Wright Museum in jeopardy
DETROIT’S CHARLES H. WRIGHT Museum, the largest mu- seum of African American history, faces an uncertain future following the city’s bankruptcy.
Referred to as the most financially challenged cul- tural center in the city, the 49-year-old museum made national headlines when it was announced it would have to sell of its fine art to help reduce the city’s $18 billion debt owed to bond- holders and pensioners.
Kevyn Orr, the city’s emergency manager, pub- lished a plan proposing a $100 million fundraising deal and $350 million from the state that could possibly keep the museum from auc- tioning off a fraction of its collection. No other fund- raising plans for the Wright museum have yet to be seen, placing the predomi- nantly Black city’s commu- nity cultural centerpiece in financial jeopardy.
According to blackamericaweb.com: the city of Detroit went from contributing more than $2 million annually to the museum’s budget of roughly $7 million to– post-recession–offering $900,000 to a current budget of $4.5 million.
A majority of funding
previously came from the city’s auto industry philanthropies, but provisions have been drastically lower from some, such as GM, and non-existent from others like former benefactor, Chrysler.
In addition to a wave of salary cuts and even larger staff cuts, the museum has had to turn to non-traditional partnerships with external groups.
Museum membership has dropped from 20,000 to 7,000 in recent years, a decline attributed to the lack of foundation money covering school children’s memberships.
Founded in 1965 in the offices of civil rights activist and Black obstetrician Charles H. Wright, the museum is home to more than 20 thousand items ranging from letters of Malcolm X and Rosa Parks to several prototypes of inventions, like the stoplight and gas mask, created by African American scientists.
Although impressive none of the museum’s items hold enough monetary value to help significantly reduce the city’s overwhelming debt.