August 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm

MoveOn.org starts petition drive to declare DIA national monument

The Detroit Institute of Arts (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

MoveOn.org, the left-leaning political organization that helped elect President Obama in 2008, has launched a petition drive imploring the president to declare the imperiled Detroit Institute of Arts a national monument. The hope is that such a designation would immunize the museum’s collection from sale to pay off Detroit’s debts in the bankruptcy proceedings.

DIA spokeswoman Pam Marcil said Thursday evening the museum was unaware of the drive, but declined further comment. Efforts to reach the U.S. National Park Service, which handles national monument designations, did not succeed.

As of late Thursday afternoon, the petition, created almost three weeks ago by Mt. Clemens resident Donald Handy, claimed 2,143 signatures out of a goal of 3,000.

In an email exchange, Handy said, “I felt that I had to do something, anything to protect the treasures at the DIA. Especially my beloved Diego Rivera murals.”

Handy’s “petition statement” reads, “There is talk of selling art owned by the City of Detroit, contained within the Detroit Institute of Arts, to pay off the city’s debt. This to me would like New York City selling the Statue of Liberty, or Washington D.C. selling the Washington Monument. If we designate the Detroit Institute of Arts, including all of the treasures within, as a national monument, this would protect and preserve them for future generations.”

MoveOn.org claims to have more than 8 million members on its homepage, which is largely devoted to dozens of active drives from “No stand-your-ground law for Idaho” to “Missouri can’t afford a tax cut.” A search for “Detroit Institute of Arts” produced two other petitions, though neither one has a specific goal apart from exhorting signers to pressure political leaders for a solution.

MHodges@detroitnews.com