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Raises for Detroit Institute of Arts Execs Who Helped Save Its Collection

Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" outside the Detroit Institute of Arts (photo by Quick fix/Flickr)
Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker” outside the Detroit Institute of Arts (photo by Quick fix/Flickr)

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) will give pay raises and bonuses to three of its top executives in recognition of their work securing the museum’s collection during the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy negotiations. Former Director and President Graham Beal (who left the DIA on June 30) will get a retroactive $20,000 raise for the fiscal years 2014 and 2015, plus a $30,000 performance bonus; Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Annmarie Erickson and Chief Financial Officer Robert Bowen will receive 3% raises for the fiscal years 2014 and 2015, plus bonuses of $65,000 and $40,000, respectively. The compensations, part of a $625,185 package the DIA is preparing for the three high-ranking administrators according to the Detroit News, will also include severance pay and the forgiveness of a $155,832 housing loan Beal received in 2011 — terms dictated by his contract. Beal’s base salary when he left DIA earlier this summer was $430,000.

“With the bankruptcy, these three people had an inordinate amount of additional work to get us where we are today: testifying at the trial, working within the requirements of the court,” the chairman of the DIA’s board of directors, Eugene Gargaro, told the Detroit Free Press. “It was a second job for all three of these people.”

The DIA’s public disclosure of this compensation plan came about because, under the terms of the mileage tax that voters in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties voted to adopt in 2012 to help cover the museum’s operation costs, all salaries and raises must be agreed upon by the counties’ art authorities. The tax brings about $23 million into DIA’s coffers every year. Since the three raises will be paid for by using public funds — the bonuses and Beal’s severance pay and loan will be covered by a special compensation fund — they must be presented to and approved by the counties. This is the first time since the terms of the agreement between the counties and the museum were hashed out that the DIA has presented its compensation plans to local art authorities. How exactly county authorities are expected to voice their objection or approval is unclear, but to date DIA officials have only formally presented the package to Macomb County’s art officials.

“There is no basis to object. Having said all that, this is the first time we are having discussions on this, and we will try to all work together,” Gargaro told the Detroit News. “If (the counties) object, my option is to use donor funds.” In October 2014, some Oakland County officials objected after DIA revealed the details of raises and bonuses that Beal and Erickson had received in 2012 as the museum was campaigning for the mileage tax. The museum subsequently used funds from private donors to repay $90,000 in bonuses it had awarded.

The Great Hall of the Detroit Institute of Arts (photo courtesy the Detroit Institute of Arts)
The Great Hall of the Detroit Institute of Arts (photo courtesy the Detroit Institute of Arts)

According to its tax return for the 2013–14 fiscal year, the DIA had expenses of $38.5 million and paid Beal $506,979, plus another $26,740 in other compensations. According to a 2012 report by the American Alliance of Museums, the median salary for the director, CEO, or president of a US museum with an annual budget of more than $10 million was $273,750. Meanwhile, Association of Art Museum Directors data cited by the Detroit News indicated that the median salary for a US museum director in 2014 was $461,250.

A survey of available tax returns filed by major museums in cities comparable to Detroit suggests that Beal’s raise is not so out of keeping with national trends. In 2011, the Indianapolis Museum of Art Art had expenses totaling $32.7 million and paid then-director Maxwell Anderson $540,509 with an additional $23,709 in extra compensations. For the 2013–14 fiscal year the Cleveland Art Museum had nearly $73 million in expenses and paid its director David Franklin (who left his job in October 2013) $437,161, plus $19,974 in additional compensations. For the same period, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo had expenses of $11.5 million and paid its director, Janne Sirén, $192,596. And for the calendar year 2012 the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh — a multi-institution group that includes the Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and the Andy Warhol Museum — reported combined expenditures of $56.1 million and paid then-president John Wetenhall $345,915 plus $22,591 in additional compensations. For the fiscal year 2012–13 the Seattle Art Museum reported $31.8 million in expenses and paid outgoing Executive Director Derrick Cartwright $288,467.

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