Berkshire Museum’s art sale
THE BOSTON GLOBE editorial page offered its support over the weekend for the Berkshire Museum’s plan to sell off 40 of its most valued works of art, including two paintings by Norman Rockwell.
The editorial acknowledged the proposed sale is unprecedented in the museum world, but said the financially struggling Pittsfield-based institution has little choice. “Absent an angel donor with a big heart and wallet, it’s the right call, even if it’s a gut-wrenching one,” the Globe said.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Berkshire Museum’s proposed art sale isn’t just a local story in Western Massachusetts. It has become a cause celebre in the art world, with the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors opposing the sale and Joseph Thompson, the director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, supporting it. The sale of the museum’s artwork has also raised thorny questions about a museum’s responsibility to its art donors and the public at large.
The Berkshire Museum said it has been running annual deficits for years and wants to transition away from art to a “New Vision” centered around technology-intensive displays dealing with science and history. While the Globe editorial made it sound as if the art sale was necessary to save the museum from financial ruin, Andrew Russeth, writing in ArtNews, portrayed the sale as part of a broader strategy. He noted the museum said it needs $40 million to correct its finances for the long-term, but points out the sale of just one of Rockwell’s paintings would probably add $30 million to the museum’s existing $7.45 million endowment.
The Berkshire Museum’s pivot was embraced initially by the institution’s hometown newspaper, the Berkshire Eagle. But the publication reversed course with an editorial published on October 31. The Eagle said it changed its mind after reading some of the newspaper’s own reporting, which questioned the severity of the museum’s financial problems and the nebulous nature of its “New Vision.”
“Undoubtedly, the museum could use millions more dollars to add to its endowment, but the method chosen to get this money resembles throwing out the baby to save the bath water,” the Eagle said. “The Berkshire Museum’s deaccessioning breaks a covenant with the citizens of Berkshire County. The Berkshire Museum — and this collection of art that rivals the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. — is this community’s ‘window on the world,’ as the Berkshire Museum itself puts it. It’s a window that must not be broken.”
Hillary Chabot applauds the House decision to bring on former attorney general Martha Coakley to help oversee new sexual harassment guidelines, but she says Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg will be maintaining the “old-boy network” if they don’t make clear that past and present allegations will be investigated and acted on decisively. (Boston Herald)
A Herald editorial applauds Gov. Charlie Baker’s new bill to address the ongoing opioid crisis.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo raises concerns about legislation barring drivers from using hand-held devices. His chief concern: that minorities disproportionately are targeted when such laws pass. (Boston Herald)
Methuen snares $1.2 million in state money to begin work on a long-awaited revitalization plan. (Eagle-Tribune)
A New York Times profiles an Ohio Nazi sympathizer. The story has become the subject of enormous criticism, which is addressed in this note from the Times national editor. The story’s author also wrote a piece on his approach to the story — and misgivings that he wasn’t able to answer what’s really behind his subject’s turn to hate-filled ideology. Local media watcher Dan Kennedy says the story missed the mark, and the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple does too.
Just who is in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a question heading to court today. (New York Times)
Rep. John Conyers, facing sexual harassment claims, announced he will step aside, at least temporarily, as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. (New York Times)
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi seemed to waffle in addressing the Conyers matter, and later issues a clarification saying, “Any credible accusation must be reviewed by the Ethics Committee expeditiously.” (Boston Herald) Tom Shattuck says Pelosi is displaying a stunning double standard. (Boston Herald)
Sen. Al Franken said he is ashamed and embarrassed, but returning to work. (Star Tribune)
Diplomats are being pushed out of the State Department in droves, and they are not all going quietly. (New York Times)
The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate tax bill would hurt the poor more than originally thought. (Washington Post)
A Lowell Sun editorial slams the Massachusetts Democratic Party for its attacks on Dean Tran, a Republican running for state senate who had the temerity to take stands at odds with Gov. Charlie Baker.
Bopha Malone, a vice president at Enterprise Bank, announces a run for the Third District seat held by US Rep. Niki Tsongas, making it an even 12 Democrats vying for the post. (Lowell Sun)
Sexual harassment and abuse is a huge problem for low-wage workers, many of whom face even bigger obstacles to reporting incidents that the professionals who have largely been in the news alleging harassment and abuse. (Boston Globe)
One personal injury law firm in Worcester sues another, claiming the rival ripped off its billboard appeal to customers. (Telegram & Gazette)
The Boston Public Schools have been paying some employees under the table for extra work, improperly drawing from student activity accounts for the payments, which were not reported to the Internal Revenue Service. (Boston Globe)
Tufts University has cancelled a scheduled appearance this week by Anthony Scaramucci, who (very briefly) served as White House communications director, after he threatened to sue the campus student newspaper over an op-ed he deemed false and defamatory. (Boston Globe)
College of the Holy Cross is considering replacing its sports-team symbol “The Crusader,” but some alums, including former Celtics player and coach Tommy Heinsohn, are not happy. He called the idea of ditching the symbol “political correctness run amok.” (Boston Herald)
Boston Herald health reporter Lindsay Kalter has the first in a series of first-person pieces on her recent battle with depression.
Sources say the T plans to part ways with Global Contact Services, the company hired to run the consolidated call center for the transit authority’s paratransit service. (CommonWealth)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh — a recovering alcoholic — slammed the MBTA’s decision to begin accepting advertising for alcohol. (Boston Herald) A Herald editorial dismisses Walsh’s criticism and calls him a hypocrite, noting the winter festival on City Hall Plaza features tents where alcoholic drinks are served.
After worries that the Trump administration might look to axe the program, federal assistance to low-income residents to buy home heating oil is still in place — and sorely needed, say Metro West social service agencies. (MetroWest Daily News)
MEDIAHow much editorial license should opinion writers be granted? Here’s how CommonWealth handled one dispute about the facts.
Time Inc., publisher of Time, Sports Illustrated, and People magazines, is sold for nearly $3 billion to Iowa-based Meredith Corporation in a deal that included $650 million of private equity money from conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. (New York Times)