Rochelle Riley: Wright Museum Needs Financial Footing In Detroit Bankruptcy Plan

Source: Rochelle Riley Detroit Free Press

While Detroit’s bankruptcy has inspired a well-funded effort to protect assets at the Detroit Institute of Arts, leaders at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History — the largest U.S. museum of its kind — fear the city’s insolvency could make their institution unsustainable.

The Wright has rarely existed without financial struggle and has been underfunded since its birth nearly 60 years ago. It depends heavily on contributions from city government, and if the bankruptcy settlement does away with that money, the museum might not be able to survive, board members said Thursday.

The Wright’s leaders want the city — and emergency manager Kevyn Orr — to embrace the museum and protect its existence, just as the nonprofit community and state government have rallied to be sure the DIA’s art isn’t sold. At a time when Detroit is ceding control over many of its assets — Belle Isle, maybe the water department — the Wright wants Detroit to reaffirm its ownership of the museum, and responsibility for preserving African-American history.

“The city owns the building. The city built it. The city ought to own the museum,” said board member Walt Douglas, chairman of Avis Ford. “If we had a few Al Taubmans around, maybe we’d feel differently. But this is the People’s Museum.”

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