Detroit May Be Bankrupt But Its Art Scene Isn’t

Detroit has had a rough go of it over the past 30 years. It went from being America’s third largest city and the heart of American manufacturing to being the poster child of urban decay and municipal bankruptcy. With the city’s recent bankruptcy filing, the spotlight was once again turned on them and the immense problems they face and there has been plenty of political finger pointing to go around. However bad it their situation seems though, they’re also showing signs that they will eventually come back stronger.

Believe it or not, one of the major drivers of economic growth and revenue in the city is the city’s art scene and that has strengthened greatly in recent years. Despite their issues, Detroit hosts about 20 million tourists each year and the main draw for them is their sports teams and their art scene. Detroit has long been home to the Detroit Institute of Arts which is one of the most impressive public art museums in the world with works from legendary artists like van Gogh, Diego Rivera, Caravaggio, Breugel, Rembrandt, and Picasso. In addition to that, the city’s greatly distressed residential and commercial real estate market has made renting or buying property dirt cheap which is another factor that will bring in artists in droves. Detroit should be excited about this development because artists and hipsters are the first seeds of urban renewal. Cities like Ashville, North Carolina, and Bilbao, Spain have experienced an economic renaissance primarily driven by art and culture and Detroit is now trying to follow in their footsteps.

Also there has been a lot of talk about potentially selling off the priceless paintings in Detroit Institute of Arts as part of the city’s bankruptcy and that would be a most unwise idea. Those paintings are the source of a good deal of the tourism that Detroit gets and selling them off would be sacrificing a reliable long-term source of revenue for local businesses for a very short-term fiscal crisis. Such a move doesn’t make economic sense and it would also be met with strong disapproval among the very people who are going to play a big part in rebuilding the city’s economy.


Diego Rivera’s famous Detroit Industry Murals at the DIA.

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