Boy Scouts art should be welcomed

We are thrilled that an agreement has been inked between the Boy Scouts of America and locally based Foundation Medici that will bring 350 valuable works of art to the Mahoning Valley this year, hopefully for a very lengthy stay.

Custodianship of the collection, which includes 65 original Norman Rockwell paintings, will be extended to Foundation Medici, and the art will be on display at the Howland facility formerly known as the Butler Institute of American Art Trumbull Branch. Now, arrangements are in the works to transport the collection from Texas, where it is being stored. The new name of the Howland museum and other details should be announced soon.

Foundation Medici provided the land and most funding to build a Trumbull County art museum, but following controversy that erupted over the Boy Scouts of America art collection, the foundation pulled the plug on its relationship with the Butler.

Local attorney Ned Gold, who was a board member of the Butler and also very involved in the Boy Scouts of America, had been active in negotiating an earlier agreement to bring the BSA collection to the Howland museum at 9350 E. Market St. when it still was affiliated with the Butler. Sadly, when the deal was getting close, the Butler’s board of trustees voted in December 2018 to table it.

That decision followed a Wall Street Journal story reporting that BSA was exploring all options, including filing for bankruptcy, to protect itself from the potential lawsuits that could happen as states lengthen and eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual assault claims.

Louis A. Zona, executive director of the Butler, said at that time the museum was hesitant to spend the money to transport the collection to the Mahoning Valley and insure it, only for the BSA to sell it in a bankruptcy liquidation. He also expressed apprehension about displaying Boy Scout-themed art at a time when the organization was receiving such negative publicity.

By June, Foundation Medici gave the Butler six months’ notice that it was terminating the operating agreement with the Youngstown museum.

Upon Gold’s urging, the Boy Scouts of America’s general counsel agreed to restart negotiations, this time to bring the artwork to the Howland museum which, by the end of the year, officially had severed ties with the Butler.

Obviously, there has been much debate over whether the local museum should open its arms to the collection, especially in light of some of the troubles surrounding the Boy Scouts of America.

But those who opposed the deal likely were overlooking some key factors.

The collection will create opportunity for both art novices and connoisseurs alike to study, learn and enjoy the art.

Certainly, the prestige of the collection and its subject matter will increase this area’s desirability as a tourist destination. In addition to the Rockwell works, the collection includes four works by artist / filmmaker Walt Disney and some other recognizable names in the art world.

And despite the controversies that have surrounded the Boy Scouts recently, it still would be hard for anyone to argue against the incredible amount of good that has come from Scouting.

In fact, here is a quick list of some amazing Americans who were Boy Scouts: astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin; professional athletes Hank Aaron, Michael Jordan, Steve Young, Joe Theismann and Nolan Ryan; journalist Walter Cronkite; civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.; entertainers Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Andy Griffith, Jay Leno, John Wayne and George Strait; and past Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford and John F. Kennedy.

Any further doubt about the good that Scouting has created can easily be overcome simply by reading this newspaper on any given day — including its obituaries that often mention the positive impact Scouting had on residents’ lives — coupled by community stories that often showcase the projects done by Scouts seeking increased ranks and badges.

Yes, the planned arrival of the BSA artwork is thrilling. Undoubtedly, it should be anticipated and welcomed without hesitation or controversy.


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