We do not doubt that the construction of the new, modern facility will be a great addition to our community. Its presence will only add more legitimacy to our city’s thriving, vital arts community. This is something that everyone on both sides of this discussion can agree on. What is at contention is whether the FMoA will contribute to Festival Park or detract from it. Those who think the FMoA building will detract from the park have been upfront and vocal about their concerns. They have written opinion pieces in the daily and community newspapers, blogged themselves blue and even handed out flyers in opposition to the construction during the recent Fourth Friday event. At least they are engaging our community in the discussion. They are making people aware of their concerns and they are inviting feedback.
The question begs to be asked: Where is the FMoA and what is it doing to engage the community and build support for this important project?
From where we sit, there appears to be a bit of arrogance in Dr. Menno Pennick’s response to the opposition — an attitude that seems to carry over throughout the organization. The museum’s board of directors may believe that since they have the rights and a deed to the land, this makes the construction of the facility a “done deal” that does not merit any further discussion. This would be fine if discussion were not already occurring, and if a groundswell of opposition to the plan was not growing. But since it is, it must be met head on.
If the FMoA board is committed to this location then they are going to have to come out from behind their wrought iron gates and engage the community. This includes their detractors. The FMoA has made few attempts to do that. At the last Fayetteville After Five, they put a skeleton frame up to represent the footprint of the new museum building in the park. It was a good idea, but unfortunately, the frame did not extend to the parking spaces that will need to be built within the park — leaving its detractors fresh ammunition.
Some board members have also penned articles in support of the museum, but they shy away from speaking directly to the community or making themselves accessible to listen to local residents about the situation. As recently as this past week’s Fourth Friday event, the opposition to the FMoA facility was on the streets engaging the community. Again, where was the FMoA?
Maybe the FMoA doesn’t know how to wage this battle, or at least that’s the impression we get. Two weeks ago Up & Coming Weekly Publisher Bill Bowman offered Dr. Pennick space to write an editorial that could tell the museum’s story. That invitation was rebuffed. It seems that the museum doesn’t seem to realize who their friends are, or worse, still doesn’t care about making new ones.
If the FMoA wants to truly become a part of the downtown arts community, then they need to be present now. The FMoA isolation is not strictly due to its geographic location behind Eutaw Shopping Center — it comes from a closed mindset that looks only at itself for itself and never at the community as a whole.
For the FMoA to be successful (keep in mind, the board has to raise $15 million to build the museum) it has to engage the community. It has to become better at telling its story. And that, like the construction of the facility and raising the money is not going to be easy. They better get started and soon.