The DIA millage campaign


The Detroit Institute of Arts and Art is for Everyone millage campaign










The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) decided in 2010 that it was going to have to go to the public in southeast Michigan with a millage proposal if it was going to be able to keep its doors open for the long term. The DIA also recognized that historically it had not engaged with a sizeable segment of the general public in southeast Michigan and that it needed to change that situation before attempting to secure voter approval of a millage. 

The DIA engaged Berg Muirhead and Associates at the beginning of 2011 to institute a comprehensive outreach strategy to develop relationships between the museum and Southeast Michigan communities and help communicate the value of the museum for the region. The intent was to lay a foundation of knowledge about, and appreciation for, the museum before the millage effort was launched so that when the millage campaign began, the value proposition for the museum and the millage would be easily understood.

Berg Muirhead worked with the DIA’s community relations, marketing, public relations, and learning and interpretation departments to understand and assess the museum’s programming, vehicles for public engagement and value to the region. We then developed a strategy to break the region into segmented audiences to which we could effectively target in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. 


Additionally, in 2012, Berg Muirhead worked with the museum’s executives and public relations department to provide strategic direction and assistance for millage-related media relations. We consulted on millage press documents, scheduled and facilitated 14 editorial board meetings, wrote nine letters to the editors of publications in each county and wrote several op-ed articles. The results of these efforts were highly successful—the DIA millage was endorsed by every publication with which we met.  

Berg Muirhead also facilitated 53 media interviews and engaged media for the Mackinac Policy Conference, organized an Art is for Everyone campaign rally the week before the election, scheduled media coverage of museum Director Graham Beal voting the morning of the election, media coverage of the election results party and a media event inaugurating free admission for tri-county residents the morning after the election. 

Berg Muirhead’s efforts supported a hugely successful campaign for the DIA.  The Art Institute Authority Millage was passed in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties—every county where the proposal was on the ballot.  The outreach efforts proved particularly critical in Macomb County, where the millage carried by a 50.5-49.5 margin. 


Our strategy was to develop relationships between the DIA and community influencers in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and to communicate the value of the museum to these counties well in advance of any discussion of the millage. This laid a solid foundation of strong relationships and understanding of the DIA when the museum transitioned to conversations for the millage campaign.  

Berg Muirhead conducted a multi-tiered segmentation of the region to help focus our efforts on reaching the communities that could be most influential to the DIA’s millage proposal. The region was broken down by voter-rich communities, then major stakeholders within those cities.

Combining outreach efforts for the DIA and for the Art is for Everyone millage campaign, Berg Muirhead developed databases totaling 5,363 contacts representing a multitude of organizations in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. From these databases, we scheduled 149 community outreach presentations and meetings, and completed 23 direct mail and email campaigns about DIA programs for approximately 6,459 individuals.