June 9, 2014 at 5:55 pm

DIA hopes $26M commitment from Detroit automakers fuels more giving

Detroit — The Detroit Institute of Arts is hoping a Monday pledge of $26 million from the city’s automakers will kick-start additional giving for its $100 million share of a fund to aid city workers’ pensions.

Museum officials say they have already secured more than half of what the DIA has committed and expect to soon meet their goal.

The DIA made the disclosure Monday during a news conference in the Woodward Avenue museum’s famous Rivera Court regarding its role in the so-called “grand bargain.” The deal calls for $466 million in private funding and $195 million in state tax dollars to limit pension cuts for 32,000 past and present Detroit workers.

On Monday, the auto companies were recognized for their contributions toward the effort to protect the DIA art collection in Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Ford Motor Co., through its charitable foundation, has agreed to contribute $10 million. General Motors has pledged $5 million, as well as another $5 million from the General Motors Foundation. Chrysler Group LLC has committed $6 million.

“People have a lot of confidence that Detroit can be back on a scale that we’d all be proud to be,” DIA Board Chairman Eugene A. Gargaro Jr. said Monday, adding the state and city leadership has helped Detroit turn a corner.

Gargaro said the DIA has already secured $70 million and plans to disclose additional donors in the coming weeks.

Reid Bigland, head of U.S Sales for Chrysler Group LLC, said in announcing the company’s contribution that “it’s no secret that the city of Detroit has fallen on some difficult times.”

Chrysler’s commitment is “intended to preserve the cultural identity and heritage on display here at the Detroit Institute of Arts,” he said. “It is also intended to preserve pensions of the many hardworking men and women who have served Detroit. Most importantly, to get the Motor City back on its feet.”

Gargaro said additional calls are already coming in to help the museum meet the rest of its goal.

The Michigan Legislature last week approved a lump sum $194.8 million state contribution toward the pension rescue fund, a discount from the $350 million, 20-year pledge Gov. Rick Snyder made in January.

Twelve regional and national foundations have also pledged $366 million over 20 years toward rescuing pensioners from deep reductions in their retirement benefits and preserving Detroit art .

In exchange for the money and a consensual resolution to Detroit’s historic bankruptcy, the DIA’s contribution to the pension funds would help the museum sever its ties to municipal government and shield its 60,000-piece collection from a fire sale to satisfy city creditors.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen, who helped broker the grand bargain as bankruptcy mediator, said Monday that it all comes down to getting the best deal for Detroit’s retirees.

“None of this would be possible without all of us keeping a clear vision firmly in mind about who this is really about,” Rosen said. “It’s about Detroit’s retirees, who have given decades and decades of their lives devoted to Detroit.”

Snyder said overwhelming donor support for the grand bargain contributes to the city’s “fragile comeback.”

Orr also addressed the crowd, stressing he needs all retirees and employees to sign on to the city’s plan.

“We cannot do this without you,” he said.

CFerretti@detroitnews.com

Reid Bigland of Chrysler, from left, Mark Reuss of GM, Joe Hinrichs of Ford sit with Detroit Institute of Arts director Graham W. J. Beal during the press conference Monday. / Daniel Mears / The Detroit News