The Detroit Institute of Art's Woodward entrance. (Image courtesy the Detroit Institute of Arts)

The Detroit Institute of Arts’s Woodward entrance. (Image courtesy the Detroit Institute of Arts)

After a two-year battle, a federal ruling to approve Detroit’s bankruptcy plan brought to an end the threat to auction off the Detroit Institute of Arts’s collection. The plan includes the “grand bargain,” an $800 million deal that partly consists of a $366 million investment from the Ford Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Knight Foundation, and other heavy-hitters. In the bargain, DIA supporters are providing funding to save Detroit’s public pensions, with the caveat that DIA be administered by an independent charitable trust, and not by the City of Detroit, which has owned the museum since 1919. While all hail these developments as positive, DIA still has a tough road to financial stability ahead. As it looks to shore up its finances and secure its future by raising its endowment to $400 million, DIA faces hefty legal bills incurred during the bankruptcy battle, and the daunting task of fundraising from donors whose pockets may have been emptied into the grand bargain. Regardless of what the future holds, the foundations will be keeping a close eye on their investment–the Knight Foundation’s Dennis Scholl has been appointed as an observer of DIA’s board.

Publisher Hachette Wins the Right to Set E-Book Prices from Amazon: In a multi-year agreement, “Big Five” publisher Hachette won the right to set prices for e-books from Amazon, which had attempted to pressure the company to price all e-books at $9.99. The retail giant suffered in the court of public opinion for its strongarm negotiation tactics, including long shipping delays of Hachette books, disallowing advance sales, and steering customers to similar books by other publishers. Some authors are calling for Amazon to be investigated on anti-trust grounds; at the same time, Amazon has questioned the need for traditional publishing houses in the digital era. While all sides seem to be breathing a sigh of relief over the deal, it seems clear that the fight isn’t over–publishers have long had a difficult relationship with digital retailers, and observers are think the next negotiation may be just as acrimonious.

Mid-Term Elections Offer Mixed Results for the Arts: In case you were living under a rock last month, we had some elections and the Democrats lost their shirts. So what does that mean for the arts? With the Republican-majority Congress, Americans for the Arts forecasts the passage of a comprehensive tax reform bill, which will likely impact charitable giving rules. The chairship of the subcommittee that oversees funding for the Arts in Education will change, while Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) will continue to govern the subcommittee that controls the National Endowment for the Arts budget. Barry Hessenius predicts a possible attack on the NEA’s budget, given its symbolic weight for some in Congress, and recommends that arts leaders work to build stronger relationships with our elected officials. Meanwhile, at the state level, arts-friendly candidates suffered losses in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland. In better news, Rhode Island passed a ballot referendum providing $35 million in bonds to renovate arts facilities in the state, and pro-arts measures passed in Palm Beach County, Salt Lake City, Scottsdale (AZ), and Middlesex County (NJ).

Three Foundations Purchase Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center: The embattled August Wilson Center for African American Culture now rests in the hands of three foundations, which purchased it for $7.9 million from Dollar Bank, its mortgage holder. The Pittsburgh Foundation, Heinz Endowments, and Richard King Mellon Foundation had attempted to close on an $8.49 million deal by October 31, but the sale was torpedoed when a creditor appealed an earlier $200,000 judgment in the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and the foundations refused to proceed until the debt was settled. Dollar Bank was forced to move ahead with a foreclosure auction on November 3, which cleared the Center of its debt and allowed the foundations to complete their purchase.The Center plans to re-open in 2015 under new nonprofit leadership and will continue its mission as a focal point for African American arts and culture.

Obama Says the Internet Should Be Treated as a Public Utility: Net neutrality supporters got an unexpected boost from President Obama this November. The White House released a plan recommending that the Federal Communications Commission reclassify Internet broadband as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which proponents argue would give the FCC the increased regulatory power necessary to protect net neutrality. The president seems to agree with this line of thinking — his administration’s plan also rejects the FCC’s proposed rules to allow for paid prioritization of Internet traffic. Just after the President’s announcement, though, FCC Chairman (and Obama appointee) Tom Wheeler stated that he favored a different approach, one friendlier to the concerns of large Internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner. The Washington Post speculates that Obama’s announcement may merely represent shrewd political positioning, since if the FCC enacts strong rules, and the Republican Congress votes to overturn them, a presidential veto would put Obama and the Democrats squarely in the camp of millions of voters who have asked the FCC for powerful net neutrality protections.