Monday, June 22, 2009

Laguna Art Museum Merger Pushed by Financial Dealers

Many of long-term supporters of the Laguna Art Museum were shock when the Board of Trustees on February 27, 1996, voted 26 to 0 to merge with the Newport Harbor Art Museum. I was involved in "Save Laguna Art Museum" trying to keep the art museum in town. Financial types, those who demonstrated little knowledge or even interest in art, were the driving forces behind the merger.

Making interesting reading are the following excerpts from a Los Angeles Times business section front page story entitled "The Art of the Deal" by Barbara Marsh which was published Sunday, March 10, 1996:
• "Charles D. Martin and Gilbert E. LaVasseur Jr. have built successful careers by launching, restructuring and putting complex organizations together."

• “Two of the corporate world’s distinguished movers and shakers find that reshaping O.C.’s museum scene can leave folks a little bit … well, shaken.”

• “the plan calls for making a financially sturdy museum out of two wobbly ones.”

• “Original plans suggested closing the historic Laguna museum building”

• “in their drive to cut a deal, they emphasized its financial merits while failing to articulate an artistic vision.”

• Martin says, “What we dramatically underestimated was the element of a kind of self-centered parochialism within the Laguna community.”

• Adds LeVasseur, "I thought we were doing the right thing for this institution and when anybody saw it, it'd be hands down, everybody'd go for it."

• “Indeed, the economics looked so favorable that trustees on both sides were easily persuaded, and both boards approved the plan Feb 27 [1996]. But some key constituencies …[including] the Laguna residents were left out of the loop.”

• [LeVasseur] ‘confesses that he has such trouble remembering artists’ names that while struggling to recall his favorites during the interview, he jotted them down on his palm”.

• “Laguna residents cringed as the deal makers referred to their prized museum and its collection in business lingo. ‘[LeVasseur] called our collection ‘product’ and our museum ‘land mass’”

• “LeVasseur is kicking himself for failing to read up on Laguna museum quirky bylaws until a month ago. They give 1,383 voting members – about 390 of whom live in Laguna – the power to approve or disapprove the merger. If he’d known about them a year ago, he says, he would have followed standard corporate operating procedure: change the bylaws, shifting power to the trustees.”

• “[LeVasseur] and Martin now both express a longing –not uncommon among successful business people – to give something back. … bringing your skills to try and make a difference.”

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Blogger Angela said...

Hello. My name is Angela and I'm an online editor with the Orange County Register. I wanted to let you know that we've added a link to your blog on our Web site and are also pulling an RSS feed from it, as we do with a range of local bloggers.

Please let me know if you do not want your blog linked to from our site. And if you know of any other local bloggers we should be linking to, please let me know!

Thank you,

Angela Potter
The Orange County Register

June 22, 2009  

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