Thanks to Mayor Romeo-Theken, city officials & departments and staff, residents, volunteers, archives and generous grant awards & donations, — Gloucester’s extant historic mural collection has begun a new chapter and is beginning to receive most fitting care at the illustrious Williamstown Art Conservation Center!
Located on the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute campus, The Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC) is a non-profit institution that was established as the regional conservation center for New England by the US government back in 1977.
The summer 2017 issue of Art Conservator, WACC’s indispensable industry magazine, focused on the center’s 40th anniversary milestone and Director Tom Branchick. The back page prints the 2017 Center consortium members.
Conservators at the center assessed the condition and performed necessary triage because of the invaluable support from the city’s Community Preservation Act (CPA). CPA funding and Williamstown Art Conservation Center’s stature are inspiring endorsements for broadcasting the project and compelling additional financial support. As money is raised, every mural will have its necessary care regimen completed. Donations in support of the mural care can be sent c/o the Auditor’s Office, City of Gloucester, 9 Dale Avenue, Gloucester, MA (note mural restoration). All murals will be displayed in Gloucester as soon as their care is completed.
Sneak peek then and now:
The former Eastern Avenue School (85 Eastern Avenue) was the site for the monumental mural, Schooldays, by Frederick L. Stoddard, from 1936. This multi-panel triptych was painted 8 feet high and nearly 60 feet long despite an array of unusual architectural challenges. My hunch for its original location on the main floor was confirmed thanks to Barbara Tarr. I’m looking for interior photos of the school that show the mural installed. Over time the school walls were resurfaced, doors blocked, and an elevator installed. Based on my expertise, I recognized that a stand alone piece was misattributed and must have been dispersed, not as bad as the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz after the flying monkeys descend-… still it was dire and will be amazing to have it whole once again! Special thanks go to Gloucester’s Department of Public Works.
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COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS SUPERIOR COURT DEPARTMENT OF THE TRIAL COURT SUFFOLK, SS. Case No. 1884CV03213C Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston VS. Maura Healey, as she is the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Free City Library Association TO: Free City Library Association You are hereby notified that a complaint has been filed against you by the above named plaintiff. This complaint concerns a certain parcel of land with building(s) known as 58 Prospect Street, located in Gloucester, Essex County, and said Commonwealth. Plaintiff seeks a judgment declaring that it owns said property through adverse possession, extinguishing any rights that you may have had to said property through the deed from
Jeremiah J. HealytoFree City Library Association dated April 24, 1900
and recorded with the Southern Essex District Registry of Deeds in Book 1607, Page 259, or for such further relief as the Court deems just and appropriate. This complaint may be examined at the Superior Court for Suffolk County, Boston, Massachusetts or a copy obtained from plaintiff’s attorney. If you intend to make any defense, you are hereby required to serve upon the plaintiff’s attorney, Kimberly Kroha, Esq., Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C. whose address is 300 Crown Colony Drive, Suite 500, Quincy, MA 02169-0904 a responsive pleading to the complaint on or before the 31st day of January, 2019, the return day, hereof, and a copy thereof must be filed in the Suffolk Superior Court on or before said day. If you fail to do so, judgment by default will be taken against you for the relief demanded in the complaint. Unless otherwise provided by Rule 13(a), your answer must state as a counterclaim any claim which you may have against the plaintiff which arise out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the plaintiff’s claim or you will thereafter be barred from making such claim in any other action. GT – 12,28, 1/4, 1/11/19
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Justice Lowy’s JUDGEMENT was released April 5, 2018. The Museum may sell Shuffleton’s Barbershop, and — via Sotheby’s– the remaining 39 works free of any restrictions.
“The museum has satisfied its burden of establishing that is has become impossible or impracticable to administer the Museum strictly in accordance with its chartiable purpose, thus entitling the Museum to relief under the doctrine of equitable deviation. Accordingly the court allows the Museum’s request for equitable relief to sell the designated artwork.”
Justice Lowy MEMO OF UNDERSTANDING
Reaction from Sotheby’s Auction House:
“We are very pleased that the court approved the agreement reached between the Berkshire Museum and the Massachusetts Attorney General. We look forward to working with the museum to ensure a bright future for the people of Pittsfield and Western Massachusetts.” Judge Lowy’s decision came in just in time to meet the auction’s press deadline clearing for art sales this spring, else sales would have been pushed back till the fall at the earliest. The catalogue pages are ready from last fall’s prep.
Reaction from Elizabeth McGraw, President, Berkshire Museum Board of Trustees:
“This is great news for the people of Berkshire County and everyone who visits the Berkshire Museum for one-of-a-kind experiences in history, art, and science. We recognize this decision may not please those who have opposed the museum’s plans. Still, we hope people will be able to move forward in a constructive way to help us secure and strengthen the future of this museum, at a time when our community needs it more than ever. “
“Save the Art-Save the Museum continues to oppose the sale of the Berkshire Museum’s art treasures and its unrestricted use of the resulting funds. We also regret the judge’s disregard of the public trust in which the museum held its collections. The impending sale will not only diminish Pittsfield as a city claiming to be of cultural import to Berkshire County, but will reverberate destructively for years through collections similarly held in trust throughout the state and country. As a group, we will make a more detailed statement after meeting in person to consider the loss to our community and its impact.”
Have a look back at an inspiring 1965 Berkshire Eagle profile about Berkshire Museum Director Stuart C. Henry, and an earlier feature from the Berkshire Evening Eagle, published Thursday, Aug. 20, 1953, heralding the Berkshire Museum’s 50th anniversary. Both convey the museum’s seamless blend of high art, science, community and education.
In 2017, the Berkshire Museum was sued multiple times because of the possible sales of 40 works of art at public auctions. The art has long left the building. The winning consignor, Sotheby’s auction house, received all property prior to the 2017 public announcement from museum leadership blowing its “New Vision” horn. The art remains on hold at Sotheby’s.
At high noon on March 20, 2018, in Courtroom 2 of the John Adams Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, Justice David Lowy presided over the ongoing Berkshire Museum deaccession litigation. Four attorneys, two for each side, were summoned before the Massachusetts Supreme Court to argue positions. Justice Lowy began the hearing by addressing the elephant in the room. He announced that because the Attorney General Office and the Berkshire Museum, former adversaries, petitioned the court together for necessary relief, he thought it was important to hear opposing views. Therefore, he invited amici to present their arguments, too.
Naturally, this hearing was welcome news for opponents of the museum’s plans to liquidate a priceless core collection in favor of a makeover, still reeling from their perception that the Attorney General abdicated mightily February 9, 2018. Trustees, who believe the museum is broke and will shutter any day if not for this new strategy, were disheartened but determined.
Justice Lowy made the stunning announcement upfront that restrictions do apply, and are a given. The Office of the Attorney General (AGO) and the Supreme Court agree about standing. The museum maintains it has the right to liquidate.The only way that any art can be sold is if the legal contracts pertaining to the Berkshire Museum’s charter and mission and provenance for the art are abandoned because the museum successfully conveys its pending demise. Then it gets a do-over. The legal term is cy pres (pronounced say, pray. I prefer pray stay!)
IF sold, Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop, which has crystal clear provenance, was estimated to fetch the highest price at auction. Inexplicably, the petition before the court boasted of a breezy compromise between the AGO and Berkshire Museum: an anonymous museum will purchase the painting for 1)an undisclosed price (I guarantee that it’s less than public auction), 2) promises a temporary display in Massachusetts, at the Norman Rockwell Museum, and 3)eventually feature it as part of the mystery museum’s permanent collection. Where is the museum? What is the sale price and terms? If its destiny is beyond a Massachusetts border, why isn’t the Commonwealth protecting its resources?*
*Which museum committed funds for Shuffleton Barbershop and can afford to pounce and avoid driving up the price at auction? Perhaps Crystal Bridges Museum backed by Wal-Mart heiress, Alice Walton, could strike again. Norman Rockwell is already represented in its collection. Is it worth it to add another? The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art could be a contender. George Lucas boasts an impressive Rockwell collection, including ideal examples with cinematic connections or narratives, like the stunning study for charwomen (in movie theater). Is that enough representation to let it go were Berkshire Museum Rockwells cleared to sell?
The other works of art could be sold, or not. One doesn’t get the impression that the AGO was stepping in for the underdog. Leave it to Norman Rockwell to capture the attention of a busy world to illustrate a simple maxim: do the right thing. If legal manuevering is necessary, like crazy zoning variances for unfair construction, most collections will be at a disadvantage. It’s up to the Massachusetts Supreme Court to remedy this balderdash & betrayal else risk breaking the bank of non profits across the country.
Justice Lowy asked that the attorneys focus their arguments on selling with restrictions: “Is it necessary and impossible or impracticable for the Museum’s charitable mission to continue?” All parties stuck to this request, and to their filed briefs more or less. I tried to capture word for word the moments when Justice Lowy interrupted rote statements. Justice Lowy has made no decisions, yet. Eventually, he will decide whether to allow the parties’ petition, deny it, or reserve and report which means bringing the case back to the full court.
Proponents side or Opponents side?
Upon arrival, where to sit at the courtroom felt like where to sit at a wedding. The Berkshire Museum Trustees, Director Van Shields, and those in favor of the Berkshire Museum deaccession sale sat together on the left side of the courtroom. Opponents, numbering 2:1, sat in the center, off to the right, and spilled into the hall. With every available chair claimed some were left standing in the back.
Up first – Attorney Nicholas M. O’Donnell
of Sullivan & Worcester LLP law firm and Erika Todd on behalf of ‘Berkshire Museum Member Plaintiffs’: James Hatt, Kristin Hatt, and Elizabeth Weinberg
O’Donnell excerpt- “Massachusetts stands alone, this decision puts Massachusetts alone …That this court, this petition, this hearing, may be the ONLY obstacle left to account for this action should be unimaginable. IF a conclusory report of operational deficits can support the liquidation for the sale…Make no mistake, I say the art market is watching–”
Justice Lowy cut in- “Maybe they are. I’ve certainly read your key points, Maybe not. Systemic issues that flow from this are not my focus…”
Courtroom 2 at John Adams Courthouse is quiet now but come noon today the Berkshire Museum deaccession art case will have it’s next day in court, this time the highest in the Commonwealth.
Attorneys for Parties (The Trustees Berkshire Museum and Massachusetts AGO) vs. Amici (Patti and Hatt groups) will present as follows:
Amici will go first Tom Patti and Hatt groups, then AGO, and Trustees last. Justice Lowy can decide to allow the patries’ petition, deny it, or reserve and report which means bringing the case back to the full court.
Huge step and opportunity. Justice Lowy has scheduled a hearing on Tuesday March 20 for counsel and parties! High noon. This is not to the full court; first stop is before the Single Justice. Justice Lowy has allowed 10 minutes each for oral argument.
FBI posed as art buyers for Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist scam
Thirteen works of art were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum March 18, 1990, one of the highest profile art thefts of the century and listed as #2 on the FBI top 10 art crimes list. There has been an ongoing investigation for recovery ever since including incentive for tips that was raised to ten million dollars. Todd Andrew Desper of West Virginia had the dead stupid and criminal intent to advertise the Gardner Museum’s masterpieces, The Storm of the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt (for 5 million), and The Concert by Vermeer (for 50 million) …wait for it…on Craigslist overseas. FBI posed as potential buyers and arrested Desper May 20, 2017. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston on July 20, 2017. Here’s a link to the FBI press release. Last week, Desper plead guilty to wire fraud and attempted wire fraud. Sentencing is scheduled for May 15th.
Meanwhile, the Berkshire Museum case is pending Single Justice decision.
“Famed Fishing Port Shudders as Its Codfather Goes to Jail
“Carlos Rafael, who ruled New Bedford’s fishing of cod and haddock, was caught lying about his catches. Now the piers have grown quiet.”
“Carlos Rafael, whose initials are emblazoned on boats all over this port city, boasted that his fishing empire was worth even more than official records showed. His trick? When he caught fish that are subject to strict catch limits, like gray sole or cod, he would report that his nets were filled with something far more plentiful, like haddock.
“We call them something else, it’s simple,” Mr. Rafael told visitors who seemed interested in buying his business. “We’ve been doing it for over 30 years.” He showed off a special ledger labeled “cash.” And he described an under-the-table deal he had going with a New York fish buyer, saying at one point, “You’ll never find a better laundromat.”
But Mr. Rafael’s visitors turned out to be Internal Revenue Service agents, and the conversations, caught on tape and described in court documents, began the unraveling of Mr. Rafael, whose reign over a segment of this region’s fishing industry gave him his larger-than-life nickname, “the Codfather…” read the complete article
I didn’t know John Bullard, NOAA Northeast Administrator who worked there from 2012-and retired Jan 5, 2018–was a former Mayor of New Bedford, despite good coverage on his tenure in the Gloucester Daily Times. I missed that detail but it jumped out to me with the sting stories. Maybe more reason to be recused from Gloucester decisions…
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Here’s the complete official doc while awaiting Single Justice ruling. More to come.
VIA EMAIL February 9, 2018
William F. Lee, Esq. WilmerHale 60 State Street Boston, MA 02109 Re: Sale of Works of Art by Trustees of the Berkshire Museum
Dear Attorney Lee,
Thank you for your and the Trustees of the Berkshire Museum’s (the “Museum”) continued cooperation while the Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”) investigated the proposed sale of 40 of the Museum’s most valuable works of fine art in order to fund a “New Vision.” As the AGO indicated to the Museum last September, after reviewing the proposed sale of all 40 items and planned use of proceeds ($76 million or more based on auction estimates), the AGO concluded that the objects that have been deaccessioned and offered for sale are subject to restrictions that prohibit the Museum from selling them in the manner proposed absent court approval lifting or modifying the restrictions. As we have also discussed, and as we outline further in this letter, while we continue to believe that these restrictions apply, the investigation has led us to agree with the Museum that it would be impracticable for the Museum to continue its operations without a sale, subject to, however, certain guidelines. Therefore, the AGO is prepared to support the Museum in its request to the Supreme Judicial Court for approval to sell up to 40 items subject to certain agreed-upon sale parameters.
The Museum first provided notice of the planned sale on June 22, 2017. The notice indicated that the Museum was proposing to sell 40 works of fine art from its collection in order to fund a “New Vision,” which will include the creation of a $40 million “endowment” and dedicate $20 million to facilities upgrades and repairs. Over the course of further communications with the AGO pertaining to the AGO’s investigation, the Museum asserted that it is in dire financial need and requires a significant capital infusion in order for the Museum to be able to continue to fulfill its charitable mission. Further, the Museum asserted that the only way it could achieve that necessary capital infusion was by selling the identified 40 of works of fine art from its permanent collection. The Museum stated that it had come to this decision as part of a two-year process undertaken by the Board of Directors to consider alternative directions for the Museum that would create a more sustainable financial future for the Museum.
-page 2 of 5-
Upon receipt of the Museum’s June 22, 2017 notice letter, the AGO undertook a careful investigation of the Museum’s plans. As part of this review, the AGO requested and reviewed over 2300 documents bearing on the Museum and its Board’s decision-making process as well as donor intent and restrictions on objects donated or bequeathed to the Museum. These documents included, inter alia, board materials, minutes and agendas, committee materials, meeting minutes and agendas, board retreat materials. Museum policies and procedures, other internal Museum and board communications, files associated with each of the artworks that the Museum plans to sell, archival director files, and other historical files. The AGO also interviewed Museum employees, board members, and third party witnesses regarding, inter alia, the Museum’s history, the Board’s efforts to date to stabilize the Museum’s finances, the Board’s decisionmaking process related to deaccessioning and selling art from its collection, the Museum’s consideration of alternatives to selling art to revitalize the Museum, the intent of donors, and employee experience at the Museum.
In addition to the AGO’s review of documents and interviews with witnesses, the AGO also worked to understand all components of the Museum’s decision. In doing so, the AGO consulted with and relied on experts to provide the AGO with information regarding museum industry best practices, the Museum’s finances, and the impact of a decision to deaccession and sell art from a museum’s permanent collection.
The AGO is charged with review of the proposed sale for compliance with charities law, including an assessment of such factors as whether there are any restrictions that limit or prohibit the Museum from selling the chosen objects and whether, if such restrictions exist, it is impossible or impracticable for the Museum to fulfill its charitable mission and meet the intent of the donors without seeking court approval to lift or amend those restrictions. A summary of our conclusions related to this part of our review is described below.
1. Restrictions On The Works of Art Proposed for Sale
As detailed elsewhere (e.g., in its filings in the litigation referenced above) the AGO believes that all of the works of art deaccessioned and proposed for sale are subject to one or more restrictions that limit the Museum’s ability to proceed with its planned sale and use of proceeds to fund an endowment, pay for operating expenses and fund renovations. The Museum continues to believe no restrictions (beyond the Museum’s charitable purposes) apply. In light of certain findings from the AGO’s investigation described below, and in an effort to avoid unnecessary expenditure of charitable and government resources on litigation to determine which view of the restrictions would ultimately be found to be legally correct, the AGO and the Museum have agreed on a framework for requesting authorization for a sale under specific conditions. First, all of the 40 works of art identified for sale have been, until recently, part of the Museum’s permanent collection. These works of art constitute most of the monetary value of the Museum’s fine art collection and have historically been devoted to fulfilling the art component of the Museum’s three-part mission. The Museum has also long represented itself to donors and the public as an art museum (even though not solely an art museum). Further, the Museum policies and professional affiliations in place at the time the objects were selected for deaccessioning reflect a commitment by the Museum to hold its art for art puiposes, and
Emily Snyder, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General and Carol Bosco Baumann for the Berkshire Museum convey a shared goal: “We are working together to resolve this matter, recognizing our shared responsibility for the collection of the Berkshire Museum and to the community the museum serves. We are committed to helping this museum secure its future.”
Here’s the complete joint status report:
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
APPEALS COURT 2017-J-0510
Berkshire County, ss.
THOMAS ROCKWELL, JARVIS ROCKWELL, PETER ROCKWELL,
TOM PATTI, TOM PATTI DESIGN LLC, JAMES LAMME, DONALD MACGILLIS, JONAS DOVYDENAS, and JEAN ROUSSEAU,
TRUSTEES OF THE BERKSHIRE MUSEUM and MAURA HEALEY, in her capacity as Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Defendants. CONSOLIDATED WITH
JAMES HATT, KRISTIN HATT, AND ELIZABETH WEINBERG, individually and derivatively on behalf of the Trustees of the Berkshire Museum, Plaintiffs,
TRUSTEES OF THE BERKSHIRE MUSEUM, et al., Defendants.
On Appeal From Berkshire Superior Court
Joint Status Report of the Attorney General and Trustees of the Berkshire
The Substituted Plaintiff-Appellant Attorney General Maura Healey (“AGO”) and Defendant-Appellee Trustees of the Berkshire Museum (the “Museum”) submit this joint status report.
The AGO has now concluded its investigation into the decision by the Museum to sell 40 works from its collection. The additional time granted by this Court for the investigation permitted the AGO, with the Museum’s cooperation, to undertake additional review of inter alia over 1500 documents and interview further key Museum employees and board members. The AGO believes that the 40 works at issue are subject to restrictions, which the Museum does not believe exist. The AGO and the Museum have agreed to resolve these differences and will file a petition for judicial relief pursuant to the principles of equitable instruction, deviation and/or cy pres with the Single Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on February 9, 2018 or shortly thereafter. The AGO will support the relief requested by the petition. In addition, the Museum will not sell any of the 40 works until the SJC acts on the petition or until the Berkshire County Superior Court enters final judgment regarding the AGO’s complaint in the matter captioned Rockwell et al. v. Trustees of the Berkshire Museum, No. 17-253 (allowing, if the Museum should prevail, for 7 calendar days post-judgment for the AGO to seek further relief pending appeal), should such proceedings again become necessary. The Museum and the AGO intend to file a motion in the trial court requesting that proceedings there be held in abeyance while the aforementioned petition is pending. As a result of these commitments by the Museum, the AGO does not seek any further injunctive relief or stay of Superior Court proceedings at this time.
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11/10/2017 Motion for stay under M.R.A.P. 6(a) filed by Maura Healy.
11/10/2017 Memorandum of law in support filed for Maura Healy
11/10/2017 Record Appendix Volume I filed by Maura Healy
11/10/2017 Record Appendix Volume II filed by Maura Healy
11/10/2017 IMPOUNDED Record Appendx filed by Maura Healy
11/10/2017 Response to Motion to Stay, filed by Tom Patti, Tom Patti Design LLC.8
11/102017 Motion to exceed page limit filed for Trustees of Berkshire Musuem by Attorney William Lee.
11/10/2017 Opposition to Motion to Stay, filed by Trustees of Berkshire Musuem.
11/10/2017 Supplemental Record appendix filed for Trustees of Berkshire Musuem
11/10/2017 ORDER: The motion for a stay pending appeal pursuant to Mass. R. App. P. 6(a) from the November 7, 2017, order of the Superior Court denying the request for a preliminary injunction, is allowed. The Attorney General’s Office shall forthwith file a notice of appeal in the Superior Court if it has not already done so. The Attorney General’s Office shall file a status report on or before December 11, 2017, regarding the status of the appeal. (Trainor, J.). Notice/attest/Agostini, J.
11/10/2017 ORDER: After reviewing the parties’ submissions, the request for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the defendant, Trustees of the Berkshire Museum from selling, auctioning, or otherwise disposing of any of the artworks that have been listed for auction commencing on November 13, 2017, is allowed. The balance of the risk of irreparable harm to the petitioner and the respondent in light of each party’s chance of success on the merits weighs in favor of the petitioner. Packaging Industries Group, Inc. v. Cheney, 380 Mass. 609, 615-617 (1980). The injunction shall expire on December 11, 2017. Prior to the expiration of the injunction, the Attorney General’s Office may move to extend the injunction with a date certain by which the investigation will be completed. (Trainor, J.). Notice/attest/Agostini, J.
This 11th hour move is not the last word on the case. Stay tuned!
On Monday, November 13, 2017, collectors CAN purchase Martin Johnson Heade’s Crimson Topaz Hummingbirds from Sotheby’s.
But not Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop, or any of the Berkshire Museum 40, for now.