Objective: Require the Wayne County Commission to follow an open and transparent process when appointing board members to the Wayne County Art Institute Authority.
Why we’re doing this: To allow the Art Institute Authority to draw from a broader pool of qualified applicants, and hence permit it to hold the DIA to higher standards of delivery.
Actions to date: In April 2021, we wrote to the Art Institute Authority requesting that the term expiration dates for the board members be added to the Wayne County Art Institute Authority Home Page.
Outcomes : in May of 2021, term expiration dates were added to the Wayne County Art Institute Authority (WCAIA) web page for all nine members, with the earliest five set to expire in May 2022.
Objective: Require the Wayne County Art Institute Authority to comply with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
Why we’re doing this: So that the people of Wayne County can hold the Detroit Institute of the Arts to higher standards.
Actions to date: we consulted with an attorney specializing in government transparency issues, and on 9/7/20, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Wayne County for information on Art Institute Authority meetings and meeting minutes.
Outcomes: As a result of our actions, Wayne County created a home page for the Art Institute Authority which includes dates for upcoming meetings, members of the authority, minutes from previous meetings, bylaws, governing legislation, service agreements with the DIA, and other information.
Objective: require the Wayne County Art Institute Authority (WCAIA) to implement checks and balances to ensure that Wayne County’s citizens receive full value from the ~$10M/year they transfer to the DIA.
Actions and Outcome to Date:
Making the WCAIA accountable for the money they transfer to the DIA is a long-term project that we have broken into smaller steps.
1. Make the WCAIA hold open meetings and publish meeting minutes. This is complete, see here.
2. Make the WCAIA/WCC follow a transparent process for appointing board members to the WCAIA. This is in process, see here.
3. Complete a benchmark of the DIA in relation to similar museums in comparable U.S. metropolitan areas. This is complete, see Section 4.0.
4. Make the WCAIA engage in a participatory budgeting process in order to get meaningful public input. This is part of our recommendations for the new Service Agreement, see Section 6.0.
5. Make the WCAIA include appropriate benchmarks and services when establishing the service contract with the DIA. This is part of our recommendations for the new Service Agreement, see Section 6.0.
Essay’d advocates for an equitable, productive, and transparent art economy in Metropolitan Detroit, recognizing that these three issues are inter-connected.
The Detroit art economy is characterized by massive disparities of wealth and income. A 2021 study commissioned by the City of Detroit found that over 65% of artists earned less than $50k/year from their creative practice and that over 33% earned less than $10k/year. These figures likely come as no surprise to artists working in the creative gig economy. At the other end of the financial scale are the hyper-wealthy elite who serve on the boards of the city’s foundations and large cultural institutions, frequently simultaneously. This network of interconnected boards collectively makes decisions that shape the city’s nonprofit art and culture economy, which we estimate at around one third of a billion dollars per year. Somewhere in between, both financially and in terms of information flow, is the parallel network of administrators, consultants, support organizations, program officers and development officers who collectively dominate the city’s art economy to the extent that little is left for cultural producers and grass roots organizations. If this seems an exaggeration, consider that when we researched the ongoing, publicly reported philanthropic funding streams for arts and culture in Metropolitan Detroit we found that only 2% reached grassroots organizations and artists.