Here’s a request for money from the Harvard Art Museums, recently received in the mail:
They lead with the fact that they were closed for 1.5 years. Surrounded by fully open (“essential” according to the governor) marijuana and liquor stores, adults meeting in restaurant-bars after Tinder matches, etc., the Harvard Art Museums decided that they would all sit at home and they want potential donors to know that. If we assume that the primary mission of an art museum is to have people come in and look at art, the non-profit did nothing to further their primary mission during this 1.5-year period, despite the fact that they were ordered closed by the governor for only about 3 months of the 18-month closure that they proudly highlight.
(Even now, they won’t be executing all that aggressively on their primary mission; visitors have to make online reservations before showing up, a significant discouragement to those strolling around (fully masked, of course!) Harvard Square.)
Readers: Does this seem like a good illustration of the alternate universe inhabited by non-profit organizations? A for-profit enterprise wouldn’t expect to win points with customers by highlighting more than a year of voluntary closure, would it?
12 thoughts on “Harvard Art Museums shows us the alternate universe of non-profits”
Does this seem like a good illustration of the alternate universe inhabited by non-profit organizations? Yes. A for-profit enterprise wouldn’t expect to win points with customers by highlighting more than a year of voluntary closure, would it? No.
A good illustration indeed. All foundations I know in the “open” source space exist primarily to provide cozy director jobs to friends and family. Always read the financial statements before donating (and be amazed to find $600,000 in director and diversity officer salaries).
The ReFrame project is of course as expected:
In 2010, this would have been unspectacular. In 2021 however, this is how things start: White tour guide volunteers had better take a CRT course to fully understand the “fresh approach”.
“In this first phase of the initiative, several of the works visitors will encounter immediately upon entering the museums have been rehung to represent artists of color. Kehinde Wiley’s piece “Portrait of Asia-Imani, Gabriella-Esnae, and Kaya Palmer” greets viewers immediately upon entering the Fogg Museum. It replaces a Max Beckman triptych with a similar vibrance and energy.”
This is confusing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Beckmann says that the replaced artist was an immigrant: “For ten years, Beckmann lived in self-imposed exile in Amsterdam, failing in his desperate attempts to obtain a visa for the United States.” (could not walk across the river into Del Rio?) then “In 1947, Beckmann took a position at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts at Washington University.”
Who decided that “artist of color” was better than “immigrant artist” from a diversity perspective?
philg: I think professors decided that “of color” overrides anything else. CRT also appears axiomatic in that sense:
“Britain and France are by no means alone in reifying whiteness in fine art. I will never forget taking my daughter to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and being almost knocked back by the overwhelming whiteness of the displays.”
What I do not understand is why rich Black persons don’t build their versions of Carnegie Hall or the Guggenheim Museum. They’d have Carte Blanche (Carte Noire?) to choose the entire programs/collections.
The business of all these non-profits is not providing public with services or any public good but to sell the sense of smug self-congratulation (and tax write-offs) to the donors.
This barely depends on whether the foundation does any actual public service – they only need to appear to do so.
Curator Brian Allen really tees off on these folks over at NR
> visitors have to make online reservations before showing up, a significant discouragement to those strolling around (fully masked, of course!) Harvard Square
I have encountered this several times. Having just been told that I need an online reservation and that there were open spots immediately, I used my phone to make the necessary reservation right then. Whatever it takes to satisfy the god of bureaucracy.
@OC Keep serving the god of bureaucracy and see how that ends for you.
OC: I assume that you’re talking about France. The U.S. does this too, e.g., at places managed by the National Park Service/Department of the Interior. Even when there is plenty of availability, people have to make a reservation before they’re allowed through the gate. Most people show up with smartphones so you might think this would just be a waste of time (while the Swedes work and study, Americans do stuff like this). But the U.S. has poor quality mobile phone coverage in general and usually no coverage at all near the gates of these places. So, while we’re in the midst of what the government says is a “climate crisis”, people are directed by the same government to turn their gasoline-powered cars around, drive back to a place where mobile data service is available, and then drive back to the park gate. Plenty of extra CO2 to warm up Russia and Canada to maximum agricultural productivity!
GB: Oh I take no pleasure in serving that god whatsoever, and I see the waste in it. But I’m not ready to make it my hill to die or even to stand fast on, yet.
I’m with OC. There is a limit to what one person can do in a society of the coronapanicked who refused to accept that the virus will win some battles, no matter how much money and tech and sacrifice we throw at it (sort of like how the U.S. refused to accept that the North Vietnamese could beat us). A European can move to Sweden. An American can move to Florida or South Dakota. A worker forced to wear a mask 8 hours/day can retire or quit. But it doesn’t make sense to try to swim against the tide in one’s local area.
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