Apropos of my Sunday Washington Examiner column on the woes of Detroit, Carl Schramm of the Kauffman Foundation has a wonderful piece on the Forbes website on the possibility that bankruptcy may require the city of Detroit to sell off the arts treasures in the Detroit Institute of Arts. I remember many good visits there during my childhood and more recently.
Schramm makes a more general point worth pondering. “Through the millennia art has existed and advanced on patronage,” he writes. “Cities incapable of generating wealth cannot get wealthy by making and buying the artifacts of wealth.” And he applies that lesson to Detroit. “The art in any museum is somewhat like firewood, the stored energy of sunny days long past. With Detroit unable to make wealth, its economic sun has gone out. What else are we seeing but the desperate act of burning the firewood left in the shed? Once it’s gone the city will be a remarkably lesser, somehow colder, place.”