Category Archives: Museums.&.Arts

City Council advances plans to privatize Tyson, Orpheum management

Source: Ian Richardson, Sioux City Journal, October 16, 2017

Sioux City is entering contract negotiations with a Philadelphia-based venue management firm to oversee day-to-day operations at the Tyson Events Center and Orpheum Theatre. … Monday’s decision followed nearly an hour of discussion that included more than a dozen comments from the public — many of them local labor leaders and city employees concerned about their jobs and benefits — in a nearly standing-room-only City Council chamber. “We’ve heard this song and dance before throughout the state of Iowa,” Chris De Harty, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 212, said of contracting out public services. …


Majority voice support for private management as City Council defers vote
Source: Ian Richardson, Sioux City Journal, October 10, 2017
A majority of City Council members on Monday voiced their favor toward a proposal by a private management firm to run two city entertainment venues, but ultimately deferred a final vote until next week.  The delay came at the request of Councilman Dan Moore, who said he wanted to take that time to gather public input and to reflect on the disadvantages and advantages of switching. … The city is weighing whether to enter negotiations with the Philadelphia-based Spectra for management of the Tyson Events Center and Orpheum Theatre, a move recommended by City Manager Bob Padmore and by the Orpheum Theatre Board of Directors. Sioux City has been exploring the move this year and has been deciding whether to contract with Spectra or conduct a series of organizational tweaks within its current city management structure, a move favored by another city panel, the Events Facilities Advisory Board.… Chris De Harty, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 212 — which represents more than 350 workers, including the city’s operations, field services, technical and clerical staff — said city staff have done well up to this point and he doubts a contracted company would improve the situation. …

Local public-private partnerships are too private

Source: Allen Johnson, Greensboro News & Record, August 11, 2015

The sad news about allegations of abuse at the Guilford County Animal Shelter is disheartening in itself. But there is also a familiar pattern here – of a public-private partnership gone wrong for lack of openness. … But the bad news is a recurring problem with the public-private model in transparency and accountability:
1. The civil rights museum collecting financial documents at the end of board meetings and keeping those meetings closed to the public.
2. The performing arts center’s reluctance to release financial information in a clear and timely manner.
3. The nonprofit United Animal Coalition, which operates the Guilford County Animal Shelter, until very recently closing its meetings to the public, even as it gets more than $1.5 million a year in county tax money.


Guilford, Davidson County animal shelters involved in law enforcement investigation
Source: WXII12, August 7, 2015

Two Triad animal shelters are involved in an ongoing investigation into possible animal abuse and federal violations. Guilford County officials said Friday afternoon that a search warrant was served at the Davidson County Animal Shelter on July 23, and another search warrant was issued at the Guilford County Animal Shelter on July 30. Both shelters are run by a Greensboro-based nonprofit called the United Animal Coalition. Guilford County Commissioner Jeff Phillips said the possible federal violations involve the DEA. … Phillips said that, for months, commissioners have received complaints alleging abuse, a toxic work environment and nepotism from current and former employees and volunteers at the shelters.

Vizcaya privatization plan draws foes, enters mayoral debate

Source: Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald, May 22, 2015

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s plan to privatize Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is drawing opposition from two rivals, announced challenger Raquel Regalado and potential candidate Xavier Suarez, the county commissioner whose district includes the historic site.
Vizcaya Museum would be privatized under Miami-Dade plan
Source: Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald, May 14, 2015

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens would leave Miami-Dade’s bureaucracy under a plan to privatize the tourist attraction, a key part of a reorganization aimed at boosting revenue. The lavish winter home of industrialist James Deering is officially an arm of Miami-Dade County government, with a staff of county employees. Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration wants to transfer operations to a nonprofit, establishing the kind of arrangement already in place for the county-owned Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and Pérez Art Museum Miami. …. Miami-Dade is budgeted to provide a $2.5 million subsidy this year for Vizcaya, about a third of its $7.5 million operating budget. County support is bound to continue under a new arrangement. Arsht, PAMM and other cultural facilities rely on county subsidies to balance their budgets. The Gimenez proposal next goes to the county commission, which can approve or reject it. ….. A consultant’s recommendation urges Vizcaya to free itself from government open-records laws and the requirement that board members submit financial-disclosure forms. ….

Donor Governance and Financial Management in Prominent U.S. Art Museums

Source: David Yermack, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21066, April 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
I study “donor governance,” which occurs when contributors to non-profit firms place restrictions on their gifts to limit the discretion of managers. In a study of U.S. art museums, I find that this practice has grown significantly in recent years, and it represents the largest source of permanent capital in the industry. When donor restrictions are strong, museums shift their cost structures away from administration and toward program services, and they exhibit very high savings rates, retaining in their endowments 45 cents of each incremental dollar donated. Retention rates are near zero for cash generated from other activities. Restricted donations appear to stabilize non-profits and significantly influence their activities, but they reduce management flexibility and may contribute to lower profit margins. Rising donor governance in U.S. art museums may represent a reaction by contributors to the industry’s high rates of financial distress, weak boards of trustees, and large private benefits of control enjoyed by managers.

BREAKING: Donnellan Recommends Closing Artisphere

Source:, December 17, 2014

Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan says the county should close the Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn. Donnellan made the recommendation at today’s County Board meeting, after being charged by the Board earlier this year to study Artisphere and suggest a way forward for the money-losing, county-run center. …. County staff will be studying options for sub-leasing Artisphere to a private company or a private-public partnership in the “arts, media, technology” space, or returning it to landlord Monday Properties, Donnellan said. ….

A year later, what cities can learn from Detroit’s bankruptcy

Source: Bruce Katz, Jennifer Bradley, Fortune, July 22, 2014

Detroit’s recovery shows that cities are networks, not just governments….The city government, for example, gave up control of the neglected (but promising) urban park, Belle Isle, turning it over to state management under a 30-year lease. Through a $185 million bond package, the Detroit Public Lighting Authority is tackling one of the most iconic symbols of the city’s troubles, replacing 55,000 broken streetlights with state-of-the-art LED bulbs. … As Detroit’s government was struggling with fiscal challenges (and the struggles started long before the bankruptcy filing), civic, business and philanthropic actors were committing billions of dollars into downtown and midtown and supporting a smart plan for the city’s physical and economic future. The M1 rail line, which is expected to begin construction later this month, is emblematic of Detroit’s physical and economic transformation. The bulk of the funding is coming not from the federal, state or local governments, but rather a consortium of companies, philanthropies and other anchor institutions. … When it looked like the DIA’s collection would be dismantled to pay the city’s bills, the DIA itself, philanthropies, businesses, and the state of Michigan created what’s termed the “grand bargain” to shore up the city’s pension fund and thereby save the art. …

Book binding! Activists say Hook library art-space deal squeezes the public

Source: Noah Hurowitz, Brooklyn Paper, July 16, 2014

A plan to rent out a big chunk of the Red Hook library branch that would close the prose depot for at least eight months is an unnecessary privatization of public reading space, say bookworms who plan to pack public hearings next week and voice their opposition. The space-sharing arrangement will have the arts group Spaceworks take over three or four tenths of the library for dance and performance space that Spaceworks will rent at supposedly affordable prices. The plan has been in the works since early last year, but the library system and the organization are now seeking approval from Community Board 6 for the renovations that would shutter the branch, and activists are gearing up for a fight over what they say is a handout at the expense of taxpayers that threatens the very notion of a library for the people. …

…The renovations are supposed to create two performance studios in the building and fix up other parts of the facility that are in disrepair . A library spokesman estimated costs for the job at $1.8 million, of which Spaceworks is supposed to provide $650,000 to cover the price of the studios. The library is then supposed to get rent from Spaceworks for as long as the organization uses the space. Neither Spaceworks nor the library would say how much the group will pay or how often….

Detroit Art Valued at Up to $4.6 Billion / New Value Is Sharp Increase Over Previous Estimate and Could Cause Problems for City in Bankruptcy Court

Source: Matthew Dolan, Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2014

A new report on Detroit’s fine-art collection has pegged its entire value at $2.8 billion to $4.6 billion, a sharp increase over a previous partial estimate that could create a headache for the city in bankruptcy court. Some creditors are pushing Detroit to sell or lease select works from the 66,000-piece, world-class art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts as part of the settlement of nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy. The new, all-inclusive valuation released Wednesday by New York-based Artvest Partners could add fuel to their arguments ahead of the bankruptcy trial set to begin next month.
DIA seeks to block removal of artworks for valuation in bankruptcy fight
Source: Nathan Bomey, Detroit Free Press, May 13, 2014

The Detroit Institute of Arts late tonight asked a judge to block creditors from physically removing thousands of works from the museum’s walls to determine their value in the city’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy. DIA attorneys filed an official objection to the proposal by Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. (FGIC) and Syncora. The major bond insurers — which could collectively lose more than $1 billion on Detroit’s bankruptcy — are leading a push to force the city to cooperate with four prospective outside bidders for the entire museum or portions of its collection. The insurers have asked Judge Steven Rhodes to approve their motion allowing their representatives to physically remove as many as 12,000 works from the walls and archives, snapping digital pictures of the front and back of each piece….

GM, Ford, Chrysler may give millions to DIA in Detroit bankruptcy deal
Source: Nathan Bomey, Alisa Priddle, Brent Snavely and Tom Walsh, Detroit Free Press, May 13, 2014

The Detroit Three automakers are considering giving tens of millions of dollars to the Detroit Institute of Arts toward its $100-million obligation to help reduce pension cuts and protect art from being sold in the city’s bankruptcy, the Free Press has learned. The DIA approached the auto companies about six weeks ago to ask them to contribute more than $50 million as a group, one person familiar with the talks said. The total donation for the three may end up closer to half that amount, said the source. But once the automakers are on board, the museum might make similar requests to automotive suppliers. The DIA also asked for help from several non-auto foundations, including the Los Angeles-based Getty Foundation. Today it said it is mulling the request….

Detroit creditor Syncora gains access to DIA documents
Source: Matt Helms, Detroit Free Press, April 29, 2014

A Detroit creditor that’s been pushing for a sale of Detroit Institute of Arts assets to settle the city’s debts won access Monday to documents shared between the museum and Michigan’s attorney general last summer. …. The reason for Syncora’s insistence on a strategy of forcing Detroit to consider selling art is clear. The Bermuda-based holding company is on the hook for nearly a quarter-billion dollars in Detroit’s bankruptcy, in no small part because it underwrote a $1.4-billion debt deal to shore up underfunded pensions. The city is now seeking to wipe out that deal engineered in 2005 by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Foundations commit more than $330M to save Detroit art
Source: Reuters, January 13, 2014

Financial pledge also aims to fund at-risk retiree pensions. …The mediators, headed by federal judge Gerald Rosen, said the philanthropic effort for the DIA was being funneled through a leadership committee consisting of the heads of the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan….

Deal reached to fund Detroit pensions, preserve art
Source: Ned Resnikoff, MSNBC, January 14, 2014

A coalition of local and national foundations have reached a deal intended to save Detroit’s largest art collection and limit cuts to the retirement benefits of public workers. On Monday, U.S. Chief District Judge Gerald Rosen announced that he had finished mediating a deal under which the nine organizations involved in negotiations would pay $330 million into public pensions and turn the publicly-owned Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) collection over to the private nonprofit which currently runs the museum. The plan effectively eliminates the risk that Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr would pressure the DIA into selling off some of its art as part of his plan to steer Detroit through the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. Orr has estimated that the city faces an $18 billion long-term debt burden, including a $3.5 billion pension liability. …

$330 million pledged to save pensions, DIA artwork from Detroit bankruptcy
Source: John Gallagher and Mark Stryker, Gannett Michigan, January 13, 2014

…Rosen announced nine foundations pledged $330 million to the cause, a critical step toward solving the contentious issues surrounding pensions and paintings. The money, which represents an unprecedented coalition of foundation support for a troubled American city and a bold stroke of out-of-the-box creativity, is also a potential game changer in Detroit’s struggle to restructure $18 million in municipal debt in bankruptcy court. Despite the immediate acclaim that greeted the pledge, a myriad of challenges remain that could scuttle a deal. Leaders of the pension funds representing city workers and police and fire personnel would have to accept the terms. The $330 million, which still remains shy of Rosen’s original goal of $500 million, is unlikely to satisfy the unions. …Some creditors believe city-owned DIA artwork is worth “billions of dollars” and that a recent appraisal from Christie’s auction house that was commissioned by the city vastly under-valued the city-owned collection. Creditors have accused Christie’s of offering a low-ball figure to give political cover for mediator Rosen to propose transferring the DIA to an independent organization….

A Bruegel, a Rembrandt, a van Gogh: Appraisal Puts Prices on the Priceless in Detroit
Source: Randy Kennedy, New York Times, December 19, 2013

… Detroit’s emergency manager on Thursday released Christie’s long-awaited market appraisals for some of the greatest masterpieces in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts, which has become a political football in the city’s efforts to repay billions to creditors as part of a federal bankruptcy case. Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “The Wedding Dance,” one of the institute’s calling cards and one of only five Bruegels in American museum collections, would bring $100 million to $200 million if sold, the auction house estimated. An 1887 van Gogh self-portrait — one in which he is wearing his familiar yellow straw hat and tortured mien — was valued at $80 million to $150 million. Rembrandt’s “The Visitation” would bring $50 million to $90 million. And Matisse’s “The Window,” the first painting by the artist to enter an American museum collection, would fetch $40 million to $80 million. A drawing by Michelangelo of a design for the Sistine Chapel ceiling brought the only sizable estimate for a work that was not a painting: $12 million to $20 million. While museums often have their collections valued in a blanket manner for insurance purposes, the public revelation of what its prized paintings and sculpture would bring on the market is a painful turn of events for the institute, which is facing a threat to its existence of a kind never confronted by another American museum of its size. …

Christie’s Appraises Detroit Institute Artworks
Source: New York Times, December 19, 2013

Experts at Christie’s set values on some key artworks in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts on Thursday. The auction house appraised about 2,800 works — less than 5 percent of the institute’s entire collection — arriving at a total valuation of between $454 million and $867 million. Below, some of the most important pieces.

‘Detroit Art City’: The story of a town on the verge of losing more than just its van Gogh
Source: PBS Newshour, Art Beat blog, December 11, 2013

“Detroit Art City: The Detroit Institute of Arts Story,” a documentary by Detroit Public Television, tells of the story of the one of America’s most significant art collections and how it’s fate came to rest in a legal battle over the Motor City’s future.

…So the museum is fighting back. The Detroit Free Press reported last week that the DIA is working to broker a deal where it would raise $500 million from nonprofit foundations in order to become a nonprofit itself. The arrangement would separate the museum from the city and generate money to assist in the bankruptcy. If the deal passes, the museum would ensure the safety of its collection from creditors. …

How NOT to sell Detroit’s Art
Source: Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, December 4, 2013

The grim and venal push to put a pricetag on the art in the Detroit Institute of Arts continues with news Tuesday that an analysis of the collection’s value — important to creditors if they can force its sale as part of the larger Detroit bankruptcy crisis—has come in lower than expected.

Orr: Combined value of DIA’s most valuable art less than $2B, can’t fix shortfalls
Source: Robert Snell, Detroit News, December 3, 2013

The combined value of the city’s most valuable art is less than $2 billion and cannot solve the city’s pension problems, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr told The Detroit News. Hours after Detroit was ruled eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy relief, Orr lifted a veil of secrecy covering an ongoing valuation of parts of the collection housed at the Detroit Institute of Arts by New York-based auction house Christie’s Appraisals. The first phase, which involves valuing 496 pieces, shows the art is worth less than $2 billion, Orr said. …

Pension official: Idea of foundation funds ‘very encouraging’ in Detroit bankruptcy
Source: Robert Snell, Detroit News, November 14, 2013

Pension officials fighting attempts to cut retiree benefits were encouraged to learn Thursday that a federal mediator is investigating whether several foundations are willing to pool money that would safeguard the Detroit Institute of Arts’ city-owned collection and help bankroll retiree pensions.

A mix of reactions emerged hours after The News revealed a behind-the-scenes proposal that could play a major role in the city’s restructuring and successful emergence from Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Orr: State aid was never on the table to forestall Detroit bankruptcy
Source: Brent Snavely, Alisa Priddle and Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, October 29, 2013

The City of Detroit’s artwork — potentially worth billions — is still in play. … Orr’s testimony drove home what has been crystal clear in Detroit’s bankruptcy case: There will be no direct funding from either the state or federal level to help Detroit restructure its debt and the Detroit Institute of the Arts collection remains on the table as an asset the city could leverage to help restructure its debts. “It is valuable; I do not know if it is a potential source of cash for the city,” Orr said. … Anthony Ullman, an attorney for the Retiree Committee, asked Orr whether the city could get billions in return for the art, would that help the city restructure its debt. “Yes, I think it would,” Orr said, but he dodged questions about whether he would use it to tackle debt. In recent weeks, the discussion surrounding the DIA art has shifted from outright sales to leveraging the value of the masterpieces without relinquishing ownership. Detroit has hired Christie’s auction house to assess the value of the art and is expecting a report within the next few weeks. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has issued a formal opinion stating that a forced sale of art would be illegal because the work is held in the public trust. The DIA, too, has vowed to fight any sale or any plan that puts the collection at risk. …

DIA comments at bankruptcy trial: What did they signal?
Source: Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press, October 23, 2013

The City of Detroit’s opening statement in the bankruptcy eligibility trial that got under way this morning offered a brief and enigmatic reference to the possible sale of city-owned art housed at the Detroit Institute of Arts. …

The Agony of Suspense in Detroit / Detroit Institute of Arts Copes With Threat of Art Selloff

Source: Randy Kennedy, New York Times, October 2, 2013

It would have been hard to think of a better metaphor: A fire-breathing dragon was bearing down on the Detroit Institute of Arts. … But these days, the sense of peril surrounding this 128-year-old museum is real and unrelenting. Only a day before the protest, the institute had to close unexpectedly because of a power loss in the area caused partly by city equipment failures. Its registrars and art handlers are hauling hundreds of artworks out of storage in preparation for an appraisal now under way by Christie’s auction house, which was hired by Detroit’s emergency manager to determine how much the museum is worth as a city asset. Board members worry about a prolonged hiatus in gifts of art and money as donors wait out the bankruptcy case.

America as One Big Private Gift Shop

Source: Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Brennan Center for Justice blog, June 6, 2014

…The argument over what should be public and what should be private has recently heated up in lower Manhattan. As the 9/11 Memorial Museum opens, the public is debating the propriety of the $24 admission fee, which applies not just for entrance into the museum, but also for the privilege of visiting the final resting place of so many. Also causing offense are the expensive tchotchkes that are being hocked at the gift shop, which recently led to a change in policy on which items would be sold, but did not result in closing the gift shop….From private parking meters, to private jails, to the entrance fee for the private 9/11 Museum, to the cost of running for public office with private dollars, the private market is swamping public goods. I can cope with the average gift shop attached to the average museum. But even in our society, there should still be a short list of things just shouldn’t be for sale. Elected offices and mass graves from a national tragedy should be on that short list. That’s where the gift shopping of America should stop and the public interest should prevail….

Washington’s Corcoran Museum To Be Taken Over By National Gallery

Source: Bill Chappell, NPR, February 19, 2014

The oldest private art museum in Washington is poised to be taken over by the National Gallery of Art, according to a plan to disperse the museum’s holdings and turn its art college over to George Washington University. The plan was publicly unveiled Wednesday. … The museum’s interim director and president, Peggy Loar, sought to reassure the Corcoran’s fans that it would continue to have a presence — and she stressed that under the plan, its galleries would be open to all, free of charge….
Corcoran Gallery of Art and college to be taken over by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University
Source: David Montgomery, Washington Post, February 19, 2014

The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington’s oldest private art museum, and its venerable college of art and design would cease to exist as an independent institution, and its key components — artwork, historic building and school program — would be taken over by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University, under a plan announced Wednesday afternoon.

George Washington would assume ownership of the landmark Beaux Arts home of the Corcoran near the White House, and the Corcoran College of Art & Design would become part of the university. George Washington would pay nothing for the building, but would be responsible for an estimated tens of millions of dollars in renovation costs. The college would retain its identity within the university, though degrees would be granted by the university.

The National Gallery would assume initial responsibility for the Corcoran’s 17,000 pieces of art, and after a period of study, would acquire a large fraction of them. The rest would be distributed to museums around the country, with priority given to institutions in the District. …

…The bold pronouncements came with an important asterisk. The three partners have a deadline of April 7 to set the details of the collaboration. Leaders of all three institutions said they were confident the deal would be done. Washington has heard this before. Last April, with near equal confidence, the Corcoran and the University of Maryland announced a memorandum of understanding to begin discussions on a collaboration that would save the Corcoran….Despite the changes, the Corcoran will continue as a non-profit organization pursuing the original mission set 145 years ago by William Corcoran: “Dedicated to art and encouraging American genius,” Corcoran leaders said. …