Post #399 • November 1, 2004, 6:13 AM • 10 Comments
Martin Z. Margulies responds to questions from Artblog.net regarding his recent advertisement in the New Times, which encourages everyone to vote No on Bond Question #8. I sent questions to the press liason at the Miami Art Museum, who has put them in front of MAM director Suzanne Delehanty and will try to get replies to me ASAP. Look for a special evening edition of Artblog.net if he succeeds.
Artblog.net: You claim in your advertisement that "$275 million of Bond Question #8 is slated for the construction of two private art museums." The facts indicate that Museum Park will consist of one art museum and one science museum, and that both museums will be public institutions. Do you want to clarify this?
Martin Z. Margulies: These are private organizations run by a private Board of Directors who should be raising money privately to run and build their private institutions. It is correct that there is one art museum and one science museum. Both are privately run and each are claiming four acres of public park land for concrete buildings and additional park land for a sculpture garden and other exhibits for a total of 16 acres out of 29 acres of public park land. Consistently throughout the country private museums are funded by privately raised money not by using tax payer money. If a museum wants a new building they go to their patron base and they raise the money through private donations. If they can't raise the money they don't build a museum or expand. The Guggenheim, Whitney and Chicago Art Institute are prime examples, all recently canceled or postponed expansion plans because they could not raise the money privately and these museums have enormous, world class collections and patrons. MAM has neither a collection or a patron base.
AB.N: You list a number of woes afflicting Miami, and suggest that the $275 million slated for Museum Park would be better spent on them. One of them is the fact, according to your ad, that 100,000 children do not have health insurance. We do not have socialized health care in this country (in fact, it only ever becomes increasingly privatized), so it seems that those children will continue to have no insurance even if Miamians vote No on Question #8. Why would having no museum and no insurance for those kids be preferable to having a museum and no insurance for those kids, since this is what the choice boils down to?
MZM:It is not an either-or situation; either we have museum buildings or we have health insurance for underprivileged children. It is a matter of priorities. The "woes afflicting Miami", as you put it are far more important than building trophy museum buildings, which in the case of MAM will be empty because they have NO art collection. We already have five art museums in Dade County and these museums already have collections. This has nothing to do with socialized health care. We have to take care of children in this community whether they have health insurance or not. They are our priority.
AB.N: You also list a lack of parkland, a deficit at Jackson Memorial Hospital, 29% of people living below the poverty line, and uncompensated police and firefighters. Question #2 (Construct And Improve Parks And Recreational Facilities) will go towards increasing parkland, Question #5 (Construct And Improve Emergency And Healthcare Facilities) is aimed squarely at Jackson, Questions #6 (Construct And Improve Public Service Outreach Facilities) and #7 (Construct And Improve Housing For The Elderly And Families) are intended for the poor, and Question #4 (Construct And Improve Public Safety Facilities) seems directed at police and firefighters. One item on your list remains - a need to shore up the infrastructure of the schools. No ballot questions directly address this issue, but the one that comes close ("To construct and improve libraries, cultural facilities, and Head Start learning centers for pre-school children to offer multicultural educational opportunities and activities") is the same Question #8 (Construct And Improve Cultural, Library, And Multicultural Educational Facilities) that you would like us to vote No on. With most of your issues being addressed to the tune of millions of dollars by the other referendums, what's the harm in building Museum Park, particularly if its ordinance will begin to take care of some educational needs as well?
MZM: It is unfortunate that with bond question #8 there are many worthy institutions that really do deserve funding such as Head Start. But the fact is the money that these deserving organizations will receive is minuscule compared to the $275 million the museums construction plan will receive. The wording of the bond question is deceptive because the word museum or park doesn't even appear. Voters are not told that park land will be given away. Why build anything in the last waterfront park in this community? The city of New York turned down the Metropolitan Museum of art when they tried to build an addition in adjacent Central Park and the Museum had raised all the money for construction privately. Giving away open park land to build an empty art museum with public tax dollars is absurd.
AB.N: To what degree is your opposition to Museum Park prompted by animosity towards MAM director Suzanne Delehanty, MAM's board, or staff?
MZM: I have absolutely nothing but respect for Suzanne Delehanty. I have known her for many years. She has a fine reputation in the art world as a true professional. Over the years I have lent works of art from my collection to MAM and have hosted artists and curators in my home. Approximately a year and a half ago when we organized an open forum to discuss the proposed museum plan, Suzanne accepted our invitation to appear on a panel to present ideas to the community. Members of her board, namely Susana Ibargüen and Rose Ellen Green, sent a disturbing letter withdrawing Suzanne's participation. The letter made personal attacks on my integrity and was distributed behind the scenes to many people. The board even went as far as to claim that a new museum building for MAM was going to revitalize Overtown and by questioning the project I was hindering the revitalization of an underprivileged community. The board couldn't stand up to the challenging questions, such as why build a new building if you already have one and you don't have any art, so they forced Suzanne to step down and withdraw from openly, publicly discussing the issue with the art community here. I feel sorry for Suzanne because what makes the art world interesting is the challenge of different opinions and above all to speak upfront and openly. As far as their staff, I know Peter Boswell who I have the greatest respect for. As far as the board, well, four of the top 200 art collectors in the world live in Miami and none of them are on the board. That should tell you something.