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In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column

This Man Is Suing the Detroit Institute of Arts Over a Campaign Everybody Loved

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Who could have guessed that an organization calling itself the Michigan Taxpayer Alliance is represented by a cantankerous white man barely able to mask his contempt for an art museum? Speaking to Detroit Local 4 news this week, area resident Leon Drolet told reporters that the Detroit Institute of Arts lied in its recent campaign to get local residents to sign on to a tax initiative that was needed to keep the museum from closing. Now he and his fellow MTA members have filed a suit with in Macomb County Circuit Court to this effect, arguing that a 10-year property tax millage — passed with overwhelming support in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties this past August — was promoted deceitfully.

Besides the warmth of knowing that they had done a good deed by keeping the DIA solvent, the reward to local patrons, according to television ads aired over the summer, was that taxpayers would be granted “unlimited” free admission to all museum exhibitions. Supporters of the museum might argue that the DIA has since held up their end of the bargain; general admissions is free, but adult visitors will have to pay $15 to get into the current visiting exhibition, “Fabergé: The Rise and Fall.” Drolet and his comrades say they were conned by the museum.

“They said that when the millage passed, that people in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties would have unlimited admission to the art museum, and now they’re charging people for special exhibits,” he told Local 4. “The Detroit Institute of Arts lied.”

What’s unusual about the lawsuit is that the MTA wouldn’t necessarily consider the matter settled if the DIA found a way to offer all exhibitions — traveling or otherwise — with free admission. Instead, according to the Detroit Free Press, the MTA’s gripe is with false advertising. They’re asking for a court order prohibiting the DIA from telling Macomb County residents that it offers free, unlimited admission. Also, the plaintiffs are asking for $250 each, plus attorney’s fees. Given the scale of the claims being made in this dispute (the tax millage would cost households between $10 and $20 over the next ten years), some have wondered why the whole matter isn’t being settled in Small Claims.

— Reid Singer

(Image via Detroit Institute of Arts/Facebook.)

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