Oakland County puts Detroit Institute of Arts, city on notice

County says it will withhold millage monies from DIA if art sold


DETROIT – Sell off any art or use suburban tax dollars to pay off Detroit's creditors and Oakland County will withhold millage monies from the DIA.

The millage that voters in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne approved last year specifies that those suburban tax dollars go to the operation of the museum and not the city of Detroit.

Now that Emergency Manger Kevyn Orr has asked Christie's to step in and evaluate the collection, Oakland County is putting the city and the institution on notice.

"If any money is taken from the funds we've given or any piece of art is sold, bartered or traded it violates the agreement. No funds are to go to the City of Detroit," said Tom Guastello.

Guastello sits on the Oakland County Art Institute Authority. He believes the collection is not vulnerable to a sale to help satisfy the city's creditors, an opinion shared by Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Still, the museum is considered a Detroit asset and some items could come up for sale, or millage monies diverted.

Privately, DIA Director Graham Beale had been told last week this was coming. Now, Oakland County is putting it on paper.

"Selling off DIA assets is not what voters had in mind when they approved the millage," Guastello said.

What would have prevented the DIA from being considered in the city's valuation of assets is if someone had the foresight to protect the collection by making it an authority unto itself.

Guastello and the rest of the Oakland County Art Authority doesn't want to see the collection cannibalized.

"It's a legacy that needs to be carried on for future generations," he said.

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