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If You Tax Them, They Will Come (to the Museum)

The Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts (photo by Colin Darke)

A week ago, voters in Michigan’s Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties passed a millage to help save the Detroit Institute of Arts from a dire financial situation. And then, I guess to celebrate, they all went to the museum.

Attendance at the DIA more than tripled last week as compared with the same period last year. The Detroit Free Press breaks down the numbers:

Nearly 8,000 visitors poured into the museum through Sunday, about 5,000 of whom were admitted free as residents of the tri-county area. About 2,000 people paid general admission fees, and 900 others were admitted free as members.

In 2011, about 2,600 people visited the museum during the same August week, 350 of them members. Standard admission fees are $4-$8.

Museum leaders were quick to point out that there may be other factors at work, including four special exhibitions currently on view and simply the increased visibility of the DIA due to the millage campaign. Fair enough, but I suspect that, after passing a tax on themselves, Metro Detroiters are eager to start getting their money’s worth. Plus, as anyone who’s visited MoMA on a Friday night knows, people love museums … when they’re free.

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