Letter to the Editor: DIA Is a Regional Asset, Should Be Funded Regionally

"Art matters, art is for everyone. I urge you to vote YES," Huntington Woods City Commissioner Jeff Jenks says of a millage proposal that will be on Tuesday's ballot.

I have lived in SE Michigan for all but 6 1/2 years of my life. I've lived in Huntington Woods for 36 years. For the past 12 years I've been a Huntington Woods City Commissioner. Most recently I've been working along with other nearby elected officials to bring rapid transit to Oakland county and to make it easier and faster to go anywhere along the 22 mile Woodward corridor from the Detroit River to Pontiac. I recently was elected Vice Chair of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, our 7 county regional planning agency that serves 4.7 million residents and brings all of the regions governments together. At the last SEMCOG Executive Committee meeting we overwhelming endorsed support for the DIA millage. Our region matters and the arts are an important part of that region.

The DIA is a regional asset and should be funded regionally.  During the past few years it has redesigned its collections and it now draws visitors from around the world. If you haven't visited in the past few years you will get a new experience.  It is a different museum. It's now considered one of the most visitor-friendly museums in the world.  Individual cities can no longer afford to support the arts and the funds raised primarily from the private sector annually only allow for partial operation of the DIA on reduced hours. Its director is among the lowest paid of museum directors in the Midwest. Its reserves, which would cover operations for just 4 years, is one of the smallest among major museums in North America. Its paintings are what make it valuable and most can't be sold. It would also be illogical to sell them. School districts have cut out field trips to museums because they have lost funding. A resident's annual cost in our area would be between $5 and $10 ($10-$20 per home). Museums and culture are what help us draw and retain young people with advanced education. Arts and culture help our region grow and prosper and in that process increase the values of our homes.

If passed in Oakland county and our adjacent counties we will guarantee a fully functional DIA for many years. If passed just in Oakland county we will have free unlimited admissions. The DIA is just  30 minutes from our homes. Your kids and grandkids will benefit. There will be additional funding for student transportation, field trips, art education and opportunities to visit the museum – like you and I had when we were kids.  Seniors will also benefit from transportation offered from the DIA and the opportunity also for field trips. Art matters, art is for everyone. I urge you to vote YES next Tuesday.

– Jeff Jenks, Huntington Woods City Commissioner


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