October 06, 2015 16:21 UTC

American Mosaic

Will Detroit Have to Sell Its Famous Art Collection?

The Thinker, by Rodin, is displayed outside the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, Michigan.
The Thinker, by Rodin, is displayed outside the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, Michigan.


Play or download an MP3 of this story
Originally posted 08/16/13

Welcome to American Mosaic from VOA Learning English.
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
On the show today, we play music from some singing nuns.
We also learn about a program that helps troubled women start new lives.
But first, we go Detroit, Michigan where some city residents are worried about the future of their famous art museum.

Art Lovers Worry About Detroit Museum Collections

The Detroit Institute of Arts museum in Michigan is home to valuable paintings, sculptures and ancient objects from around the world. But the collections belong to the city of Detroit. The city has requested bankruptcy court protection. Many people are concerned that the arts collections could be sold to pay some of the city’s debts. Avi Arditti reports.
Inside its huge rooms, more than 60,000 objects make up the Detroit Institute of Arts, or DIA for short. It is one of the most respected art collections in the United States.
Visitors to the museum can see Vincent Van Gogh’s brush strokes up close on his painting “Self Portrait.” They can also examine William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s “Nut Gatherers.” The work is so finely detailed, it looks more like a photograph than a painting.
But that is not what brought Virginia-based airline pilot Terrence O’Toole from Virginia to the DIA. He wanted to take a look at Diego Rivera’s large wall paintings of the Detroit automobile industry.
“And I thought it was interesting to come in here and see the murals depicting the diversity of the plant.”
Throughout the museum, many of the signs that describe each object share the same four words: “City of Detroit Purchase.”
That is what makes the DIA different from most other major museums in America. The city of Detroit owns the DIA building and most of its collections.
Kevyn Orr is Detroit’s emergency manager. He asked about the DIA’s collections before he filed for bankruptcy protection for the city. The art world and many residents of Detroit were shocked and angered.
“It’s a slam against all the citizens of this city and a slam against the citizens of the whole area here.”
That is bookseller John King. He has lived in Detroit all his life. He remained in the city even as its population shrank. Mr. King says the DIA is important to what is left of Detroit’s spirit. He says he hopes those owed money by Detroit do not force the sale of the collection.
“It’s sad they’re even talking about going after that asset. I mean they have other assets they could go after, and they shouldn’t really be touching the Detroit Institute of Arts.”
Amiyatosh Purnanandan is a finance professor in the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. He says the total value of the DIA’s collection is far below the amount Detroit owes.
“You’re looking at $18 billion of debt. The art museum will fetch you one to two billion dollars. Even if you sell that, it’s not going to solve your problems.”
Pilot Terrence O’Toole adds that selling the collection would hurt tourism, the very thing Detroit needs rights now.
“It brings visitors, it brings cash flow to this community, which this city is in desperate need of some cash flow.”
The nonprofit group ArtServe Michigan says the state earned $2 billion from tourism in 2011. Visitors spent it mostly on cultural institutions, like the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Experts say selling the collection would harm more than just tourism. They say a flood of rare and important art onto the market could weaken Detroit’s ability to get the best price for the works.

"A Beautiful Place to Be"
Baltimore, Maryland, has one of the largest numbers of homeless people and substance abusers in the United States. About one-third of the city’s more than 4,000 homeless are women with drug abuse problems.
One organization that seeks to help those women is a place called Marian House. It has provided help toward recovery, including treatment and housing assistance, for more than 30 years.
“Heroin, cocaine, pills, whatever that would take me out of my own head, I had hit rock-bottom. Marian House is a beautiful place to be.”
Robin is one of the more than 1,000 women Marian House has helped to rebuild their lives. The center was established first as a temporary program for women coming out of prison. Today, it provides a helping hand for other women. Executive Director Katie Alston calls it a refuge.
“A home for women who are in need in the things that they’ve suffered through: Rape, domestic violence, sexual attack, mental illness, addiction. All of those things. A term that we’ve been using lately is a therapeutic recovery community.”
Marian House in Baltimore, Maryland, helps women start new lives.Marian House in Baltimore, Maryland, helps women start new lives.
Marian House in Baltimore, Maryland, helps women start new lives.
Marian House in Baltimore, Maryland, helps women start new lives.
Cassaundra says she got to Marian House after a long struggle with drugs and alcohol. She tells what happened to her.
“Ultimately, I ended up in bad relationships, domestic violence. My last relationship … ended up with 29 stitches to the face, from the eyebrow down around to the neck.”
Cassaundra says it is hard to get into the center. Women are questioned before they can be admitted. They need to show that they are willing and ready to do something different. Cassaundra says when she did this, she had, in her words, “nothing left…absolutely nothing.” She says she needed Marian House desperately.
Katie Alston describes life at Marian House as like living in a dormitory for college students. But Ms. Alston says the center has strong rules.
“We have curfews, we have restrictions on visitors. We have an expectation, the first week they are on blackout. They can’t leave the building. After the first week, they have earlier curfews than they will later on.”
She says the women are expected to be involved in all required parts of the program. If they fail to attend a counseling meeting, they receive a written warning from a counselor.
Ms. Alston is happy about the women who complete the Marian House program. She says the program requires a great deal of bravery. She says some women often give up all of the life they have known. 
Ms. Alston says there are thousands more women -- in the United States and overseas -- who need such a refuge but cannot find it. She says some women might not know a place like Marian House exists, while others might not be ready for such a program.
But she hopes that someday, women in need of help will find a place – and especially that those nearby will find Marian House.

The Singing Dominican Sisters
Marian House was begun by two groups of Roman Catholic nuns. Now, Christopher Cruise introduces you to some nuns who make music to better the world.
The choir is the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. It just released its first CD. “Mater Eucharistiae” is filled with holy music.
Mater Eucharistiae means “Mother of the Eucharist” in Latin. The Eucharist is something Catholics eat during a service. It usually starts as a piece of round, flat bread. Then a priest prays over the bread. Catholics believe this turns the bread into the body of Christ.
Here the religious workers sing “Adoro Te” which means I adore you.
The Dominican Sisters are perhaps the most famous Catholic religious workers in the United States. They have appeared on television several times, including two visits to the Oprah Winfrey Show.
They say they recorded the CD to “unite their voices to glorify God and the beauty of His holy Catholic Church.”
“It’s an opportunity to go into people’s homes and to go into their cars, you know, to, to bring some of what we are to them.”
Sister Joseph Andrew is a leader of the group. She supervised the project, played the organ on some of the songs and wrote two, including this one, “Holy Mary Mother of God.”
The CD was recorded live at the group’s chapel in the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sister Joseph Andrew told VOA the music represents the sisters’ Dominican spirituality, which they say they want to share with the popular culture.
“We’ve put a lot of ongoing prayer behind this. And, it would be our prayer that everyone who hears this is brought closer to God, has a more open heart for God’s love for each individual.”
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly. Our program was written Christopher Cruise and Caty Weaver, who was also the producer.
Do you have a question about American life, people or places? Send an e-mail to learningenglish@voanews.com. We might answer your question in a future show. You can also visit our website at learningenglish.voanews.com to find transcripts and audio of our shows.
Join us again next week for music and more on American Mosaic from VOA Learning English.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
08/19/2013 2:17 AM
First of all, I would like to ask if this museum is popular to Detroit citizons. I am afraid this gogerous museum has not been beloved one because it cost a lot of money to construct and operate the museum. I suppose most of budget to purchase many famous arts came from the huge tax payed by GM. It could be said that a kind of waste of city incomes eventually lead bankruptcy of Detroit this time. City governors may be blamed for its waste.

As for the fate of this museum from now on, I suppose some private sectors will hopefully appear and appeal to manage it, or the museum could not help being closed and the collections would be sold because amount of visitor's entrance fee would be so small that bunkrupted city can not afford keeping its operatios.

by: Irvin Mosquera from: Brazil
08/16/2013 11:05 AM
The audio are getting better, this was more difficult ..congratulations

by: Nigar from: Azerbaijan
08/16/2013 5:57 AM
Thanks for such excited article and music, I loved this music and would like to buy this disk if it sold here.

by: Poshih Chiu from: Taiwan, R.O.C.
08/16/2013 4:34 AM
If the mayor of Detroit is wise enough, he won't sell any piece of the art collections from the Detroit Institute of Arts museum in Michigan. The precious objects displayed inside an art museum are what the museum could rely on to survive as an art institute. Unless a museum is being phased out, the citizens who care about cultural elements should not allow their museum to renounce any signle item in order to pay debts of the city. People have to think about some other ways, and there must be a way out in the long run.

Learn with The News

  • Trade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations in Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers meeting post in TPP Ministers "Family Photo" in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1, 2015.

    Audio Twelve Countries Reach Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal

    For the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal to take effect, the agreement needs approval from national legislatures in all 12 countries. Completion of the deal is a major foreign policy victory for U.S. President Barack Obama. However, U.S. congressional approval of the deal is not guaranteed. More

  • Nobel prize in Medicine - winners

    Audio Ireland, Japan, China Scientists Share Nobel Prize for Medicine

    The first of the 2015 Nobel Prizes has been announced. The committee awarded the prize to scientists from Ireland, Japan and China for discoveries that will reduce death and suffering. For one of these countries, it is a first-ever win. More

  • In this photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site on Oct. 4, 2015, an aerial view of a bomb explosion in Syria.

    Audio Western Nations Criticize Russia’s Air Campaign in Syria

    Western military experts have studied video recordings and said Russia is mostly using unguided, or dumb, bombs. Experts say such weapons greatly increase the risk of damage and death in civilian areas. Russia began the airstrikes September 30. More

  • Video US Promises to Investigate Afghan Hospital Attack

    The aid group Doctors Without Borders says at least 22 people died in the attack in Kunduz. Afghan officials say Taliban fighters were hiding in a hospital and on its grounds. But the Taliban and Doctors Without Borders say that is not true. More

  • New Zealand Marine Reserve

    Audio New Zealand To Establish Massive Marine Reserve

    Marine reserves are special places offer great opportunities to see rare and abundant sea creatures and environments. The Kermedec Sanctuary will cover 620 thousand square kilometers of largely clean ocean. It will be one of the largest marine reserves to protect wildlife in the South Pacific. More

Featured Stories

  • Video Know Your Enemy

    Do you have an enemy? Hopefully, you don’t. An enemy is someone who hates you and you hate them back. An enemy threatens you, attacks you or tries to harm you. In some languages, there are different words for a personal enemy versus an enemy of war, political enemy or enemy of the state. More

  • Audio Everyday Grammar: Comparatives and Superlatives

    When we want to compare things we use comparative and superlative forms. Find out some of rules and exceptions of these important forms in Everyday Grammar for this week. More

  • Video ‘The Martian’ Mixes Science, Science Fiction

    Hollywood's latest space operation gone wrong movie stars Matt Damon as an astronaut mistakenly left on Mars. The film is a hit with movie critics. But what do science critics think? More

  • The Open Boat by Stephen Crane, Part 2

    Video The Open Boat by Stephen Crane, Part Two

    We continue the story of “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane. As we told you last week, the story is based on true events. In eighteen ninety-six, Crane was traveling to Cuba as a news reporter. On his way there, his ship sank in the Atlantic Ocean. Crane climbed into the last remaining lifeboat. More

  • Audio Great Barrier Reef Choking on Pollutants

    The Great Barrier Reef is off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia. It is the largest living organism on Earth. However, the reef is being damaged by climate change and pollutants from farms that flow into the reef. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs