SOUTHFIELD-The city of Southfield is considering selling its performing
arts center, the Southfield Centre for the Arts, which costs the taxpayers
$700,000 in annual subsidies. And no wonder: For many years, the center’s
ability to help the art community has been in serious doubt. To the great credit
of Parks and Recreation Director Bill Waterhouse, he admits that the city can’t
afford to subsidize an art center and told The Detroit News, “I don’t know that
you need a special venue to say you’re supportive of the arts.”
The city has placed a minimum bid on the property of $3,150,000. It is also
willing to lease the center, but financial details of a lease arrangement were
not available as MPR went to press.
The center never was fully modified from its former use as a synagogue and,
since then, has fallen into disrepair. The city didn’t spend enough money to
properly transform it at its conception and has not been able to allocate enough
money for its proper upkeep. The performance stage has no backstage or dressing
rooms. Lighting is poor, security poses special problems, and furniture has
deteriorated to the point that it is almost useless.
The city tried to salvage the center, renting out some of the space for
conferences and other special events. However, the plan never greatly reduced
But not everyone agrees with privatization. In the March 12 edition of The
Detroit News, Collette Gilewicz, director of the Southfield Philharmonic and
executive director of Young Audiences of Michigan is quoted as saying the fact
that the center is not making a profit is irrelevant, and that other programs
such as the public golf course are not making a profit either.
We agree. The golf course should be privatized, too.
Privatization would determine whether there actually is demand in the
Southfield community for an arts center, or whether the building or property
could be better put to some other use. After all, the Ford Community &
Performing Arts Center is practically next-door in Dearborn. It has a $10
million annual operating budget and the building is new.