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The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin, in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts. / Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT -- The City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a transfer of city-owned art and other assets at the Detroit Institute of Arts to a charitable trust as part of a proposal to protect the art from being sold off in the city's bankruptcy case.

"Protecting the art is huge," Councilman Scott Benson said. "The fact that the city is losing assets doesn't excite me, but we also have to look at the bigger picture with this."

The transfer of DIA art is part of the so-called "grand bargain," an $816 million deal that helps reduce pension cuts for Detroit retirees. The deal is the centerpiece of Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr's plan to restructure the city when it exits bankruptcy.

Orr's restructuring plan still is subject to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes' approval. A trial to confirm the plan is scheduled to start July 24.

The council voted 8-0 Thursday to approve the DIA asset transfer.

City Council members voiced support for the grand bargain in recent weeks as state lawmakers in Lansing debated legislation to contribute $194.8 million toward the deal. Lawmakers approved the contribution this week, joining charitable foundations and the DIA in helping to fund the arrangement.

Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said the council's approval was in line with its support of the grand bargain.

"We were all in Lansing advocating for the bills to be passed, so it would be an interesting turn of events for us to come back and vote no," Jenkins said.

The proposal to transfer the art to a charitable trust is an attempt to shield the art - considered among the city's most significant cultural treasurers - from creditors. Syncora, a bond insurer, is in the midst of an ongoing campaign in court to force the city to consider selling off the museum's prized artwork to pay down debts.

Butch Hollowell, the city's corporation counsel, said the council vote helps protect the art collection.

"This ensures the art collection ... is housed here in the city of Detroit and for the benefit of the people of the city of Detroit and the region and the state," Hollowell said.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Detroit moves to shield museum's art from creditors

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