I was included in some email threads last week that were helping to shape what became a petition to the Brooklyn Museum and its new director, Anne Pasternak. These conversations opened out to include several community groups who also oppose an upcoming real estate summit that has rented event space from the Museum. The effort has strong support from past and future Brooklyn Museum artists.
The central issue is that commercial and residential displacement is occurring in Brooklyn at a traumatizing pace, and petitioners feel the event is a betrayal of the Museum’s community-service mission. The Museum is located in a city-owned building and its power, lights and heat are paid for by New York City. The Museum has rented space to real-estate companies for events in the past, but, lately, more and more residents are paying attention and have begun speaking out against the practice, and petitioners are hoping that the Museum’s new director will be receptive to requests for change.
Pasternak responded quickly. The artists’ and writers’ petition began circulating on November 6 (and currently has more than 800 signatures), and on November 8, Pasternak posted (on the Museum’s Tumblr) a list of the ways she is addressing artists’ concerns. Pasternak’s prompt reply and willingness to grant artists’ requests exposes the petition’s key weakness: It spotlights important issues and does solid work to make artists visible as a passionate and cohesive group—but it asks too little.
What do I mean? I mean that money talks. I mean at the end of 2003, Brooklyn Museum’s net assets (according to its IRS Form 990) were $176,498,511. At the end of 2013, net assets had grown to $270,878,003—an increase of $100 million.
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