Detroit may have to sell one of the few things that still lures people to the city: its art collection.
A May 24 Detroit Free Press article states, “Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is considering whether the multibillion-dollar collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts should be considered city assets that potentially could be sold to cover about $15 billion in debt.”
As Detroit continues to resemble a post-apocalyptic wasteland from the Fallout video game series, (but with less valuable salvage, because it was already taken) the idea to sell off the collection sounds like a desperate bid by a disgruntled city to once again eliminate the DIA from existence.
There is also some question if the collection is worth the needed amount, but with several pieces valued at around $100 million, it’s certainly possible. The DIA, which has had to fight for its existence in the past concerning its financial support, has stated the collection is in the public trust and is therefor not for sale.
The emergency manager might find a way to disprove that belief as a means to pay off the city’s debt. The matter is still somewhat unclear as the two sides bicker and banter over what to do. Even if they could sell the collection, the process would be cumbersome and time-consuming.
At the same time, estimates on the value of the collection seem to indicate that selling the artwork might actually result in paying off the debt. Of course, there are a couple of problems with such an idea.
For one, selling the DIA collection is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Eliminating Detroit’s debt certainly calls for drastic moves, but selling the collection won’t solve the fact that the city is broke. Until viable streams of revenue are developed and properly budgeted, debt will just continue to accumulate.
Some might argue the breathing room granted from settling the city’s debt is worth buying time with a short-term solution. But I question whether such a quick and temporary fix is worth getting rid of a vibrant cultural icon, one of the only things Detroit still has going for it as a viable destination for tourists.
Selling the DIA’s collection won’t save Detroit and it will only hurt the city in the long term. It’s effectiveness as even a short-term solution is doubtful, as selling the artwork will take time and might not be worth the necessary amount. Detroit needs to do things like consolidate its borders and neighborhoods so utilities and municipal services can reach residents efficiently.
Getting rid of a center of culture, learning and creativity will just be one step further in Detroit’s continual decline and ruination.
Detroit’s problems are many and deep and money alone won’t solve them. In a city plagued by crime, poor education and urban ruin, art and culture still manage to live on. Snuffing out that culture will make things worse and won’t stave off the city’s problems for long. This may sound cold and cruel to the citizens of Detroit, but if the city is willing to sell off one of its last bastions of culture and creativity, is it even worth saving?