February 8, 2011
The financially troubled Monterey History and Maritime Museum hit more rocky waters this week, with controversies brewing over the board’s unilateral decision to hire Los Angeles artist Andre Miripolsky to create a “historama’’ depicting local scenes for the facility, and the resignation of Costume Collection Director Melissa Burnett, who says she disagreed with the board’s new policy of exercising full “creative control’’ over exhibitions.
The museum has been shuttered since January of last year, and former Executive Director Pam Crowe-Weisberg stepped down last month, after a series of disputes with the board over the direction of the museum which she had been hired to re-imagine. Board President Tom Hood says the museum was still on schedule to proceed with reopening on April 15, pending approval of its business plan by the Monterey City Council.
But other staffers sounded less certain.
Hood defends the decision to hire Miripolsky, a friend of board member Mark Baer, which apparently came as a surprise to other museum officials who had been preparing separate exhibition plans for the opening for some time.
“This gentleman’s been doing it a long time and can hit the ground running,’’ Hood says, claiming that the $80,000 fee previously cited for hiring Miripolsky’s involvement was overstated, because it did not include the portion of the money allotted for museum staff. But he declines to release what he says was the correct payment.
Asked if Miripolsky, whose work has previously appeared at the Vincent Price Art Museum (named after the late horror movie star) at East Los Angeles College, has started the mural, Hood replies: “I was informed that [he] is hard at work, with the help of museum staff.’’
Collections Director Marisa Michelle Mercado says the only MHMM staffer whose involvement she was aware of was Facilities Manager Randall Thayer, who gave Miripolsky a tour during a recent visit. She referred other questions to Hood.
Burnett, whose resignation is not effective until later this month, says that the staff’s re-opening plans, which Hood claimed were not ready for primetime, were “do-able, comprehensive, easily understandable, and told [the museum’s story] in a new way.’’
“I think the museum professionals are the ones who should be making decisions regarding the messaging, and programs of the museum,’’ Burnett adds. Hood says his “phone is ringing everyday’’ about possible new partnerships for the museum, but declines to name any.