Meet The Detroit Millionaire Who Is Putting His Money Where His Mouth Is To Save The City's Art

  on
Detroit Institute of Arts
People look at a mural by artist Diego Rivera at the Art Institute of Detroit in Detroit, Michigan December 3, 2013. Some of the art collection owned by the city of Detroit is in jeopardy of being auctioned off due to the city's current financial situation. Detroit is eligible for the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history because the city is broke and negotiations with its thousands of creditors were unfeasible, a federal judge said on Tuesday in a wide-ranging ruling that also said the city could cut retiree pensions.

A Detroit philanthropist is donating $5 million to safeguard the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection and city retirees’ pensions, and he’s hoping charitable foundations will donate as well.

The millionaire, A. Paul Schaap, is meeting Friday with U.S. Chief District Judge Gerald Rosen, who is the mediator in Detroit’s bankruptcy case, according to the Detroit Free Press. Rosen has urged about 10 charities to give a collective $500 million to establish DIA’s independence from the city as a nonprofit. That would free the city to pay more in pensions and improve services. However, none of the charities have yet committed to giving.

A federal bankruptcy judge ruled Detroit eligible for bankruptcy on Tuesday, and an emergency manager will soon propose a plan for the city to recover, which will include pension cuts, major changes to city services, and sale of city assets. Portions of DIA’s art stand to be sold as city assets.

“None of us want to see individual people hurt and lose pensions,” Schaap told the Free Press, “and also then to provide for the long-term future of the DIA. I think if they have to sell one piece of art it will so demoralize people in this metro area that we can’t even imagine it.”

Schaap made his fortune as a biotechnology entrepreneur and contacted the Detroit newspaper wanting to donate after reading about Rosen’s efforts to raise money.  

Join the Discussion