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DIA revives statewide art loan exhibitions

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts writer

The Detroit Institute of Arts will revive an old practice of loaning artworks to art museums statewide when “The Nut Gatherers” goes to Flint on Wednesday for an extended stay.

The bucolic painting of two young girls by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, one of the museum’s most popular works, will hang at the Flint Institute of Arts through Oct. 11, and then travel to the Midland Center for the Arts and the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art Oct. 17-Jan. 3.

Relaunching statewide exhibitions was one of the conditions in 2014 as part of the so-called “grand bargain” that helped resolve the Detroit bankruptcy and ended city ownership of the 128-year-old museum.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I am that the DIA is picking this up as one of their responsibilities, and doing it with pleasure,” said John Bracey, executive director of the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs.

Bracey adds that under the grand bargain, the museum will also be sharing its expertise with other Michigan institutions.

Until 2004, the DIA sent small traveling shows around the state every year as a quid pro quo for annual funding it used to get from the state. In recent years, however, that operating support has dwindled to almost nothing.

The museum used to send around individual works as well as small exhibitions. In 2003-04, “Pursuits and Pleasures: Baroque Paintings from the Detroit Institute of Arts” traveled to museums in Traverse City, Kalamazoo, East Lansing and Muskegon.

Museum spokeswoman Pam Marcil said “The Nut Gatherers” will be followed early next year “by a show of 20 framed, WPA-era works on paper.” Destinations, she added, have yet to be decided.

Traveling exhibitions won’t be the DIA’s only presence beyond the Detroit orbit. The museum is also expanding its Inside/Out program to 45 outstate counties the Michigan arts council has identified as culturally underserved.

Under the popular program, the museum mounts high-quality reproductions of its masterworks in public areas outdoors. Two Inside/Out exhibitions of 15 reproductions will be organized every summer.