Following months of speculation and conjecture, the
Fayetteville Museum of Art Assessment Report has been
released to the community. The report, paid for by the
Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County, and
prepared by Diane Frankel of The Museum Group, based
in San Francisco, Calif., is designed to create a way ahead
for the reopening of the now defunct museum; however,
current museum board members say that until the old
museum is sold, nothing can be done.
The Arts Council sanctioned the report last year,
following news of the museum’s closing. Frankel has 25
years of experience in the non-profi t arena, serving as the
director of graduate programs in museum studies at John
F. Kennedy University and the founding director of the
Bay Area Discovery Museum. As a presidential appointee
of President Bill Clinton, she headed the Institute of
Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C. This
agency provides funds for museum and libraries across
the United States and is the largest Federal cultural
agency. Frankel works with museums as they transition
from one director to another, and on their strategic
planning processes and fundraising programs.
Frankel’s task was to “assess the strengths and
weaknesses of the Fayetteville Museum of Art” and to
determine the support in the community for the museum.
During her assessment, Frankel spoke with 30
people in the community, the majority of whom had some
tie or relationship to the museum in the past, including
members of the FMoA Board of Trustees, the FMoA
Advisory Group, the FMoA Executive Committee, the Arts Council Executive
Committee and staff, as well as local politicos including Mayor Tony Chavonne,
Councilman Bobby Hurst, N.C. Senator Wesley Meredith, John Meroski of the
Convention and Visitors Bureau, Eva Hansen of the Partnership for Children,
former County Commissioner Breeden Blackwell and Jeff Pettus of the N.C.
During her discussions, Frankel said she found that the museum was “greatly
valued by the community” and that those interviewed expressed the “need for a
high-quality art museum.”
What they also expressed is a sense that the museum staff and board had
strayed from its vision and had “lost focus” when they set their sites on expansion
and the requisite capital campaign needed for the expansion.
“Most planning for the new building started long before I got there (on the
board),” said Mac Healy, the current director of the board. “We were spending an
inordinate amount of time trying to keep that boat afl oat, so the mission possibly
took a backseat. But we continued doing our mission. Classes were going on, kids
were coming and they were in the building. I would agree that there was a fair
amount of attention to the new building. We believed new membership would go
up, attendance would go up once we moved into the new facility, so saying we lost
focus on our mission was not an inaccurate statement.”
In the report, Frankel noted that while community leaders are “eager” for the
organization to rise from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix, they want “clarity in
its mission and vision,” “evidence of a committed leadership” and for the museum
to be responsive to the community’s interest.
In order to achieve those desires, Frankel wrote that the museum must follow
the best practices of successful museums, including a clear vision and mission, a
strong leader, a dedicated board, a well-thought through business plan, compelling
exhibitions and educational program and a well-focused strategic plan.
None of those things can occur until the current board retires the outstanding
debt of $580,000. The board hopes to satisfy that debt through the sale of the
Stamper Road facility, but until that time, movement forward is impossible,
according to Healy.
“My board’s main goal is to have the debt retired before a new board takes
over,” said Healy.
Healy explained that there is a committee of three people set up to recruit
an interim board. Mary Holmes, of the Cumberland Community Foundation is
the chairman of the committee. She is joined by Doug Peters of the Fayetteville-
Cumberland Chamber of Commerce and Karl Legatski.
Healy explained that the committee would seek out those in the community
willing to sit on the new board.
“They will look for a new permanent board, but the reality is that nothing will
probably happen until we pay the debt off. Not many people
will be willing to take on that debt,” he said. “Our hope is
that the building will sale, and we can hand over a clean
slate to the new board.”
At the current time, Healy said there is no intent to sell
the museum’s collection, valued at roughly $900,000, to
pay off the debt.
“The community and the new board will need to
decide whether we are going to be a collecting museum or
an exhibiting museum,” he explained. “There really is no
formal way to dispose of the collection, but if the board
decided to do that, they need the funds from the sale of the
collection for operations, not to pay debt.”
In the report, Frankel suggested the existing board step
down — a conclusion that board had alreadydecided on.
“We realize that irreparable harm has been done to the
reputation of this board,” he said. “We aren’t the people to
go out and try to rebuild relationships in the community.
The new board’s life will be a lot easier if they are debt free.
They can show up and make decisions once the city decides
whether it wants and will support a museum.”
One of the key relationships that must be rebuilt is that
between the museum and the Arts Council of Fayetteville-
Cumberland County. Many museum supporters have, in
the past, faulted the Arts Council for the museum’s ultimate
demise for pulling its fi nancial support to the museum’s
Healy said that the board wants to put those arguments
behind it, and hopes that the new board will be able to
rebuild the relationship and regain financing for the facility’s operations.
“Without that money, it will be hard to keep museum up and running,” said
Healy. “The money comes to the Arts Council for the betterment of the arts.
When the future board takes over, they are going to have to come to grips with
Jean Moore, the president of the Arts Council Board, believes relationships
can be mended, and believes that the report is the fi rst step forward for the
“There is a lot in that report that people knew,” she said, noting that there have
been some who have been critical of the report within the community. “We needed
someone who was not involved in the situation to look at it objectively and give us a
“Part of what Diane had to ascertain was where we had been and how much
commitment there is for the museum. She had to figure out where it had been to
fi gure out the steps for rebuilding,” continued Moore. “I think she did a great job.
There is some talk in the community that she didn’t tell us what to do to fi x it,
but that is not what she was hired to do. What she has done is put us in the right
direction. She has given the new board the right direction to move in, and now they
can run with it.”
One of the biggest decisions the new board will have to make is where the new
museum will be located. Healy and Moore both believe that the best location for the
facility is downtown.
Many in the community, including Healy, have their eyes on the Lundy
Building, Festival Park Plaza, on the perimeter of Festival Park.
“We had three very successful shows in the Lundy Building,” said Healy. “The
city owns it and is paying $50,000 a month to keep it vacant. I haven’t spoken with
the city and no one is going to enter this process without the board or a budget, but
if the city wants a museum, they are going to have to step up and make it happen.”
Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne said the city wants a museum, and he
believes its ultimate location should be downtown.
He noted that the Lundy Building is a “diffi cult proposition,” because the city
does not, in fact, own it. The building was originally owned by the Lundy Group,
The Chamber of Commerce and 3 Aaab LLC (SchoolLink). The city does pay
mortgage and operating subsidies for the building, and shortfalls in rent when it is
“We have not talked with anyone, but once the museum is
reorganized and the new board is in place, we would welcome talks
with them,” said Chavonne.
Photo, middle right: The outgoing FMoA Board has high hopes for the
future of the museum.