New push to help save Detroit Institute of Arts

Sources say dollar amount EM needs to clear city's balance sheet is $200 million out of museum

DETROIT – As the drum beat of the Chapter 9 bankruptcy trial for the city of Detroit grows ever louder, now it's all about salvaging what assets are left.

The jewel in the crown is the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Emergency Manger Kevyn Orr put the museum on notice before the bankruptcy filing happened that the collection was vulnerable.

Related: DIA not objecting to Detroit's bankruptcy filing

With creditors hounding him and the city to pay up, they want to know why nothing has been sold yet.

Sources tell Local 4 the dollar amount the EM will need to help clear the city's balance sheet is about $200 million out of the museum.

Already, Tom Guastello, the chairman of the Oakland County Art Authority, has put the city on notice that if one piece of art is sold out of that museum to satisfy creditors it violates the tri-county millage that keeps the museum's doors open daily.

More: Oakland County puts Detroit, DIA on notice

Now, Guastello is going to try for political pressure.

"Winston Churchill once said he wasn't elected prime minister of England to oversee the liquidation of the British Empire, and we're sure not going to preside over the liquidation of the Detroit Institute of Art. It's too precious and valuable an asset," Guastello said.

In the coming weeks, expect to see all of the tri-county executives, along with Detroit mayor-elect Mike Duggan, come out and publicly pressure Lansing to step in. They're also looking to rally the mayors of the larger cities in the metro area to ask the Governor to take the collection off the table.

Behind closed doors, there are ongoing discussions with the philanthropic community to see how much money is out there. There's also been a meeting with representatives of the various foundations with the federal mediator in the bankruptcy case.

Could those entities foot that $200 million that Orr is looking to get out of the museum? Possibly.

Since 1885, the collection has catalogued the fortunes and misfortunes of Detroit. Guastello said it must be saved.

"America is a great country. The best," said Guastello. "We don't always support the arts the way we should and I think this is a siren call to start supporting art, particularly when we have something as great as the DIA."

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