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DIA Vulnerable Under Detroit Bankruptcy

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(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

DETROIT (WWJ) – If Detroit’s broke, will culture be the first thing to go?

Detroit’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing has put the future of the city’s opulent art museum in jeopardy.

A source talking to WWJ Newsradio 950 says Detroit Institute of Arts employees were informed by the museum’s legal counsel of the move, shortly after news of the filing broke on Thursday.

The DIA issued the following officials statement:

“Like so many with deep roots in this city, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is disappointed that the Emergency Manager determined it was necessary to file for bankruptcy. As a municipal bankruptcy of this size is unprecedented, the DIA will continue to carefully monitor the situation, fully confident that the emergency manager, the governor and the courts will act in the best interest of the City, the public and the museum.

“We remain committed to our position that the Detroit Institute of Arts and the City of Detroit hold the DIA’s collection in trust for the public and we stand by our charge to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of all Michigan residents.”

A DIA source, speaking to WWJ on the condition of anonymity, said until they know more, the DIA will simply continue to provide visitors with the best possible experience … “something everyone here is all exceptionally good at.”

Fine art on display at the DIA. (credit: Pat Sweeting/WWJ)

Fine art on display at the DIA. (credit: Pat Sweeting/WWJ)

This comes after Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said his team was looking at whether the DIA’s collection should be sold as a city asset that could possibly cover Detroit’s long-term debt, which is estimated at up to $20 billion.

At that time, Orr spokesman Bill Nowling said — while they have “no interest in selling art” —  Orr had considered that the museum may face exposure to creditors if Detroit were to seek bankruptcy protection.

“As much as it would pain us to do it, and it does, I’m a great lover of art and so is Kevyn,” said Nowling. “… we’ve got a responsibility to rationalize all the assets of the city and find out what the worth is and what the city holds.”

Amid that possibility, the museum said it hired New York bankruptcy attorney Richard Levin to suggest ways to protect the collection from possible losses. Levin has been involved in bankruptcy case involving General Motors and other high-profile cases.

The city owns the Detroit Institute of Arts’ building and collection, while daily operations are overseen by a nonprofit. The scope of Orr’s power as an emergency manager to sell the collection or any other major assets, such as the city’s water department, likely would be tested in court.

Gov. Rick Snyder approved the city’s bankruptcy filing on Thursday — the biggest municipal filing in U.S. history.

MORE: Detroit Files For Bankruptcy

An iconic work by Mexican artist Diego Rivera, depicting Detroit industry. At the DIA. (credit: Pat Sweeting/WWJ)

An iconic work by Mexican artist Diego Rivera, depicting Detroit industry. At the DIA. (credit: Pat Sweeting/WWJ)

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