Generous Motors

Jan 8, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Whether it was bitter sarcasm or glowing tribute (or, likely, both) employees of General Motors have long dubbed their employer "Generous Motors." But that company's reputation for generosity just took a direct hit, as news recently broke that General Motors would cut funding to high-profile local arts organizations, nixing donations of $100,000 or more to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, $75,000 to Mosaic Youth Theatre, and an undisclosed amount to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Over the last 24 hours, area news outlets have zealously been tracing the shock waves rippling through Detroit's artistic community.

But some in the local arts things feel the damage may be overstated in this media feeding frenzy. For instance Rick Manore at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts says they knew about the cuts a few months ago and that their schedule changes are the result of a variety of factors, including the funding cuts but encompassing the effects of the economy on the touring companies' willingness to cut corners and consumers leery of using their credit cards to buy tickets

"We're affected by it," Manore told us, "but I think the real story in all of this is that we're still weathering the storm."

But, then again, we wouldn't be good newshounds unless we engaged in a little grim speculation ourselves, would we? The fact is, with the Big Three bringing their begging bowls to Congress, they've found themselves under scrutiny for any frills. And given the industry's dire straits, these companies are understandably eager to show good faith, even if that means selling corporate jets, taking executive pay cuts or cutting support for the arts. In short, what would it mean if Ford were next to cut its largesse?

According to the Foundation Center, in 2006, Ford Motor Company was the 23rd largest funder of arts, culture and media in the United States. And locally, along with the Chrysler Foundation, Ford helped fund this past year's Concert of Colors. What's more, Ford is one of the named sponsors of the Arab-American National Museum's "Comerica Ford Global Thursdays" music series, it could pose problems for what has been one of the most affordable concert series featuring world music.

In other words, folks, it's not as bad as it could be, and we have every reason to believe it could get much worse. How's that for balance?