By PAM HARBAUGH
Here’s hoping Florida Tech’s board of trustees do the right thing for the community it calls home and revisit a recent decision.
I’m talking about the Foosaner Art Museum and the Renee Foosaner Education Center, which are owned and run by Florida Tech.
By now you’ve heard the shattering news that Florida Tech board of trustees recently voted to close the museum and its education center and put the property up for sale.
That is a rip in the fabric of the cultural community. And I don’t think it’s a very smart decision on the part of Florida Tech.
In addition to the blood, sweat and tears that it took to turn what was an old police station into a museum that serves a broad section of the community, what about the Foosaner legacy?What about those who may want to donate a fortune to Florida Tech to name a facility after a loved one? That’s what the late Dee Negroni Hendrick did when she gave million to Florida Tech, in good faith, to rename the museum after her parents, the Foosaners.
Oh my. This really feels like an unwise precedent.
And the collection. The years and committees and work that went into creating the museum’s collection would humble anyone who took a little bit of time to learn about it.
Will those works be kept in a place with the same rigorous climate and cleanliness control that the museum currently employs?
That collection has been acquired in the public trust. And that collection represents a.lot.of.money. Have there been bean-counter thoughts about the Clyde Butchers, the Conill Mendoza Collection of American Industrial Design and the world’s largest collection of art by German Impressionist Ernst Oppler . There are also single works by some great artists like Louise Nevelson, Antoni Tapias and Isabel Bishop. If any of it gets deaccessioned, then this is no better than the City of Detroit, which came perilously close to selling off paintings and sculpture from the world-class Detroit Institute of Arts in order to raise money.Hopefully that won’t happen. I’ve heard thoughts that Florida Tech could put the collection into an on-campus gallery. What gallery? Do you remember when the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts had its collection in a tiny gallery on the campus of Florida Tech? How many people actually went there to view it?
From my perspective, the collection wasn’t really brought to life until the late Ruth Funk Center opened.
Speaking of which, I also heard the idea that the Foosaner would share space in the Ruth Funk Center. Uhhh….so I don’t think that’s what Ruth Funk had in mind when she donated $1 million to Florida Tech to create the textile arts center, the only one of its kind in the American southeast.
And if they do that, then what about the state of the art curating and collections facility the Ruth Funk has on its bottom floor? Move that into what…that tiny gallery?
Arguments for closing the museum range from something like “our students can’t get to it easily enough” to “it’s too expensive.”
Well you know what? Community members can’t get to the Ruth Funk Center very easily. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to explain to interested parties how to get there, where to park.
It’s easier for those people to get to the Orlando Museum of Art or the Vero Beach Museum of Art.
And I can’t even imagine what families will do when they want to take their children to the museum, or sign them up for classes.
I was told that when Florida Tech took over the Foosaner in 2011, the university signed a contract (with whom, I do not know) stating they would run the Foosaner in that location for 10 years. I was also told that now they want to reneg on that contract because it is no longer valid because the parties that signed it are no longer “around” or something to that effect.
I wish I could be more precise on that. Nevertheless, what a horrible precedent yet again.
Here’s hoping Tom Powers, who helped negotiate that 2011 contract can get some legal heft for the community to force Florida Tech to abide by the 10 year agreement. In those three extra years, perhaps the community can rally to find another institution willing to run the cherished Foosaner Art Museum and its wonderful Foosaner Education Center.
Ugh…just, ugh! Seven years ago, Florida Tech was the shining knight on a white horse riding to the rescue of a struggling community asset. Now, as the horse rides into the sunset, all we see is its rear end.
To read Suzy Fleming Leonard’s story about this in Florida Today, click here.