DETROIT (WWJ) - Voters in the tri-county area passed a millage supporting the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Residents in Wayne and Oakland counties overwhelmingly supported the proposal which is expected to raise $20 million to $23 million for the museum, with about $11 million of that coming from Oakland.
The 10-year millage narrowly passed in Macomb county where the 'yes' votes appear to outnumber the 'no' votes by a margin of only 300.
The tax works out to about $20 per year on a house worth $200,000.
The museum will get a decade to focus fundraising efforts on building its endowment, with the long-term goal of becoming financially independent. If the proposal failed, the museum would have been forced to cut its hours, opening only two or three days a week. Some galleries would have closed to the public, and the museum would no longer have staged special exhibitions.
Speaking live on WWJ Newsradio 950, DIA director, president and CEO Graham Beal said the passage means tri-county residents will get free admission with proof of residency, but others will likely have to pay more to get in.
"Immediately we're going to be open for people without an admission charge the days that we're open. We're now open five days a week and will soon be going to six days a week, but we're not sure when that is, nor are we sure how much admission charges will go up," said Beal.
Ann Marie Erickson, DIA spokesperson, said she hopes residents take advantage of what the museum has to offer.
"We are ready, we've got a beautiful (Johannes) Vermeer hanging up on the third floor of the Dutch galleries, we're going to have staff members welcoming people in the lobbies. We are absolutely thrilled," said Erickson.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing thanked residents for saving one of the true gems in the city.
"Our future is I think very, very bright because of this millage passage. It will give them the necessary funding to do things that they had no capacity to do , you know, in the past," said Bing.
The museum was funded by the city of Detroit until the 1970s, when state support replaced local funding. That backing has since disappeared. In 2009, the museum cut its budget from $34 million to about $25 million and shed nearly 20 percent of its employees, but it says the high cost of maintaining its facilities and protecting its collection make further cuts unworkable.
Artist Kathy Snig, who was among those gathered at the museum Tuesday night, was grateful the proposal passed.
"This is the center of art in the city of Detroit, it's a world-class museum and it needs to remain," said Snig.
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