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Despite BSA Bankruptcy, Medici Says Rockwell Exhibit Going as Planned

HOWLAND, Ohio – The $100 million collection of Norman Rockwell paintings from the Boy Scouts of America will go on display at the Medici Museum of Art as planned, says Foundation Medici Director John Anderson, despite the Boys Scouts’ declaration of bankruptcy.

“We are under no direction to do anything other than what we are proposing to do,” he said Tuesday morning. “There will be no impact on us unless and until a court directs us to do otherwise. Regardless of this [bankruptcy declaration], from our perspective, life will go on.”

In a December interview with The Business Journal, Anderson acknowledged the risk of accepting the collection under a loan agreement from the BSA.

“This deal is being done with eyes wide open and in full recognition of any events that might come to pass,” he said. “We’re fully aware of the situation [with BSA] and are not fleeing from it or are intimidated by it.”

The Rockwell exhibition is scheduled to open March 22 at the Foundation Medici-owned museum at 9350 E. Market St.

Asked if the foundation would consider buying a piece of the BSA collection, Anderson replied that it is too premature to say, adding that has never been part of the new museum’s charter.

Anderson also said the Medici Museum of Art is in the process of hiring a museum director, but has taken no action yet.

The Medici has been open for several weeks, and is showing an exhibition of works from private collections. Admission is free and will remain so after the Rockwell exhibition opens, although donations will be requested.

The Medici museum took possession of the 450-piece BSA collection, which includes 65 Rockwells, last month under a loan agreement.

The museum severed its long-held ties to the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown last year over the Butler’s decision to shy away from the BSA collection. The Butler feared it would have to return the collection should BSA declare bankruptcy and be forced to sell its assets.

On Tuesday, Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Wilmington, Del. It listed its assets as between $1 billion and $10 billion, and its liabilities at $500 million to $1 billion.

The filing comes on the heels of hundreds of sex-abuse lawsuits against the organization. According to the Associated Press, several thousand men have claimed they were molested by scoutmasters and other leaders. In 2018, the organization said there were only five known abuse victims. According to a court deposition, confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts listed 7,819 suspected abusers and 12,254 victims in January. 

Those lawsuits have been paused for the time being, but the Scouts could be forced to sell its holdings to fund a compensation trust that’s expected to surpass $1 billion.

“Scouting programs will continue throughout this process and for many years to come,” the Boy Scouts said in a statement to the Associated Press. “Local councils are not filing for bankruptcy because they are legally separate and distinct organizations.”

Because the Boy Scouts operates in 50 states and is connected to churches and civic organizations that sponsor individual scout troops, the  bankruptcy could be one of the most complex ever seen.

“A Boy Scout bankruptcy would be bigger in scale than any other child abuse bankruptcy we’ve ever seen,” said Seattle-based attorney Mike Pfau, whose firm is representing scores of men nationwide alleging they were abused as Boy Scouts, to the Associated Press.

Pictured: Norman Rockwell’s “Friend in Need” is among the works in the Boy Scouts of America collection at the Medici Museum of Art.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.