DEFEND THE DIA!

 

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About the Campaign

The Defense of Culture and the DIA

In August Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr hired Christie’s auction house to appraise the value of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection in preparation for selling off the art to cover the city’s debts.

The Detroit Institute of Arts contains some of the world’s most important paintings, including works by van Gogh, Matisse, and the irreplaceable murals by Diego Rivera. The people of Detroit cannot stand by while the financial barbarians loot and pillage this priceless trove of human culture!

No one should believe the claims that sale of the art will help save workers’ pensions. After they take the art, the banks will be even more eager to steal municipal workers’ pensions and to slash city services! The right to culture must be defended along with all the rights of the working class.

The Socialist Equality Party and International Youth and Students for Social Equality are calling for a mass demonstration at the DIA to defend the DIA. We aim not to pressure the Democrats and Republicans, the bought-and-paid-for politicians of the banks, but to organize an independent movement of working people.

To organize this struggle the SEP is calling for the formation of a Committee to Defend the DIA!

The defense of the DIA must become the starting point of a counteroffensive to break the hold of the banks and big business over society. To free up the resources necessary to rebuild Detroit and meet the needs of the city’s population, control of the banks and basic industry must be placed in the hands of the working class. Society must be reorganized to meet social needs, not private profit.

The October 4 demonstration is the beginning of this struggle. Make plans to attend today. Talk to your co-workers and neighbors. Organize a delegation! The art belongs to the people!

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Featured Commentary

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17 September 2013

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News from the World Socialist Web Site

Defend the Detroit Institute of Arts!

Endorsements in defense of the DIA

A selection from around the world

In recent days, dozens of workers and youth in the Detroit area and around the world have sent in messages of support for the October 4 demonstration, called by the Socialist Equality Party and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality, to oppose the sale of art from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

  • Endorsement sliders
    I oppose the selling of the art. It’s priceless. The art is for the city, the people. It is not the private property of individuals.

    Lewis Johnson, High School Student, Detroit, Michigan

  • Endorsement sliders
    The DIA is a treasure of humanity, and now this haughty rich layer wants to sell it. The Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr can assert himself only because of the bankruptcy of the trade unions and the pseudo-lefts. We support the fight of the SEP and the WSWS to mobilize the working class of Detroit, the US and worldwide in defense of the DIA. We believe like Trotsky already said more than 60 years ago, the working class must defend all democratic and cultural bastions against the bourgeoisie. The defense of the DIA also belongs to it.

    A. Niklaus, bus driver, Berlin, Germany

  • Endorsement sliders
    I, Thornetta Davis, agree with the aims of the October 4 demonstration in defense of the Detroit Institute of Arts and oppose the sale of art or the closure of one of the premier museums in the US as threatened by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. The DIA and its artwork are important to the Detroit community and should not be sold. They are important to the youth of Detroit as learning tools, and if our children are not able to be exposed to such great works, the city will be at a great loss.

    Thornetta Davis, blues singer, Detroit, Michigan

  • Endorsement sliders
    I support the campaign to defend the DIA because art is not a privilege, and it should not be restricted in any way. Art is part of what makes us human; it’s the creation and enjoyment of it. To take that away is to deny a basic human right. And no one should be expected to trade one basic right for another.

    Stephanie Miller,Music student, Eastern Michigan University

  • Endorsement sliders

    I support the campaign to defend art, culture and the DIA. This art shapes and reflects the spirit and pride of Detroit, and like all great art, it is part of the history of mass social struggles for democracy and equality. The art collections and the pensions should be expanded, not sold off or cut back.

    Bob Louis, Social worker, Californiait

  • Endorsement sliders
    Destroying or ridding a city of its art is like destroying the human soul and the heart of the city! The sweat of men working on cars was painted on canvas for all eternity. The sweat of an honest day’s work. For a better future for progress. Those paintings and others belong to Detroit. Keep them there so that the hard work of the ordinary man will be always be remembered. We owe it to them and the artists!

    Deanna Pini Waldenberg,social worker, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

  • Endorsement sliders
    Selling off public art would be a crime against the working class. No way!

    Ron Blascoe, retired, Madison, Wisconsin

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    I once visited the DIA, and was amazed—both by the depth and beauty of its collections, and by the incongruity of its location in the heart of an abandoned city. Even though I knew of the existence of Diego Rivera’s murals, to be in their presence was for me a pleasure of a new sort. Converting the museum from a public good to a piece of private property would be a supreme act of barbarism, vandalism, hooliganism—but, regrettably only the latest in a long list of crimes against the people of Detroit

    Mark J. Lovas, English teacher, Czech Republic

  • Endorsement sliders
    Art is a great teacher and belongs to the citizens, not the banks!

    Alita DeMarco, Ypsilanti, Michigan

We publish today here a selection of endorsement messages, beginning with Thornetta Davis. Davis, a singer, songwriter and recording artist, is one of Detroit’s premier blues performers. She grew up in the Detroit, and her music expresses some of the best that Detroit has produced. During the course of her 15-year career, Thornetta has won dozens of awards. When legendary greats like Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson and Etta James held concerts in Detroit, Davis’s band was the opening act. Thornetta has written many of the songs she performs and tells a story with both passion and elegance.

When asked to endorse the demonstration in front of the DIA, she immediately responded, “of course, it would be a disaster to sell off the precious works at the museum.”

Thornetta Davis, blues singer, Detroit, Michigan

“I, Thornetta Davis, agree with the aims of the October 4 demonstration in defense of the Detroit Institute of Arts and oppose the sale of art or the closure of one of the premier museums in the US as threatened by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. The DIA and its artwork are important to the Detroit community and should not be sold. They are important to the youth of Detroit as learning tools, and if our children are not able to be exposed to such great works, the city will be at a great loss.

Deanna Pini Waldenberg, social worker, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

“Destroying or ridding a city of its art is like destroying the human soul and the heart of the city!

The sweat of men working on cars was painted on canvas for all eternity. The sweat of an honest day’s work. For a better future for progress. Those paintings and others belong to Detroit. Keep them there so that the hard work of the ordinary man will be always be remembered. We owe it to them and the artists!”

A. Niklaus, bus driver, Berlin, Germany

“Dear defenders of the Detroit Institute of Arts,

“When we heard of the threatened sale of the art at the DIA by the rich financial oligarchy, we were horrified. Even if we were not yet in the institute, we could already find out in film, pictures and writing a lot about the DIA.

“The DIA is a treasure of humanity, and now this haughty rich layer wants to sell it. The Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr can assert himself only because of the bankruptcy of the trade unions and the pseudo-lefts. We support the fight of the SEP and the WSWS to mobilize the working class of Detroit, the US and worldwide in defense of the DIA. We believe like Trotsky already said more than 60 years ago, the working class must defend all democratic and cultural bastions against the bourgeoisie. The defense of the DIA also belongs to it.

“Already the financial oligarchy looks worldwide to Detroit: How will the population fight back against the attack on housing, pensions, jobs and art? We have to unite our struggle.

“In solidarity with your fight from Berlin, Germany.”

Read more endorsements

Ron Blascoe, retired, Madison, Wisconsin

“Selling off public art would be a crime against the working class. No way!”

Barbara Hotelling, nurse educator, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

“I lived in Michigan for 25 years, and the DIA is a jewel amongst ruin that was the fault of the Detroit leadership. With 600,000 visitors a year, you stand to lose much more than the money they bring. You lose your integrity and intelligence.”

Harvey Lichtman, public high school teacher, New York City

“I strongly endorse the Socialist Equality Party’s campaign to defend the DIA, all the more so because the SEP understands that this needs to be done as part of the struggle to unite the working class under a socialist program. The capitalist class is trying to take away the gains by which the working class has raised itself in struggle for more than a hundred years—the rights to health care, decent housing, pensions, education, the eight-hour day by which it can find the time to enjoy culture, and even the culture itself, as the threat to the DIA exhibits. As a high school history teacher with working class students, I have found some of the most rewarding lessons for students to be through the use of art. This campaign and the SEP deserve mass support.”

Peter L, Newburgh, Maine

“If the art of the DIA is auctioned off, then this signifies the further enrichment of those who have no need for further enrichment, and the increased degradation of the ‘slave’ population. Making such a move represents a further claim by a tiny super-wealthy layer on wealth that is collectively produced. As profit making becomes increasingly difficult, the demands of those in power become more and more extreme. The drive towards austerity for the working class will come to an end only when that class decides that it must independently take control of society.”

Alita DeMarco, Ypsilanti, Michigan

“Art is a great teacher and belongs to the citizens, not the banks! ”

Donald Jones, photographer, Pleasant Ridge, Michigan

“Hands off the DIA, Hands off the people’s pensions, immediate moratorium on all foreclosures! Bail out the people, not the banks!”

Minda Martin, Independent Filmmaker

“Artists commissioned to make art for any city do it as a community service and an expression of how they see and remember the city. It’s an incredible mutual gift that the artist and the people of the city pay for. To sell it to the private sector is gutting the history of the city and its citizens’ memories and depriving future generations from access to a unique experience of their city and country then and now.”

Stephanie Miller, Music student, Eastern Michigan University

“I support the campaign to defend the DIA because art is not a privilege, and it should not be restricted in any way. Art is part of what makes us human; it’s the creation and enjoyment of it. To take that away is to deny a basic human right. And no one should be expected to trade one basic right for another. I also think it is significant that the murals by Diego Rivera were created by someone who was obviously a socialist and who was opposed by a section of the ruling class at the time. And now after people have been able to appreciate this work, they are once again trying to suppress it.

“People are starting to realize that the Democrats or Republicans are not going to help us, but many people have been trained to believe these are the only options. It’s our job to show the regular people like the firefighters, teachers, manual laborers, artists, students, that there is another option.”

Whiteeagle Arai, Student, University of Hawaii at Hilo

“I support this cause, to protect art. It is the future investment for our children and their children. The value of education in the arts is priceless! Hands off DIA’s art!”

Brett Farkas, Musician, Los Angeles, California (formerly from Novi, Michigan)

“This is outrageous and has nothing to do with ‘saving’ Detroit’s economy. Do they want to rape the city dry of the truly unique monuments that the city still has to offer? This is one of the world’s best museums that I’ve spent countless hours in. This is quite alarming!”

Bob Louis, Social worker, California

“I support the campaign to defend art, culture and the DIA. This art shapes and reflects the spirit and pride of Detroit, and like all great art, it is part of the history of mass social struggles for democracy and equality. The art collections and the pensions should be expanded, not sold off or cut back. Workers need to organize independently of the capitalist parties and unions, and go on the offensive. Nationalize the banks and big corporations to expand social services, and provide greater access to art for the masses!”

Scott Dennison, Taylor, Michigan

“Not one single piece of art for banksters! It all belongs to the people.”

Scott Pakulski, Artist, Ypsilanti, Michigan

“I love the DIA! Selling its pieces would be a shame for the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan. Keep the art for the public!”

Jen David, Detroit, Michigan

“Read the message inscribed on the front of the building”

Ellen Stern, Artist, Farmington Hills, Michigan

“When I examine the brushstrokes, the variations in color, the mood, the composition, the line of a painting, and the painting as a whole, I feel the paint going into my eyes, through my body, and out through my fingers, thus am I inspired to create my own art. Having the art in one main building, much of it as there is, is so important. If the art is removed and separated to different locations, where it may not even be viewable by the public anymore, it would be a great deprivation to artists and non-artists alike. It is a cruel act to deny human beings of all walks of life a connection to their cultural heritages.

“And besides all that, the whole reason some people come to Detroit and other cities is to visit the museums. The city will lose the tourist dollars it brings in, and this will make the city even poorer. The looters of the museum are shooting themselves in the foot.”

Brenda Oelbaum, Women’s Caucus for Art, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“In my opinion, this is an outrage and a crime. The city should let the state take over Belle Isle and charge entry fees before they dismantle this very important collection. Shame on you!

“I am personally notifying all our membership and making sure our local members will be there in person to protest.”

SMC, Unemployed teacher, Los Angeles, California

“The very idea that poor and working people have access to these art treasures must deeply anger the ownership classes. They are behind the attempt to destroy any and all cultural experience of the workers. An independent fight is the only mode of behavior.”

Keliher Walsh, Artist, Los Angeles, California

“What would Ford say now?”

Haley Behr, Music Student, University of Michigan, Dearborn

“Detroit is just beginning to rebuild itself. How can we get rid of something so important to our city’s culture? The DIA is part of who we are!”

Mysoon Rizk, Hamtramck, Michigan

“The calculated targeting of such cultural institutions as the DIA, with its incommensurable values (despite Christie’s), may seem trivial and harmless, but this is the kind of blow from which Detroit could never recover, at a time when it finally seems like it has a chance to do so. If Kevyn Orr and the bankruptcy court compel Detroit to sell off art from the DIA, I will feel compelled to leave Wayne County and the State of Michigan.”

Cherie M. Redlinger, Visual artist and photographer, Alexandria, Virginia

“I wish I could be at the protest on Friday!”

Susan Barber, Artist, Levering, Michigan

“Stop the greed. I took countless students to this grand museum for years. We visited from a small rural school in Northern Michigan. Eight hours driving round trip just to have the honor to visit. It was breathtaking for them.”
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Lauren S., Teacher, Detroit, Michigan

“I fully understand it’s about a city/state in need of money. And I’m sure I was probably the only person who felt getting rid of the “Michigan Promise” was a good idea to help… This isn’t the answer. Detroit gets a horrible reputation thanks to the media—the people who don’t live it first-hand and probably never even stepped foot within the boundaries. In fact, it’s so badly shown in the news, that a typical city attraction, our art museum, is considered a “hidden gem” to newcomers. The DIA considered to be fairly respectable in many different aspects. If you are to strip the city of its remaining beauty, what are you left with? Let’s keep those jazz clubs, theaters, parks, libraries, and so forth. Don’t take away all what we have going for us. We need things to fall back on that to keep our city going. It’s motivation and something to keep us sane. We can’t get rid of what makes us who we are and so different from the others.

Art isn’t a waste of time and money and it certainly isn’t useless. I mean, just look at what the Bohemians did to Paris, Soho, the Schwabing district in Munich…”

Christie Schaefer, Barista/bookseller, Washington

“The proposed selloff of the DIA’s holdings is criminal. The attitude taken by the city’s elite and Orr toward the working and poor people of Detroit—and the world—in this rotten endeavor goes beyond condescending. What they’re saying is that we do not deserve art, that art is a privilege. They’re saying that the cultural history of the human race is none of our business; that it belongs to the parasitic layers whose fortunes were made off of the sweat of our backs.

“They are wrong. Art is for everyone. Access to our cultural heritage is a right, and we need to fight for that right with everything we’ve got.”

Antoinette Bovee, Retired, Rochester, Michigan

“The DIA is a jewel in the city of Detroit, it draws people to the city. To even think about selling off the treasures housed at the DIA is a crime. The DIA is thriving as a result of good management. The city of Detroit is not well managed, and the sale of this wonderful art will not change that.”

Karol, University of Valencia, Spain

“Exploring the DIA was one of the highlights of my visit to Detroit last year. Coming from Spain, I knew that this was a world-famous institution, but I was deeply impressed by the breadth and beauty of its collection. Works of art from ancient societies—Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Islamic, African and Asian—give the visitor a glimpse into the past and are a powerful lesson on the history of civilization. The DIA’s extensive collection of European art, including paintings by the Old Masters, the Impressionists and Expressionists, rivals those of European museums. I was moved by the impressive collection of American art, a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the United States. The most inspirational piece of work in the DIA was, for me, the Detroit Industry murals by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Rich in symbolism, representing the development of humanity and its relation to nature, these frescoes are also a tribute to Detroit’s workers.

“Now the rights of these workers are under attack. I was shocked when I learned of the plans to sell the art in the DIA in order to pay off the Wall Street investors. Access to art and culture is a social right. If these sales are allowed to proceed, future generations will be deprived of the enriching experience that is a visit to the DIA. These barbaric measures must be stopped. I fully endorse the campaign to defend the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of the treasures of this great city.”

Joe Striplin, violinist, Detroit Symphony Orchestra

“I encourage all members of the community to support the demonstration organized by the Socialist Equality Party to defend the Detroit Institute of Arts. I believe in and support this demonstration and encourage others to follow this example.

“I believe that public ownership of important pieces of art is vital. Art should be accessible to any and everyone and not locked up in private collections. The Diego Rivera mural needs to be there. Our society is enriched when our citizens are involved with the arts, whether, painting, sculpture, music or dance.

“I have heard some people say that preserving art treasures is not important compared to pensions. They are not mutually exclusive. The idea of feeding people is not separate from defending the artwork in the struggle for a just society. Money is needed to live, no doubt. But art should not be considered a toss-away. Art makes life worth living. Those interested in defending art are also concerned with economic well being. We need both.”

Mark J. Lovas, English teacher, Czech Republic

“I once visited the DIA, and was amazed—both by the depth and beauty of its collections, and by the incongruity of its location in the heart of an abandoned city. Even though I knew of the existence of Diego Rivera’s murals, to be in their presence was for me a pleasure of a new sort. Converting the museum from a public good to a piece of private property would be a supreme act of barbarism, vandalism, hooliganism—but, regrettably only the latest in a long list of crimes against the people of Detroit.”

Garrett Derner, school watchman, Evanston, Illinois

“The DIA is a cultural treasure for working people; keep it intact! Diego Rivera ended up basically donating his time. His work is a gift to us, which we must keep!”

Adrian Lewis, musician, Australia[/comment]

“Greetings to the demonstration in defense of the Detroit Institute of Arts!

“Like all the scientific and artistic conquests of humanity, this institution and its contents belong by right to the people. This right was established over almost a century by the great social struggles of workers, conscious of the indispensable place of the DIA in their lives.

“Now the capitalist barbarians, all of whose riches derive from theft and plunder, and who as a class have not contributed one iota to science and art, are asserting the right to privatize the treasures of the DIA. They are using their political parties and law courts to this end, so no appeal to those parties and legal system can stop them. Their system is bankrupt, and they have no other methods to further enrich themselves than through naked theft and plunder.

“Workers and youth attending and supporting this historic demonstration must make it the spearhead of the fight to wrest Detroit from the bankers, to inspire and arouse working people around the country and the world.

“Long live the peoples’ DIA!

“Defend all the social and cultural conquests of the working class!”

Lynn Whitford, artist, Madison, Wisconsin

“I am appalled that selling art from the collection of the DIA is under consideration! This art belongs to the people of Detroit and must be preserved for their benefit and that of future residents of the city.”

Ernest Medeiros, Forestville, California

“When I was a boy in 1950s Boston, my life was hugely enriched by the wonderful museums in that city. From the Museum of Fine Art, to the Museum of Science, to the wonderful collections at various smaller venues throughout the area, I was blessed, and my life made infinitely better by my exposure to the world of art and science through our museums. I came from a humble, working class family, and none of these wonderful things would have been accessible to me if not for a social environment that put education and exposure to high culture for all as a high priority. It is crucial that we recognize the uncountable value of institutions like the Detroit Institute of Arts. We debase ourselves as a people and demean the populace as a whole when we put a price tag on culture.”

Kevin Harrison, sculptor, London, England

“These works of art should not be sold to the highest bidding private mega-rich collector. They are all of ours.”

John Christian, retired, Sydney, Australia

“I would like to support the struggle to defend the cultural conquest of the DIA by workers and professionals. This is an international issue of the greatest importance to workers everywhere. For there is a great principle under attack—the right and access to culture and education for workers. Moreover, genuine art and culture are products of social men and women sharing ideas and thoughts about the deeper understanding of life, using imagery.

“Workers have to start taking stock of events,; the last 25 years have seen the gluttons and vandals (the capitalists) plunder society and accumulate incalculable wealth, using swindling phrases and techniques, now poised to plunder the assets of Detroit.

“Big money in every major city in the US and some of the world are watching intensely, how this scam will pan out, for it is not just about Detroit. If anything, Detroit is the first of many cities. Integral too, is to end and plunder pensions and retiree health care: Along with looting the wonderful artworks acquired globally through struggle over many decades…

“As a retired worker in Australia, a great wish of mine is to see the powerful American working class come off the sidelines into battle, fighting for a society fit for human beings—social equality, social justice, culture and workers power—in other words, socialism.”

Kathryn, Manchester, Great Britain

“In Detroit, your campaign is indeed at the forefront, and not a moment too soon.

“The same social forces in Britain—corporate gangsters, trade union and political mafia (particularly odious in Britain, the Labourites at the municipal level)—have been looting publicly-owned art treasures for years.

“The only difference: the municipal authorities in Britain—overwhelmingly Labourite and their bagmen and women in the trade union bureaucracy—haven’t needed and don’t need any special measures, legal or otherwise, to plunder art treasures in the service of the financial elite.

“Likewise, they are engaged in the destruction of the lives of millions of workers and youth—jobs, wages, essential social and welfare services, education—as they ‘administer’ the most authoritarian and punitive measures against the poor.”

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Friday, October 4, 5:30 PM
Assemble at 5200 Woodward, in front of the DIA


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