Letter: Museum's PR spin won't help it move on
What is one to think of the recent "open letter" from the museum's trustees? Remarkably, no responsibility is taken for the havoc they wrecked upon the community. Instead it regrets that "ongoing opposition continues to divide our community in hurtful and damaging ways." As if they had no hand in it!
This is from trustees who hid from their "focus groups" plans to sell the most valuable art works in the museum's collection. They then sneak the art out of the building before revealing their "new vision." And now they want to "move beyond what has been a contentious" period of time. How is this achievable when trustees continue to deny any mishandling of their affairs?
This is a letter full of duplicitous PR spin. To accept this as fact is beyond the pale. What it makes painfully clear is that a true plan never existed. The art was sold even though the "new vision" had no blueprint. It's like presenting a course description and not following up with a syllabus. Where's the content?
And those fuzzy digital images of a new lobby? Just decoys, never meant to be.
Perhaps the worst part in the letter concerns "Shuffleton's Barbershop." For the museum to claim that it was through its generosity, its willingness to accept a lower price that the painting remains "in the public eye" ignores the fact that the Rockwell family had to mount a court case that forced its hand. The trustees should now apologize to the Rockwell family and reimburse them for the thousands of dollars in legal fees. The museum certainly has the money now.
If the museum wishes to "regain public trust and confidence" perhaps a reconsideration of the past along with decisive action is called for. The next board meeting offers an opportunity for the trustees to recall that when Van Shields was hired the board president said the "museum is thriving." Six years later Van Shields announced a fiscal and existential crisis, sold the best art from the collection and divided the community.
When a museum slips into a crisis mode so deep, so soon after thriving, it usually results in the firing of those in command.
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