Transcript of forty five minute interview with five of museum’s board members.

 

Host: (I don’t know who this is but based on later references I’m making the assumption it is Carol Baumann the museum PR person): To everybody for taking the time to do this on a beautiful Saturday. Um I just wanted to let you know up front the call is being recorded. You may have heard that earlier. Um and also to let you know that we have forty minutes for the call so please keep that in mind.

Larry: Ok

Carol: So um so I’ll just give a brief um introduction to let everyone know, especially ah Kevin [?] thanks for joining the call, who is on the call with us. So we have Elizabeth McGraw, who is the president of the Board. She’s been on since 2008, um and we have Ethan Klepetar who is the vice president who’s been on the board since 2011; we have Steve Bain who is the treasurer and been on the board since 2012;  David Glott who has been on the board since 2013, Wendy Gordon who joined the board in 2012. Um so um, so that’s who we have on the call with us today. And then Larry, for the benefit of those who haven’t been conversing by email like you and I have would you briefly describe what you’d like to discuss today?

Larry: Sure

Carol: We know there are questions, but if you could from the get-go give us a brief re-cap that’d be great.

1:10  Larry: Chuckles – Sure. There’s a significant benefit to not having been part of those emails.

Carol: [chuckles]

Larry: Yeah, Well, I was, I was first in touch um with an interest in um hearing from museum parties about some issues that had been raised in interviewing I had done with former board members. I’ve spoken to three former board members but in my – in one of my last go rounds with Carol I basically said I was interested in you know, since we had this opportunity to talk to all of you, David, Wendy, Steve, Ethan and Buzz – ah, I’m never one to miss a good opportunity to just speak more generally, um not really in a counterpoint to someone’s assertions kind of thing, but just to get a better understanding of where the museum is going and what the future holds. I think most of our readers really want to know about the future. I have some questions about how the art sales went and the board process, but I really think, to be honest, I think most of our readership really wants to look forward now and I think the occasion of the open letter really is an opportunity to look forward. So that’s primarily what I’m hoping we can cover in the 35 minutes that remain now.

Host: Ok great

Larry: How does that sound to people?

Various voices: Sounds good to me. Sounds great.

Carol: So then why don’t we just go ahead, Larry… Questions?

2:50  Larry: OK, Well I know it’s been a difficult – very difficult past year particularly since litigation began, um because that kind of tends to clamp down on the flow of information and I think I really welcomed the Board’s statements about transparency, and openness and new outreach to the community. I think that’s really important. I know that there are some board issues that are still, have confidential elements to it like perhaps the Rockwell sale prices specifically, or you know, is there an enhanced hammer and all of that.  I may, you know, we may stray into those areas um and I will respect places where you feel you really cannot talk, but I think you know the promise of transparency I take seriously. I think it’s really candid conversations that can kind of get us to a new level in terms of what the public understands about what lies ahead. So I um… What’s on the agenda for the board meeting?

Buzz:  [chuckles] So much.

Buzz:  This is Buzz.

Larry:  Hi Buzz

Buzz: I think we’re looking at… the big question is ‘are we going to sell more art?”

Larry: Yup

Buzz: Um and I can’t tell you the answer because I… I know how I would respond to that but we need to have um some information presented to the Board. I think it’s important to understand that since uh, the SJC ruling, we’ve really had one full board meeting. Um, so um this will be our first full board meeting since the sale.

Larry: Yup

Buzz: So um you know I think people are wanting lots of information to you know to be disseminated, but we have some decisions to make that affect our path forward.

Ethan: Yeah. This is Ethan. I think that’s exactly right. Obviously, um you know, we got over 42 million ah dollars net proceeds. So another big part of the meeting is figuring out exactly what to do with that and I think as we plan our road ahead we’re looking… we’re going to bring in a business consultant um to help us with that process and we’re going to be looking at that; starting that process. We are going to be looking at how to invest that money. In the short run, we want to keep with local banks. And um basically just how to go ahead in fulfilling our mission and doing the best job we can of surveying our community and um you know it’s a real turning point now. Now we can really sit down and get into the weeds and figure out the next steps.

5:41  Larry: Ah. Huh. The phrase turning point you used in the letter, Ethan, or the board did rather. Um Does that depend on whether – Could you call it a turning point if there are going to be more sales? Or would you say the turning point is the conclusion of the sales even if there are extended sales?

Ethan: I think it’s a turning point because we have solved our sort of first and foremost problem which is ah his making sure we have a sufficient endowment in order to keep the museum sustainable. And then, also because we’re done with you know the intense um  the investigating by the attorney general which was very thorough and we’ve gotten to that first touch point. So now it’s really time to turn the road and get together as a board analyze where you know,  what has happened, where we are now and make a really strong plan for the future.

Larry: Does the question about uh further sales, and I know you can’t answer it now, but I – just  in terms of the shape of the question – does that depend on whether the board wants – to what degree the board wants to drive a significant capital project in connection with a new vision including physical changes in the museum?

Ethan: Well, again, I think it’s it’s all up to what the board’s talked about now that we’re at this point. We really have to get together as a board and analyze all of the issues and make sure everyone has a chance to have their voice heard and make a fully informed decision.

Larry: Ok

Larry: But would you say that the extent of the new vision is up for discussion?

Ethan: Well,  I would say I mean I think it’s been very clear that our goal was 55 million dollars and in terms of ah you know where we come out over the last um the last however many months. You know in terms of our agreement with the attorney general, and the judgment from the SJC, so clearly we’re not there yet. And again, we can’t really answer that today because it’s really important now that we’re here to get together as a full board really have, you know, vibrant discussions about those things and move forward. With that being said, we are absolutely committed to engaging the community, making sure there’s community input. And nothing has changed in terms of what we believe is, our museum is best suited to do given our collection which is a sort of interdisciplinary and interpretive approach that we’ve been talking about since the beginning.

Larry: Ok

Buzz: Right. And I think it’s important – this is Buzz again – to understand that you know, our new direction forward is really three-fold.  It was financial stability, it was fixing some of the problems with our building that have been existing for quite some time that we really need to address and it was also this new interpretive plan where the exciting things are. And I think you know to answer your question the board is fully committed to carrying out those three aspects of um moving forward.  And the you know the turning point is number one is you know we’re there you know I don’t… I think I said to you once what kept me up at night was this museum closing and

Larry: Yeah.

Buzz: And I’m sleeping a little better.

Larry: That’s good. [chuckles] Well given what you and Ethan just said, it would seem that you do need to, ah, sell some more works because you’d need to you’d want to get to the 55 figure.

9:09 Ethan: Yeah again, I think it’s a full board discussion. It’s just we’re laying out where we’ve been in the past but now we have to look at where we are in the present and get the whole board involved before we can really answer that question.

Larry: Ok. Alright. Is one of the questions, um, of course you know you could get involved in new, interpretive, or interactive exhibits and change the way the permanent collection is deployed in programming and all that, but it could be done without a new atrium. Is the atrium question, is that getting a fresh look?

Ethan: I think everything.

Buzz: I think so. Yeah.

Larry: Ok

Ethan: We have to revisit everything now that… You know… Everything up to this point was based on hypotheticals now we have facts to deal with. So I think everything is open for discussion except for what we’ve already learned through our intense community engagement about you know, who our museum serves, and what is the best way to serve that community going forward. Focused on our educational programming and our very interdisciplinary um collection,

Larry: Yup, yup.

Ethan: Diverse collection.

10:14  Larry: Uh, You mentioned the, um, the community outreach, um.  I… I wanted to ask what you… what the nature of that might be and whether it would be something that helps inform whether the board moves ahead with further sales.

Ethan: So, I’m sorry could you say that again? I missed that.

Host: Yeah that wasn’t clear.

Larry:  Ok I’ll try to make it simpler. I’m interested in, um, just hearing a bit more from everyone about what the community, the increased or renewed community input… What kind of shape that would be, are you going to convene a forum, are you going to have open house hours, are you going to put up a survey monkey online thing. And then ah, are you going to… are you going to reach out for community views on whether you should sell more art?

11:11  Ethan: Well, I think it’s pretty clear on both sides of this conversation where certain community members feel. There’s… That much is definitely clear. I mean we’ve made a decision. It was looked into by the attorney general’s office, ah it’s been approved. But, you know, again, the most specific decisions have been made at this point. It really is a turning point. We have got a board meeting coming up where we’ll discuss about  the way to go forward in terms of answering every question.

Larry: That was Ethan, right?

Ethan: Yeah! That’s right.

Larry: Yeah, yeah. You just said that most specific decisions have been made. And you also said that,  Buzz you said , you know,  that the goals of financial stability, fixing the building and  you know, the new plan, that these are… you’re still fully embracing those principles of your road ahead here.

Buzz:  Yes… the principles yes.

Ethan:  Sure.

Buzz: Because those are the most important parts of being sustainable. Fixing our. Fixing some of the problems we’ve been experiencing for the past 30 years.

Larry: But the open letter also had words about defining priorities as being one of the board’s goals. Defining… so, aside from those three sort of pillars, what priorities are in play here?

Ethan: I think it’s those three pillars. I mean it’s exactly what we said – I mean we have to get together to set priorities. But first and foremost it was to, um, to save the museum to make sure it was going to be around for generations to come. And now we have to look at the major, um, capital projects that are necessary to keep the building in, um, proper condition would be good, but… and then also to look at what we can do in terms of our interpretive approach which again, you know I think it’s absolutely clear, that the Berkshire Museum,  given the collection we have and given the community that we serve, is best served by what we’ve been talking about this whole time, the interdisciplinary approach.

Larry: Yep

Ethan: We are a mix of ah science, cultural history and art. And we’re going to continue to do that. And those are… have always been the priorities but again, now that we are at the turning point we can stop dealing with hypotheticals about where we are going to be in June of 2018 and look at where we really are.

Larry: Mm hmm.

Ethan: And make fully informed responsible decisions about how to move forward.

13:41 Larry: Ok. I know you are aware that some people have raised questions about the suitability of multi-media interactive programming and the cost of it and sort of the shelf-life of it. But is it the sense of the five of you that this is really still something that has a place an important place in the future of how the museum tells its stories?

David: Well. This is David Glott.  I think what we… we’ll look at all of that in our upcoming meetings. How much of that you can do. All museums are moving in that direction. From the finest art museums. Ah, so we’ll take a positive look at what we can do as a museum that best serves the community. 

Larry: Does the museum have in-house the expertise to do that or would that be some hiring  or consultants who would lead that?

David: I think we have some in-house and uh again, it’s part of the planning process how far we go with things like that. Other museums have interactive displays.

Larry: Yep

David: Go to any museum these days.

Larry: Mm hmm. Well your incubator was kind of a trial run on that was it not?

Indistinguishable: Yep

Larry: Yep. How has that gone and how do you measure the success of that?

Buzz: Well I think it was very successful in that uh I we had staff that was standing in the room you know sort of monitoring or well wandering around monitoring how much time people would spend in various areas of the museum. And fascinatingly enough, people stayed there for you know, up to 45, 50 minutes and… Have you seen it?  Have you been there? Because It’s a very small space.

Larry: Yes, I’ve seen it. I have been in the room.

Buzz: Ok. So the fact that we had so much touch-time, if you will, in that one particular area is really… It says something. It says that  ah, people enjoyed it. They were interacting. And it wasn’t just people, you know, one person looking at one thing. It was… There were people interacting, reading to each other commenting, engaging, so much more than just walking by something. Um so…

Ethan: That’s exactly right.

Indistinguishable: Yeah

Buzz: And it wasn’t just kids either. It was families and so we… We think it works.

Larry: Ok alright.

Ethan: Yeah. It’s very intergenerational. Lots of time spent there. As far as we can tell it has been a very big success.

Larry: Now Ethan you have young kids, right?

Ethan: I sure do!

Larry: Do they… what do they think?

Ethan: Oh they love it! They love it. They’re big fans of the Berkshire Museum in general.

Larry:  Oh ya [laughs]

Ethan: [laughs] But yeah, no, we spend a lot of time in that room as well as the, you know, the other areas in the Berkshire Museum, of course.

16:40 Larry:  But if I could come back to the… you know that’s kind of a… you’re getting some  response and ability to sense what people are liking with that, but how might you go about, um getting new input from the community?… cause you do speak to that in the letter.  How are you going to do that?

Buzz & Ethan start to answer at the same time.

Buzz: Go ahead, Ethan.

Ethan: No, you go.

Buzz: No, you go… (laughter)

Ethan: I was just going to say I think it’s a really good question. We’ve been, ah, you know, we’ve always been committed to engaging the community. Mmm You know as part of the process we engaged with over 400 people from the community. And you know we constantly engage with the community we serve in regards to different sectors, and you know that includes families, it includes schoolchildren it includes everybody in the Berkshire community. And we’re certainly going to continue to do that meeting with you know, business partners, and educators, and other educational partners, um but, and you know I hate to keep going back to this but it is true that as Buzz said we’ve only had one board meeting since we knew we were going to go forward with this at all. But we have another one coming up and that’s when we’re going to start delving into the weeds on these issues and getting into brass tacks so to speak. We really have to figure out some of the next steps as a board.

Larry: Uh huh

Buzz: But, but in the meantime we have been meeting with people privately and we had a group of business partners and partners, you, know, they came, I don’t know about 40 people showed up to that a month or so ago and talking, just talking further. It’s all about communicating and talking.

Larry: Mm hmm.

Buzz: So it has never stopped, but it’s just so we’re not… so we’re not you know… voicing silently.

Larry: Yeah, probably the hardest…

Ethan: You know, the major funders and major supporters are always kept up to date and you know, remain supportive. Our  our fundraising is as strong as it ever has been and so we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from our community and we continually reach out to them and  keep them engaged. We have new funders too. A lot of new funding.

18:55 Larry: I’m just going back to the wording in the letter which I think refers to um renew, renewed community outreach. Um  kind of made me think that you were looking for people you hadn’t talked to before who aren’t major funders or, you know, business partners. Ahm the wording is “while we are moving forward with a renewed commitment to outreach and open communications.” Does that… does that extend… is there… can you imagine a way that you could try to work to reconcile the split between people who are part of the Save the Art group and the museum? Is there anything specific that you could consider doing that would, ah, – I mean we got Trump talking to the North Koreans, you know things can be done! Can you imagine a way to work on that from your end?

Ethan: Well, you know, think we’ve always been committed to speaking to all and we have been engaged. We’ve reached out. We’ve met with folks from Save the Art and you know, we offered meetings with individual members and we had those meetings.

Larry: Ok

Ethan: And it wasn’t well-received, um. I mean that doesn’t mean that we’re not still open to a conversation and and  to engaging. But, um you know we just seem to meet continual opposition as we try to do that with a certain segment of the population. I think that it’s important to recognize there’s also a huge segment of the population that continues to support us.

Larry: Yeah, yeah

Ethan: And has been very, very supportive of us.

Larry:  Mmm hmm

Ethan: And so you know, at least from my community it seems like the vast majority of people are very supportive and very sympathetic to what this board has been through over the last ten  eleven, months or so and is really proud of people who have stood up for the Berkshire Museum and the community that it serves and that it is aiming to serve. So I think we have a lot of push for us  and we just want to move forward at this point.

Larry: Uh huh. The letter mentions having an interest in having a diverse, cross-section of people involved in the governance of the museum. Um, would you consider inviting someone who’s been a member of the Save the Art group on to the board?

Buzz: Yes, if anyone is interested in joining our board, we have a process that we’re you know,  engaged in right now and we have quite a long list of prospective people. And we have it going on right now. Well really it starts with engaging in positive… looking at the positive future for the museum. Um you know, and being a supporter coming through the doors and enjoying the museum for what it is, a community anchor. And so if anyone is showing that kind of positive um energy, if you will,  toward the museum of course we’re always interested in our board.

22:06  Larry: Ok.Very good. I’m looking at my watch and we’re down to 15 minutes, so I’m going to go into the lightning round, here, ok? So quick answers and quick questions. Um when do  you plan to file a report with the AG on the status of your proceedings with the sales?

Ethan: I’ve

Buzz: It’s already been sent, I believe, hasn’t it? Ethan? Mr. lawyer?

Ethan: Yes, that’s… I think ah May 31st we, we submitted a letter to the attorney general’s office with an update.

Larry: Can you, would you be willing to share that with us?

Ethan: I mean, we’d have to… [chuckle] unfortunately we’d have to talk to Wilmer Hale about that. Um So we’ll,  can we just check on that

Larry: Yes

Ethan: And get back to you?

Larry: Alright. Ok, Ok… You know while I’m asking, would you allow the Berkshire Eagle and other public media to attend board meetings?

Ethan: Um, I guess we could talk about that as a board. That doesn’t seem appropriate to me frankly, I think that the board discussions should be based on the individual merits of the people who are there really doing the deep analysis and thinking things through, but I mean you know,  but like I said I think we’d have to discuss it as a full board anyway.

Larry: Ok alright. Fair enough. Um So, the letter mentions there’s a timeframe or a timeline  that um as the board works to clarify the priorities and set some plans here it references ‘by the end of the year’. Um, It actually says Fall or the end of the year, but I guess the Fall runs pretty deep into December so… do you… does that seem that that’s the right timeframe, that’s when people would next know the specifics about what lies ahead, in terms of what’s happening with the use of the money?

Buzz: Yes, I think so. Um You know we meet every other month as a board.

Larry: Hmm

Buzz: You know it’s one of these things of getting everyone together in the same room and um, So it’s going to be a thoughtful, thorough process yet again, as our board has always been operating and,  um, there are always engaging and interesting conversations that we have and so ah,  We’ll provide info with, you know, as soon as we can as about any major decisions that are made, um, You know, we’re happy… to share that with you.

 

24:50 Larry: Yep, ok. Just to come back to that outreach question. You’re not… I didn’t hear anyone say that you would anticipate any kind of forum or community meeting, um, that you guys might host speaking about the road ahead. Is something like that… would you consider something like that?

David: I think that’s something

Buzz: We’ll [cut off]

David: We’ll discuss at this meeting. There have been board members who have wanted to discuss it.

Larry: Is that David?

David: Yes.

Larry:  Ok, thank you. Uh Why wait until twenty nineteen (2019) to re-start the capital campaign?

Buzz: Um well we have… [stops]… oh go ahead (to Ethan)

Ethan: Well, I think… I mean we’ve been [vigilantly?] um fundraising this whole time. Um you know we want to find the… we sort of want to make some of these major decisions and get to this point so we can effectively communicate exactly what that capital campaign would be for.  I don’t think it’s entirely clear exactly what that would go towards yet, but you know, I think it’s really important to recognize all the work that our team has done, the excellent work our team has done on the fundraising front which seems to be the um, you know, this really great team at the Berkshire Museum who does all this really good work and we have all these fundraisers and they do a really great job at bringing in all this contributed income.

Larry: For operational… 

Buzz: [inaudible] but I think… well

Larry: For operations, right, Ethan?

Buzz: I think, yeah, there’s an important distinction to make and I think confusion sometimes out there. You know our general operating continues to be in very strong. In fact, we have our gala coming up on you know, on July 27th and it’s the capital campaign that we’re talking about un. And you know, when you have a capital campaign you want a specific thing to reach out to the community for, whether it’s you know, it’s a specific building um you know like a specific area, or things like that so um I think we need to formalize that a bit more.

Larry: Ok… Ah, I just ah… moving on here. When do you anticipate filing your next 990, IRS form 990?

Buzz: It’s been filed already.

Ethan: [inaudible]

Larry: Ok

Ethan: I mean we may not have these dates in front of me but I can certainly circle back and ah and answer that. I just don’t have it at my fingertips.

27: 09 Larry: Ok. In that you guys had shifted to a calendar year from a fiscal year. Why did you make that change?

Ethan: Ah, I  it’s I know we just ah… go ahead

[Buzz or Wendy?]:  Well I think it has to do with our major fundraiser is right at in the summer and it was just a… it has to do with the timing of our gala and it just made more sense. Maybe Steve if you want to speak because you’re the finance person. But it made more sense to do that.

Steve: Yeah, this is Steven [Steve and?] you hit the nail right on the head. It fell at a very awkward time given the cycles of our financials during the year. It’s one of the most dynamic periods of our financials falling right with our major fundraising efforts in the summer so it made more sense to tie the year end at a little more of a lull than at the most active time.

Larry: Hmm ‘Cause you also do the wine auction… is that also, is that every other year?

[Ethan?]: Yes.

Larry: In July also?

Buzz: Um our date has sort of moved around a little bit. We often look at where all the other galas… of the… they sort of communicate with each other so that no one is competing too much for people because it’s a highly competitive area and you know, so we try to be respectful of other people’s galas, so.

Larry: So you did that last year, I believe, will there be one in 2019? the wine auction?

Buzz: Wendy Gordon will there be?

[group chuckles]

Wendy: Well, there’ll definitely be a major gala where you know we’re wondering  in [the back scene]… whether that format continues to make sense. So, but we do intend to have a gala in 2019.

Larry: But it might not be a wine auction per se?

Wendy: We don’t know. We don’t know. Um, you know, we want to keep it fresh and we want to keep people interested in coming. They’re the only organization in the Berkshires that does a wine auction, so um you know it might be a format that we consider to maintain.

Larry: Ok, ok. So I… we have about ten more minutes according to my watch. How about you Carol?

Carol:  Yeah, we, we’ve got a few we’ve got couple of minutes.

Larry:  Ok good. 

Carol: Yeah, we do.

29:30 Larry: So, I want to just close here with some questions about the art sale. Do you think there were steps the museum or Sotheby’s could have taken to produce more proceeds from the May auctions?

Ethan: Just speaking personally, not not really. I don’t know what they could have done differently.

Larry: Ok  I mean it is unpredictable, right?

Ethan: Yeah! It’s a very uncertain market.

Larry: Yeah. Ah, that’s one of the areas where um, people who represent themselves as art market exports, as I’m sure the name Martin Gammon is familiar to you guys ah, have kind of have been trying picking that apart. Um do you have any… this is to any of you, do you have any feeling about how you might have done that differently to get closer to your 55 million dollar goal? Is there anything you could have done?

Ethan: I’m not sure I understand the question. Anything we could have done differently in terms of what?

Larry: oh well ok  I… now I’m on shaky ground because I only know only so much about how all that works, but in terms of reserves, and um private sales and all the… all the somewhat arcane mechanicals of the way art is sold at this high level. Um, No… is there any feeling among board members… on the call here… that this could have been done differently or better?

Ethan: No

Larry: Ok

Ethan: No. I don’t the so. Um… go ahead.

Buzz: Well the reality is [cut off]

Ethan: The original sale was postponed because of the lawsuits and we certainly sold less art than we originally intended to so I don’t know if that affected it or not, frankly, but I don’t think there’s anything we could have done differently in terms of the questions you’re asking.

Larry: Mm,  mm, hmm

Ethan: That would have had a different result.

Larry: Um, remember when in the spring when well as part of the petition and the agreement with with Healey’s office, um, the provisions to encourage sales to museums and there was the announcement that there could be extended terms. Um, do you feel that you did all you could to have the pieces of art go to museums if these museums were willing buyers?

Ethan: Yeah.

Buzz: Yeah.

Ethan: Yeah We worked very closely with Sotheby’s to come up with strategies and… they frankly know more about it than I do… but to come up with strategies to get ah public… er institutions to keep it in the public the public view to be purchasers and I think we were successful in that in many cases. So obviously, Shuffleton’s is gonna go to go to the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. The Calder is going to the Calder Foundation? [inflection in voice] which I think is committed to keeping it in the public view and of course the Church painting was sold in a private sale to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and so that’s also staying in the public. So I think we were quite successful at that, yeah.

32:45 Larry: Well, thank you. Ethan, I think you mentioned that Wilmer Hale is still in the picture. I think one of the… maybe the question that is the litmus test question on transparency that I’ve seen so many people asking in letters and online is “Who paid the legal fees?” Can you  can you answer who paid the legal fees?

Ethan: Ah No, we can’t really comment on, you know, our ah our private agreements with our attorneys.

Larry: But not even to the point of saying who paid for it?

Ethan: No. No comment on that.

Larry: ‘cause the… you know the

Carol: Larry? We’ve got about five minutes. I just wanted to let you know.

Larry: I could re-phrase this question for five minutes.

Carol:  [laughs] I’m sure you could.

Larry: Um did

Ethan: And we’re not we’re not we can’t comment.

Larry: Um why is that?

Carol: We’re not going to answer questions about contractual agreements so why don’t you go to the next question ‘cause I think it would be a waste of time to continue with this. Thank you.

Larry: Well ok, then. What is Wilmer Hale’s continuing role here?

Buzz: Coordinating with the attorney general’s office. You know in terms of the reporting that that we have to do to  them. You know the letter that you just referred to.

Ethan: We’ve also an outstanding appeal.

Buzz: We’re still being appealed so that’s limiting our ability to communicate.

34:01 Larry: Ok so that’s a good point. Right. Alright if, um… So aside from who pays Bill Lee’s team, who selected that firm?

Ethan: I um we’re not commenting there. Attorney/client relationship.

Larry: Ok. How about who negotiated the museum’s contract, consignment contract with Sotheby’s?

Ethan: That’s also a private agreement that we can’t comment on.

Larry: Um ok. And then… This is a question that I think others  you know other people have. Um Are there going to be any commissions, fees paid to any person who is associated with the museum in terms of brokering this relationship with Sotheby’s?

Ethan: No

Larry: No fees or commissions to… like no finders’ fee nothing like that?

Ethan: I don’t totally understand what you’re asking, but if I understand that correctly, no there’s not there’s no finder’s fee or anything like that. For somebody [touching? Inaudible] us up with Sotheby’s.

Larry: Ok. I really appreciate you answering that because I think that’s sort of a bug for… a bug for some people and they… it feeds a sense of conspiracy that you know in some quarters and so I think

Ethan: Ah, Larry, [talking at same time as Larry] we’re all volunteers and no one is gaining anything from our relationship with… 

Larry: Putting a little sunlight on that is very helpful.

Ethan: No one is gaining anything form our relationship with Sotheby’s.

Larry: I’m sorry say that again?

Ethan: We all volunteer and none of us are getting a financial gain from the contract with Sotheby’s, from our relationship with Sotheby’s.

35:40 Larry:  Ok and that would… Would that include Mark Gold and Van Shields?

Ethan: Yes.

Larry: Ok. Alright um… Gee, I, I really, I guess that’s kind of what I wanted to talk about. Is there anything you want to tell us that you think we have not gotten right, or haven’t written enough about I’m happy to listen to you on that.

Buzz: Well 

Ethan: I don’t

Buzz: Well I

Carol: Um, Larry, I have a question on that… It’s Carol. So are you not doing the article on the board member? You were asking some questions about that and then we veered into other territory which you clearly said you were doing. Are you still doing that story? 

Larry: We are going to report on the views of some of the members who opted out of the board, yes. I’m thinking that from our conversation here I would be writing a separate story based on this, this conversation here this morning. Or this afternoon rather.

Carol: Ok

Larry: So, in terms of that other story, I had relayed a couple of questions to you and one of them had to do with um, Buzz, what two, two  former board members say was your expression of initial opposition to the Rockwell sales and I would just put to you now, um  How was it you were able to come around on that and think that was the appropriate move?

Buzz: Well, yes, I was originally against, but I… out of our extremely thorough process that we had  we spent two years of looking at this and gathering information and exploring you know everything you can imagine, um,  I  I changed my mind. [chuckle]

Larry: Ok [chuckle]

Buzz: I realized that we wanted to keep the museum open and that was our priority. Was  literally our open doors and being sustainable and making ourselves relevant to our community.

Ethan: That’s exactly right. I mean we had I think it was over 80 hours of board retreats, um thousands of pages of materials and that’s in addition to our regularly scheduled bi-monthly board meetings. Ah, the bi-monthly executive committee, and  finance committee meetings. You know, we had an incredibly thorough process and a lot of people as they’ve  just delved into it and saw the numbers and the facts changed their minds and ultimately the board, who’s, you know, very strongly in favor of the direction we’re going in.

Steve: Yeah, there was a lot of debate and discussion, and study there was… it was a a very interactive, engaging process through this entire journey where it was very um dynamic and it was not a simple answer and nobody… there was no pre-conceived notions here, I mean it was very engaging dynamic thoughtful discussion. It  was actually a privilege to be a part of it.

Larry: Great.

Voice: [In background inaudible]

Larry: I’m sorry is that David or Steve? Who was just speaking?

Buzz: [inaudible]

Ethan: That was Steve speaking.

38:55 Larry: Ok Steve. Thank you. Thank you. Ok well  I’ll make sure that’s reflected in our stories here.

Buzz: You also have the quote wrong, but that’s ok.

Larry: What quote?

Buzz: [laughter] the quote where I said ‘over my dead body’ but that was not what I said.

Larry: What did you say?

Buzz: I said that I would resign. [laughter]

Larry: So you don’t keep your promises, Buzz? 

Buzz: Not yet, no. [Laughter]

Steve: But you changed your mind.

Buzz: I changed my mind! I changed my mind. So and I’m glad I did because I think it was really an amazing process and I have so much respect for our board and staff that has endured 3 years of this process and carrying it out and I’m hopeful for the future and for the future of the museum and continuing that process.

Ethan: And you know not to speak for you Buzz, but that was so early on, that was literally years ago at this point and it was before you had all the facts and before we went through the entire process.

Buzz: Before I was even president. [chuckle]

Larry: Mm mm hmm ok. Well I see just one last little thing I wrote down. You said you had 550 new members since July and I just want to ask how does that compare to prior years in terms of new members.  So that’s almost a full year. Is that a surge of members? Is that sort of a regular kind of churn of members?

Ethan: I think it’s pretty regular and consistent.

Larry: Alright. Well we’ve come to the end of the time that you’ve mentioned that you’ve had available. I’m happy to keep talking or we could wrap it up.

Carol: Uh, This is Carol. I think you know Larry I’m just trying to make sure that the board has an opportunity to uh respond to – you’re talking about the story and you’ve gone through a couple of points regarding this board member or board members with whom you’ve spoken but if there’s any other specific points, I’d appreciate either you know, a quick email to me or something just to let us know. Because I just want to  make sure they have the opportunity to respond.

Larry: Oh yes. Yes, um

Carol: [inaudible] If there aren’t constraints to that

Carol: And you’re planning to publish tomorrow? Now just for my own schedule are you planning on publishing tomorrow?

Larry: No

Carol: Ok great

Larry: That was a possibility but you know I very much appreciate all of your time here today and that just uh… you know we want to do things carefully and deliberately and uh we’re not going to rush a story again.

Carol: We appreciate that, thank you.

Larry: Alright. So just to answer your question, Carol one of the things that I was heard… that I’ve heard from a former board member, is that this person did not think that as the master plan discussion was entered into, and began, that it was clear enough that it would lead to the selling of art. And I and another former board member told me  as I talked with that person about  that question said um that they felt that it evolved and that the master plan, was basically this person was saying that wasn’t that it had a surprise ending. That the plan began to be you know what should our future be and then once those goals were outlined, the questions arose well how are we going to pay for that? And then that’s that’s when the art sale issue arose. Is that accurate?

Ethan: More or less. I mean would do… I’d  say that it was ah that… we entered into this process because it was clear that the museum was not in a sustainable place. And so it led to a great deal of study and a great deal of conversations and engagement from, you know, the entire board basically um and came to a very thoughtful, difficult decision that led to where we are today.

Larry: Yeah ok.

Carol: Ok

Larry: And then two of the people who I interviewed.

Carol: Larry, if there, can you.

Larry: Yes

Larry: I only have one other one and again, I’m answering your question on this. The other two people who I talked to said that they just didn’t agree that 55 million was necessary.

Carol: Ok

Larry: So, I kind of feel l like we’ve heard a lot from the board on that but I would welcome a new remark addressing that.

Carol: Ok

Steve: Well  this is Steve. I’d like to make just one comment on that. The AGO exhaustively reviewed of thousands of pages of documents and validated the dire nature of the museum’s financial condition and the size of the need. So…

Ethan: Right and that was consistent with you know, the analysis done by TDC and the audit, our independent auditors and our finance committee.

Buzz: And it’s really to once again to bring it back full circle, the three pillars of all this. There’s our financial stability, fixing our problems and having a new interpretive plan which is not the bulk of the 55 million. It’s really to make ourselves relevant and sustainable moving forward and the same institution. You know our mission has not changed. You know the [chuckle] exhibits haven’t changed either for the last 30 years and it doesn’t mean you know they’re, we’re going to remove them, we’re bringing them all together to have an interpretive plan that’s interdisciplinary which are, Once again the three pillars of our mission which is art science and natural history and interpreting them together. So um, and that  also in our process those three… there were so many parallel tracks going on Larry, that it was it was an amazing experience to go through the strategic planning . The questions would arise, the answers, we’d come back together for it. We’d see we have more questions,  more avenues it was so engaging and exciting… there were some days when we’d walk out of there and be energized and other days we’d go out and be, oh my gosh, exhausted. Um I think it was a very exhaustive process and in that process we realized our needs were great.

Larry: Ok. Very good.

Carol: Thank you everyone. Larry I’m sure I’ll be talking with you.

Larry: Ok, thank you all for the time today and for your work on behalf of the museum.

[Multiple Thank you’s and good byes]

 

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