In March, I fell in love with Detroit. It has not dampened my deep commitment to my city, but I am now sharing the love. It is a great American city. Truly.
I have followed Detroit’s bankruptcy proceedings through many media sources. All reliable and non-biased. I live in facts and details in most of what I do, so this affair has been no different.
Today on National Public Radio they ran the next installment in what has been a long and continuing story on the Motor City from multiple angles and points-of-view. This was about the Detroit Institute of Art possibly selling its multiple-billion-dollar collection – which is owned by the “people of the City of Detroit” – to help honor the debts of the city.
I cried. I pulled the car over, finished my tears, and pulled myself together. I felt like I had been socked in the gut. I had just been in that museum at spring break. I had just talked about that collection and its curatorial staff at a meeting this week at The Nelson. I had just….
I could not get over the fact that the soul of the city – its art collection – was currently being appraised by Christie’s and was being considered for auction and/or sale.
Why can’t the Detroit Lions or the Red Wings or the Pistons be considered for auction and possible sale? Why is art, yet again, being called upon to set its people free?
Because that’s what it did when its people made Detroit its home in the first place.
The people of the City of Detroit slowly purchased the art for the people. Wealthy people spearheaded some selections. However, a curator told me during my trip that “everyday” people started and finished fundraising campaigns for many of the pieces in the collection. Groups of people. Committees. People who saw that art would bring so much to the people who were busy most days in big, loud industries building with their hands big mechanical things. They knew that people who worked hard with their hands and their bodies would be very receptive to art and her redemptive powers.
I’m still not at peace with this issue. I don’t know if I ever will be. I will continue to listen and learn. I am going to try and visit Detroit again very soon and eat in her locally owned restaurants, sleep in her locally owned boutique hotels, talk with her smitten residents, and visit her amazing museums and public spaces.
I don’t know what I will do when I enter an art museum that is devoid of its center of gravity. I guess I will figure that out when I get there.
Here is a photo that I didn’t post earlier this year when I returned from Detroit. If you want to see more of my photos and hear about that trip, click here.