OK, so Detroit’s newly renovated museum is world class. It has new marble walls and beautiful interior architecture. It has a great cafe with cuisine, not just plain food. Like our symphony orchestra, the Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the best institutions of its kind in the country.
But what does this museum really do for the city of Detroit?
It’s very likely that local Detroit artists will never make it into the DIA. The Art Institute won’t reduce crime, or the murder rate. And the poor, who make up a large percentage of the city’s population, won’t be able to afford to come to the museum after this free Grand Opening weekend. And while $55 is a reasonable fee for a year-long membership to an art museum for some, it also buys a lot of eggs, milk, and bread.
So is the city wasting its time with this art hullabaloo when things are so bad?
I really wish the answer was an unequivocal no, but I can’t.
$158 million dollars feeds and shelters a lot of people, so I can’t really say that the cost of the renovation is completely justified. But we also need to consider the value of the museum, not just the cost.
Though in decline for some years, Detroit is still a great city. So many of us are here because our ancestors and relatives had the courage to move away from their birthplaces to come to a new place that offered promise and fruits to make their labors worthwhile. And The Detroit Institute of Arts is an essential part to the greatness of the city itself and it’s revitalization.
To think of it another way, let’s take the word “Institute” from “Detroit Institute of Arts” and apply it to what the museum could mean for the city. Let’s see what other meanings we can eek out of this word.
To institute (v) means to establish, to set in motion, to create. There is even an Ecclesiastic definition that means “to assign to or invest with a spiritual charge.” And that is possibly what the newly renovated DIA can do for Detroit. It’s a motion toward renovation for the city itself, toward revitalization. Art is the product of creativity, but it also breeds creativity, which is exactly what this city needs–daring, unconventional thinkers and creators to use their abilities to solve this city’s problems. Perhaps the new Institute can inspire the city and its citizens to institute a new, creative spirit of change.
As you walk the halls and see all of the great artwork, you won’t be able to tell you’re within the Detroit city limits. But you are within the Detroit city limits. And these artworks aren’t going anywhere else. They’re staying right here. They’re sticking out the hard times with us. Let’s draw inspiration from them, and the museum, and continue to renovate and revitalize this entire city.