Butler board’s cold feet on $130M Rockwell collection creates tension

Staff report


Ned Gold, a Butler Institute of American Art trustee, said he hopes there’s still time to save a deal to bring $130 million worth of Norman Rockwell art to The Butler’s Howland branch.

The Butler board voted Jan. 11 to table the deal due to concerns about the collection’s owner, Boy Scouts of America, which is considering bankruptcy partially due to costs from lawsuits over sex-abuse allegations, according to a report published Dec. 12 in The Wall Street Journal.

“They were worried it was going to cause people not to donate to the museum ... because the Boy Scouts owned it,” he said.

Gold called the board’s fear of pedophilia “irrational” and said he hopes to call an emergency board meeting to reverse the decision, as the next regular meeting isn’t for another two months.

“The BSA isn’t going to wait a year, and we’re going to lose a $130 million collection that would bring people in from all over this part of the country,” he said. “The benefits to be reaped are immense.”

John Anderson, a director of Foundation Medici, which funded construction of the Howland museum, said the board’s “180-degree” decision essentially breached its contract with Boy Scouts of America. He said he penned a letter of objection Friday to the Butler board president.

“This was basically an action on the part of The Butler which has pushed ... issues that we already had with the operation of the branch, which has not been, in any way, up to the expectations that were had about The Butler and its commitments,” he said.

Lou Zona, executive director of The Butler, could not be reached to comment Friday.