Butler decision must be reconsidered

DEAR EDITOR:

I’m sure you’ve heard the controversy over the Butler Museum of American Art in Youngstown making the decision to decline the Boy Scouts of America’s fine art collection that includes 66 Norman Rockwell paintings.

For over two years I’ve listened to conversations between my husband Ned Gold and the fine arts committee for the Boy Scouts (BSA), carefully working a deal to bring the collection valued at $130 million to the Butler.

He convinced the BSA to look at the Butler’s facilities. After visiting both the Howland and main Butler branches and speaking with Butler Director Lou Zona, the committee agreed the Butler was the perfect place for the collection.

In September, 100 percent of the board voted to accept the collection. Ned negotiated the contract that was signed by the Butler and the BSA.

Then the Wall Street Journal published an article stating the BSA might consider bankruptcy to avoid child abuse suits when several states considered dropping statute of limitations on claims.

After discussing the matter with the BSA, a $100,000 fee, that was to be given to the BSA by the Butler for the opportunity to house and market the collection to other museums, was taken off the table.

Some of the board was thinking the Butler’s financial supporters would not look favorably on them for accepting this collection due to these concerns. There are bad people in all youth organizations, but no one is more proactive about weeding out predators than the Boy Scouts.

At the last meeting of the Butler board, it was decided that the Butler would table the matter and revisit it in 2020. The BSA won’t — and shouldn’t — wait that long for a decision. This marvelous collection will be housed in another museum, in another city! The opportunity will be lost forever! There is no revisiting the issue next year!

Worried about backlash from their financial supporters, they didn’t take into consideration the public outcry. People in our community are disgusted with the Butler’s decision. We and several other prominent board members and community leaders are stunned at their parochial thinking.

One of the Howland Butler’s biggest supporters has discussed pulling funding for that branch.

When Ned sees something that would bring so much good to an area that many people view as a failing part of Ohio, he’s going to stir the pot! He has nothing but good intentions for the Butler and the Mahoning Valley.

If the director and the board refuse to reverse their decision, there will be many at the Butler and in our community who will live to regret this ridiculous choice to decline the BSA art collection.

I encourage everyone to urge the Butler to accept the collection now before it’s too late!

DEBORAH BEMIS-GOLD

Howland

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