Since 1885, the Detroit Institute of Arts has served as a rich part of the city’s culture. But due to Detroit’s recent bankruptcy, it’s struggling just to hold on to its collections.
Earlier this month, nine organizations endowed a $330 million fund that would finance the city’s pensions and protect the Institute’s art collection during bankruptcy proceedings.
Although these organizations have been active in their philanthropic efforts in the Motor City, Joseph Sutkowi, the University’s assistant director of foundation relations, said all nine foundations have also been large contributors to the University. They have donated to an array of programs, from the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy to the Ford School of Public Policy’s National Poverty Center.
The donor list for the DIA fund includes the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Ford Foundation, Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation, Knight Foundation, Kresge Foundation, McGregor Fund and the William Davidson Foundation.
While Sutkowi said there is not a connection between the gifts to the University and the DIA, he said their support for the two causes is complementary.
“It is really where U of M’s resources and expertise — through faculty research, through community engagement programs — is where those projects and programs can make an impact in the city,” Sutkowi said. “That is where the real link is.”
When donating to the University, many of the foundations give funds for research or program grants. Programs receive funding through a grant process executed by faculty members on campus. Faculty also apply for a specific project, and those programs that also help the city of Detroit tend to be the ones the foundations are particularly interested in contributing to.
“The University has many faculty members who are really well engaged in the city and really making great contributions to the city,” Sutkowi said. “That is where, from these nine foundations, we end up getting a lot of funding.”
One of those organizations, The Kresge Foundation, is a national philanthropic group based in Troy, Michigan that is committed to helping local communities fund major renovation projects. The Kresge Foundation donates to a host of areas including community development, the city of Detroit, education, arts and culture, health and human services.
Kresge has also sponsored research and new programs, including grants to study homeless policy and climate change.
The Knight Foundation, another major donor, focuses on promoting journalism in the digital age.
The Knight Foundation sponsors the University’s Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship and has also recently donated funds to sponsor Michigan Radio’s coverage of the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings.
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, another DIA and University donor, supports programs in seven different counties in Southeast Michigan, including Washtenaw County.
“Our purpose is to improve the quality of life for all who live and work in the seven counties. So we are geographic-specific but we will fund almost any kind of activity,” Community Foundation President Mariam C. Noland said.
The DIA and the University are just two of many organizations that the Community Foundation supported.
“We will fund anything that improves the quality of life,” Noland said. “By funding the University we are clearly making an impact on the lives of many students as well as residents. The arts are an important part of the quality of life for all of us.”
University alum Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager, met with museum leaders last week to discuss the organization’s plans to fund city pensions to preserve the city’s art.
According to The Detroit Free Press, Orr said the museum would need to contribute additional money to a fund designed to protect DIA art during the city’s bankruptcy proceedings.
In a statement, the DIA said the efforts to find a solution will not only ensure the safety of the museum’s collection, but also aid in the revitalization of the city of Detroit.
“The DIA’s long and strong relationship with national and local foundations has contributed to their willingness to provide the financial framework for this plan, and the museum has committed to providing both fundraising support and programming to the effort,” the statement read.