‘From the arts being nice to being essential’: Wilson Foundation commits $100M to SE Michigan arts

What’s happening: The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation has committed $100 million to the long-term health and viability of southeast Michigan’s arts and culture community and the organizations that help support it. The $100 million commitment will be applied in a number of ways.

An endowment: Over the next decade, the Wilson Foundation will contribute nearly $60 million to establish an arts and culture endowment at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, creating permanent operational funding streams for 11 of the region’s top arts and culture institutions. Those organizations include the Arab American National Museum; Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; Detroit Historical Society; Detroit Institute of Arts; Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Detroit Zoological Society; Holocaust Memorial Center; Michigan Opera Theatre; Michigan Science Center; Motown Museum; and The Henry Ford.

Once fully funded, a process which is expected to take ten years, the endowment will provide approximately $3.75 million in annual payouts to be divided amongst those 11 organizations.

In the meantime: Not one to wait ten years, the Wilson Foundation has committed an additional $33.75 million for the next nine years, allowing those 11 organizations access to the annual $3.75 million fund beginning in 2022.

A special case for a special place: In addition to the aforementioned commitments, the Wilson Foundation has also announced a $5 million capital campaign gift to the Motown Museum in their $55 million expansion project.

But wait, there’s more: The Wilson Foundation is also committing $500,00 in yearly support for small and mid-size arts and culture nonprofits in the seven-county southeast Michigan region. Another $250,000 will be committed to the yearly operations of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan.

What they’re saying: “From arts organizations that anchor a neighborhood to ones that anchor a region, these creative businesses make significant contributions to the economic health and growth of communities, and the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis supports this insight with data showing the arts industry as larger than construction, transportation, and agriculture,” says Omari Rush, executive director of CultureSource.

“The attention this Wilson Foundation investment gives to wide-ranging arts groups is a beacon of opportunity for any policymaker, philanthropist, or agency looking to drive economic development. It is a provocation to shift narratives from the arts being nice to the arts being essential.”

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.