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Preserving the arts and artistic organizations in Metro Detroit

For me, being a “patron of the arts” means going out on a regular basis to Metro Detroit’s fine theaters and performance venues. It’s one part selfishness – I love a good play or exhibit as much as the next person – and one part preservation. I want to make sure Detroit’s gems remain relevant and open.

So it was with shock and surprise that I heard about the financial challenges ahead for the Michigan Opera Theatre. Last week, the theatre’s general director, David DiChiera, announced the organization needs to raise a minimum of $3 million in the next six weeks to ensure the lights stay on. Without the money, the banks holding the building’s bonds may call them due.

Any time you have a number that large and that short a time frame – it makes me worry to say the least. This is when Detroit-area residents need to step up with donations and attendance at performances. The night that DiChiera announced the restructuring, donors on site threw $40,000 toward the total goal, according to an article in The Detroit News. Bravo, says I.

This was my favorite quote from the story

“I don’t think this community wants to see the opera house go dark,” DiChiera said. “We’ve been a major catalyst in the revival of this part of the city. I believe that people who value what the opera house means will make some sacrifice.”

I had a chance to interview DiChiera some years ago, and I asked him how he felt about the financial challenges facing other art institutions in Detroit, specifically the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. At that time, the DSO was going through a strike that ultimately would shut down this musical must-have for months as the two sides struggled to find resolutions.

Here’s what he said then: “We’re all struggling with our financial challenges.When you’re under a financial challenge, you’re not in the position to do all the projects that you want to do or you’re thinking about. But that too will come.”

He had the confidence to know that the right things would happen to make Detroit stand up and take reasonability for its arts community. I hope that happens again here. The Detroit Opera Theatre shows some of the finest performances in our region, and these beautiful operas, plays and ballets are a necessary balance to the harsh reality of life – especially life these days in Detroit.

It’s up to all of us who want to be patrons or supporters of the arts to keep the lights on. How are you going to do your part?