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Return of artwork could lead to sustainable future for Berkshire Museum

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By Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018 Letters 4

To the Editor:

Save the Art — Save the Museum is encouraged that the museum has agreed to engage in conversation with the Attorney General on the return of the 40 artworks to the Berkshires. We concur with the AG’s assertion that the artworks are subject to restrictions. We look forward to a resolution to the impasse that restores the collection to the community and reaffirm our willingness to work with museum officials to secure the museum’s future.

Save the Art – Save the Museum supports all legal actions and investigations of the Berkshire Museum’s proposed sale of 40 artworks and seeks their return. We reaffirm our group’s desire to assist the Museum in finding an alternative to address its fiscal issues while preserving the Museum’s vital regional identity. Save the Art will continue to work to protect the public trust and ensure public access to artistic and historic treasures.

The Berkshire Museum’s actions have sparked a national debate. As part of our ongoing public information efforts, we offer our support to other communities throughout the country who are experiencing similar challenges raised by de-accession and violations to the public trust. In the Commonwealth, we are working with the Massachusetts Cultural Council to explore the creation of “The Rockwell Law,” legislation that would protect our cultural heritage from unethical de-accession practices by publicly funded institutions and charitable organizations.

Save the Art – Save the Museum seeks the following:

  1. The return of all 40 artworks to their rightful owners: Pittsfield and the greater Berkshire community.
  2. A pledge from the Berkshire Museum trustees to respect and abide by ethical guidelines set forth by the American Alliance of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, and other professional organizations.
  3. A public promise for fiscal transparency from Museum officials.
  4. The Museum’s commitment to the vigorous fundraising and creative programming activities that sustain all cultural non-profits.

By adopting these conditions, the Berkshire Museum will find many friends willing to help build a successful and sustainable future. There is courage and wisdom in changing course in light of altered circumstances. Save the Art – Save the Museum stands ready to assist to the full extent of our knowledge, expertise, and ability, and we extend our hand in the spirit of dialogue, cooperation, and good will.

Carol Diehl


4 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Richard Allen says:

    Save the Art/Save the Museum engages in the same fantasies as other opponents of the actions by the Museum’s trustees. The opponents can’t be taken seriously until they come up with an actual, realistic plan for keeping the Museum out of bankruptcy. Don’t hold your breath.

    1. Lauren says:

      The Save the Art/Save the Museum has come up with a realistic plan for keeping the art and science museum open-its called Fundraising.

    2. Paul Green says:

      Dear Richard,
      The long term success of the Berkshires depends on keeping its spirit alive. The artwork at the Museum is a crucial part of that spirit. If it is sold, the spirit of the Berkshires will be crushed, and that will seriously hurt the community long term. It may seem like a quick fix to keep the Museum going by selling the art, but if you take away the lifeblood if a community, it can never recover, and over the long term, it will not be able to sustain itself. Out art is our heritage and the most important thing the Berkshires has going for it. We can build a future from the art. We cannot build a future without it.

  2. peter greer says:

    here s a thought – don’t shoot the messenger if its not what you want to hear . The decisions of how to govern the museum reside exclusively with its BOT . Unless they flagrantly and in bad faith violate their fiduciary responsibility , a very high bar, they decide how to govern the org . The go forward they have opted to pursue is to raise $ by selling the art, and reinvest in a new “vision ” meant to stabilize and right size the finances of the organization. Here s another possible path to implement that plan .
    If these “assets ” can be sold I’d imagine they can be pledged /hypothecated and monetized via a secured loan(sothebys used to be in the space) and with a clearly defined and workable amortization schedule tied to the BOTs vision . If the BOT believes the $ raised will be profitably invested in their new vision and that the net result will be positive cash flow, the loan gets paid . if not the asset reverts to the lender(who would then sell it ) but not on day one. I suspect a local institution (berk bank ) would have to be on the hook and possibly in first loss position but the ltv would be way under fmv. A covenant restricting further assets sales to patch operating deficits would be in order as well. Just a thought. If the $ raised leads to continued red /deficits then its good $ after bad and shouldn’t happen at all. This might also be relevant via the 80/20 rule

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