Foundations to Help Save Detroit Art Works, Pension System

Monday, 13 Jan 2014 11:04 PM

By Amy Woods

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A bargain between nine foundations will help save priceless pieces hanging in the Detroit Institute of Arts and enable the city avoid a shortfall in its pension system, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Thanks to a plan hatched by Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen, head mediator in Detroit's Chapter 9 bankruptcy case, the city-owned art will be funneled into a new public trust made possible by the donation of $330 million from the foundations.

The art, which is by such masters as Michelangelo and Vincent van Gogh, faced a proverbial fire sale to save the municipality from its estimated $3.5 billion shortfall. The city-owned art in the museum is valued at $866 million, the Journal reported.

"It's extraordinary," said Larry McGill, of the Foundation Center, which records and tracks foundation giving. "Honestly, the magnitude is the kind of response that you only see in the wake of disasters."

Rosen discussed the strategy with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder before going public with it Monday.

"We kind of feel the weight of history because it's the biggest case of its kind, and we feel the need to get it right," a source involved in the bargain reportedly said.

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr added, "This is a very important step, but there is still much work to do."

Of the nine foundations, the Ford Foundation has taken the lead with an expected commitment of $125 million. The Kresge Foundation in Troy, Mich., has pledged $100 million. In Miami, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has offered $30 million.

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