DETROIT (AP) — A former Detroit university professor is pledging $5 million, hoping it will spark a wildfire of private financial support to protect valuable art from being sold to pay creditors in the city’s bankruptcy.
A. Paul Schaap said he wants to help the Detroit Institute of Arts as well as retirees whose pensions could be cut as part of the city’s plan to eventually exit Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Art purchased over the years with city money could be pursued as assets that should be sold to pay off a portion of $18 billion in long-term debt.
Schaap and wife Carol want to prevent that from happening.
“I believe there are more than just a few people in the metro Detroit area who would step up and see this as something we should all try to do to save the pensions and stabilize the DIA,” Schaap said in an interview Friday.
Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr hasn’t said whether he will sell art as part of any bankruptcy reorganization plan. New York auction house Christie’s said art purchased with city money is worth $450 million to $870 million. It’s 5 percent of all art at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“We have a passion for the city,” said Schaap, who lives next door in Grosse Pointe Park and was a Wayne State University chemistry professor before starting his own technology company. “We go to the DIA, the symphony, ballgames. We’re Detroiters. Maybe this is a way to help.”