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Issue Date: January 2014 Issue

Master Work: Question Marks

After David Franklin’s resignation amid scandal, the museum faces several issues in 2014 and beyond.

Q. Should the trustees make amends?

Some critics have called on other museum leaders to resign, saying the initial explanation that Franklin left for “personal reasons” misled the public. (See Michael D. Roberts’ commentary on pg. 34.)

Other Clevelanders who’ve served on nonprofit boards say they’re puzzled that it took the museum’s trustees six months after the death of Franklin’s girlfriend and former employee, Christina Gaston, to discover he’d lied to them about the relationship. “I wish the museum leadership would have met it head-on,” says local museum consultant Dennis Barrie.

To rebuild confidence, the board may find itself compelled to change how it does business, whether that’s new leadership or a greater commitment to new policies for investigating future complaints about top staff.

Q. What kind of director should the museum hire?

“The new director will have a strong basis in scholarship,” predicts interim director Fred Bidwell. “I don’t think we’ll ever hire someone who is purely an administrator.”

Others say the new director needs to be strong at both. Hiring a pure academic is “getting more and more difficult these days,” says Graham Beal, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Directors, he says, are “very much held accountable for all aspects” of a museum’s operation.

Barrie thinks the museum badly needs someone with experience directing one. Also, Barrie says, the new director needs to be more at ease in interacting with the public than Franklin: “He was totally uncomfortable in that situation and it showed.”

Q. How will it raise $94 million?

The expansion is finished, but all the bills aren’t paid. About $94 million reportedly needs to be raised to pay for it.

“This recent episode does not help that challenge,” says Barrie.

But Dave Abbott, executive director of the George Gund Foundation, says the museum’s leadership will have little effect on fundraising. He says the campaign scored successes this fall, even after the scandal broke. “When people give, you’re not giving to an individual,” Abbott says. “You’re giving to the institution.”

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