Foundation Medici Gets $1M Pledge for Boy Scouts Exhibit

HOWLAND, Ohio – A $1 million gift has been pledged to the Foundation Medici should it secure the rights to display the Boy Scouts of America collection of Norman Rockwell paintings, The Business Journal has learned.

The foundation announced June 21 that it is severing ties with the Butler Institute of American Art, which leases its building at 9350 E. Market St. here and operates it as the Trumbull Branch of the Butler Institute.

According to John A. Anderson, president of the foundation, “An unnamed source has pledged $1 million upon the execution of an agreement between the Foundation Medici and the Boy Scouts of America and Medici accepting the fine-arts collection of the Boy Scouts of America.”

No further details were made available.

The collection, appraised at $100 million, comprises 66 paintings of Boys Scouts completed by Rockwell decades ago. Rockwell, who died in 1978, was the official artist of the Boy Scouts. His works appeared on covers of Boys’ Life magazine as well as the Saturday Evening Post.

The Foundation Medici broke ties with the Butler after the board of directors of the Youngstown museum decided last year to accept, display and store the paintings and a few months later put the initiative on hold.

The Butler board reversed its decision after The Wall Street Journal reported in December that the Boy Scouts were examining Chapter 11 bankruptcy as an option to pay legal expenses related to its sexual-abuse scandal. Records the Boy Scouts released to Congress last month count 12,254 children who were allegedly abused by 7,819 Scout leaders. Numerous individual and class-action lawsuits have been filed by the alleged victims and more are expected.

Although the Foundation Medici states in the news release announcing its split with the Butler that the museum reneged on a contract, The Business Journal has learned that the Boy Scouts agreed with the Butler decision to table the arrangement. An email received in December from a Boy Scouts representative stipulates this concurrence.

At the time, the Butler board was preparing for the museum’s 100th anniversary in 2019 and was concerned how the valuable collection might be disposed of in bankruptcy reorganization as well as bad publicity related to the sex-abuse scandal.

“We determined that it was best to wait until we concluded our 100th anniversary year before moving forward on this,” says Thomas J. Cavalier, president of the Butler board. Numerous celebratory events and exhibits are taking place this year, he explains, and the Boy Scouts situation could have become a distraction, as well as a drain on resources and manpower.

That may not be the case in 2020, when the Butler board said it would revisit the matter, which the Boy Scouts understood and confirmed in an email, according to Cavalier. Attorney Ned Gold, a lifelong Boy Scout and member of the Butler board who brought the Rockwell collection to its attention, says he was “stunned at the reversal.”

Gold, whose term of the Butler board soon will expire, has since been working with the Foundation Medici to bring the collection to the Mahoning Valley.

“I’m in the vortex of all of this,” he admits.

The Boy Scouts are aware of the break of the foundation with the Butler, Gold says, and while he believes other museums are interested in the Rockwell paintings, Medici has the inside track.

“I know the BSA at this point is anxious to get the collection displayed. One of the reasons they like this location is because it’s within 60% of the one-day’s drive of the U.S. population.”

The foundation invoked the six-month notice of termination clause in its lease and operating agreement with the Butler. Once the Trumbull Branch becomes an independent museum operated by the foundation, it would need industry accreditation and insurance to accept and display any valuable collection.

The Trumbull Branch of the Butler Institute of American Art will become an independent museum operated by Foundation Medici, which owns the building.

“The Medici board is in consultation with a very prominent museum consultant about where we’re going with the whole thing,” Gold says, and work will begin soon to plan how it would operate and obtain certifications.

Gold is confident that the Boy Scouts will wait. “They know it’s going to happen as fast as we can make it happen,” he says. “They know the facility; they’ve seen the facility; they know the people involved have the wherewithal and the ability to open up a great museum.”

In the meantime, the foundation will seek more donations on top of the $1 million pledge its president revealed today. The plan is to build a classroom, workshop, more display areas at the site and open a larger gift shop.

Lou Zona, executive director of the Butler, says he “congratulates” the Foundation Medici for securing a $1 million pledge.

“Contributions to the arts in our community are always welcomed.”

Pictured: Norman Rockwell painting of Boy Scouts.

Related coverage:

June 24: Trumbull Branch Splits with Butler over Rockwell Paintings

January 27: Butler Institute Tables Working with Boy Scouts on Rockwell Collection

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.