution.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

METRO DETROIT — The Detroit Institute of Arts is out in the community trying to raise awareness of the millage that has been helping support the museum since 2012.

The ballot measure will renew the millage at the same rate as before for another 10 years, and it will be decided during the election on Tuesday, March 10. It affects residents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

“In 2012, the DIA was fortunate that the voters of the tri-counties supported a small millage to support the museum,” said David Flynn, the DIA’s senior vice president for community and public affairs. “In exchange for that support, we have agreements with communities to provide free general admission, free school field trips with transportation, senior group tours and events that bring arts and culture into those communities.”

The millage renewal seeks to collect 0.2 mills, which is 20 cents for every $1,000 of taxable property.

“This is a millage renewal, so people will continue to pay the same amount with no increase to receive the services they do today,” Flynn said.

A home with a market value of $150,000, with a taxable value of $75,000, would result in a tax levy of $15.

The Macomb County Art Institute Authority is one of three county authorities that serves as the fiduciaries for the funds collected from the county for the DIA, negotiates the service contract with the DIA and monitors the DIA’s financial audits. The other two authorities operate in a similar way for Oakland and Wayne counties.

Jennifer Callans, the chair of the Macomb authority, said that supporting such a millage means supporting resources and experiences for Macomb County residents who wouldn’t be able to get them otherwise.

“I think any individual Macomb County resident has the opportunity to get far more value from supporting the DIA than they ever could get out of the $10 or $20 they would save on their taxes,” she said. “This allows schools and senior centers and families in need to enjoy the museum. This provides programming and new exhibits that any person in the three counties can enjoy for free. We are supporting our community’s access to the arts in a way that is really powerful and meaningful.”

Callans said there is a strong connection between Macomb County and the DIA that more local residents should take advantage of.

“Each of the county authorities have the right to appoint people to the DIA’s Board of Directors,” she said. “One of our members is a former educator and principal, and she has worked closely with the DIA’s educational staff to develop more curriculum activities for students who go there. There is a strong and tangible relationship between Macomb County and the DIA that people can experience firsthand.”

People supporting the millage believe that the funds are a strong investment in art, culture and education.

“For the past eight years, the DIA has been dedicated in providing the best possible services for education, public investment and community art in the Detroit area. We want people in the community to be able to enjoy a world class museum every day,” said Flynn. “The DIA is one of the best museums in the country, and it’s right in our own backyard. To be able to take 17,000 kids in Macomb County and 80,000 in the metro area each year to a place where they can experience history and culture is crucial to their education.”

Not everyone supports the millage renewal. Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet, who represents District 13, which includes most of Macomb Township, said he is against the millage renewal for several reasons.

“If you add up all the money that’s sent to the DIA from Macomb County, and divide it by the number of people who visit the DIA, from Macomb, it ends up costing about $60 a person,” he said.

Drolet argues that it costs Macomb County residents more to visit, than general admission.

“It’s not all free, and everybody pays for it,” he said. ‘They’re talking as if nobody is paying for all that stuff.”

He called the DIA a wonderful place, but said not everyone can afford paying additional taxes for something that’s not a necessity.

Drolet believes that instead of a renewal, the DIA should revert back to a ticket-based policy, with lower rates for students and seniors.

DIA representatives have been doing presentations on the millage renewal at municipal meetings throughout the three affected counties.

“We are continuing to do TV, mail, digital and radio ads so they realize how important this millage renewal is to the people of Oakland, Wayne and Macomb County,” Flynn said. “We’re not taking anything for granted, and we want to talk to as many people as possible, because we know if you know about the DIA, then you love the DIA. We’re more than just a museum. We’re a space for the public to gather. We are a place for the performing arts, such as film, dance, live music and art making.”

Callans said she hopes this millage measure will remind the public about the attractions at the DIA.

“It would be great to see more Macomb County residents going down to the DIA and experiencing it for themselves,” Callans said. “The arts are a valuable way to consider what unites us all, and it’s a great experience to share.”

Staff Writer Alex Szwarc contributed to this story.