Hotel Indigo Asheville

Former Asheville mayor presses case against Asheville Art Museum

| July 19, 2013 | Comments (43)

Pack_Place2Ken Michalove, a former Asheville city manager and mayor, has been on a crusade against further funding for the Asheville Art Museum’s big expansion project. You can read the background here and here and here. Michalove plans to make another presentation to Asheville City Council on July 23. He’s also asked to meet with Asheville’s Tourism Development Authority to talk about museum funding. Here’s part of his latest letter to Pam Myers, executive director of the art museum:

How much money has the Asheville Art Museum raised towards the “New Building” and the “total capital fund drive of the $24 milion” dollars that is described in the TDA application? I would like this information noted separately by money in the bank and pledges that cannot be withdrawn and/or that have time limitations.

Exactly what is the Asheville Art Museum total capital fund drive ? I have heard anywhere from 15 million to 24 million? The Citizen-Times Article July 2 stated $20 million which I assume was information you gave the reporter. However, according to your fund drive commitments made in the 2010 Tourism Development Authority (“TDA”) Grant application, the amount is $24 million. When questioned by Councilman Pelly June 25, City Manager Jackson stated $22 million. The July 2, Citizen-Times article, comment by reporter Sabian Warren, “ She declined to say how much money had been raised from public and private sources”.

Why so secretive? Unless, due to minimal support to date, misplaced priorities, misinformation and defaults are an embarrassment to you and the Art Museum Board. Likely, when the true amount is publicly known it will cause the abandonment of your pet project as initially visualized. When will the final plans and specifications (not schematics) for this new building be presented to the City of Asheville and the Pack Place Board?

It appears that you and the Asheville Art Museum Board of Trustees are involved in a hoax regarding this new building idea. You, representing the Board, have defaulted in performance on the TDA grant twice since 2007. TDA has held $1.5 million for the Asheville Art Museum for over 6 years. And, by your admission in the Asheville Citizen-Times article July 2 you will not be able to meet the January 31, 2014 TDA Grant deadline and the Art Museum will be in default for the third time. Unfortunately, for the Asheville/Buncombe community this TDA money could have been used for viable economic development projects that would create jobs and room nights. The Asheville Art Museum does not have a viable project, just a lot of empty promises.

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Category: Asheville News

About Jason Sandford: Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville. View author profile.

Comments (43)

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  1. never avert says:

    Myles comment may be the most outrageously ageist comment I have ever heard. He used to be OK, but now he’s 70 and can’t think anymore?

    • Nate says:

      Correlation, even in an assertion, is not the same thing as causation. He said that Michalove is “in his mid 70s” (not 70) AND that he’s been ranting in ways that the commenter sees as irrational. He didn’t say, “Michalove can’t be taken seriously because he’s old.”

      If implying that Michalove’s recent irrational behavior (as defined by the Myles, anyway) MIGHT be related to his age is the most “outrageously ageist” thing you’ve ever heard, then the bar must be pretty darn low. I mean, the entire Republican Party is already starting to argue that Hillary will be too old to run for President in 2016, when she will be . . . 71.

    • Myles says:

      There was absolutely no such implication. Hell, I’m almost his age. Mentioning his age was only to point out that it is now 30 years since he was governing and not to infer or suggest that his age has anything to do with the fact that he’s “losing it”. Hell, anyone can lose it at any age. And you need to get out more often if you thought my comment was the “most outrageously ageist comment I have ever heard”.

  2. Concerned citizen says:

    Asheville Parent – Thanks for including that link at the end of your comment. Looks like the art museum has a good update available on their website describing this project and how much they’ve raised (66% of the construction costs – impressive), with cool images too.
    I have been surprised and disappointed by the unfounded criticisms of this really exciting endeavor.
    From my research and what I hear, the city is pretty smart to invest $2 million on an HVAC system in a 20+ year old building that they own, and which currently has major infrastructure problems. The city dollars will be matched with $18 million from other sources, raised by the museum! That makes good sense to me as a super public/private partnership. I’m afraid some people are making accusations without having the facts. And as a result they are hurting rather than helping our wonderful community.

  3. Myles says:

    The elephant in the room is Ken Michelove himself. While, by all accounts, he was a good, well liked and effective mayor, that was about 30 years ago. Ken is now in his mid 70′s and has begun to have, well, irrational rants. He asks questions the answers to which he already knows, makes wild accusations based on flimsy or nonexistent information and jumps to irrational conclusions without the benefit of facts. He is not the same Ken Michelove we used to know. Unfortunately, he seems to have decided that he alone will stop the art museum from building its needed and important building. It’s obviously personal for him but I haven’t heard any theories about why that’s so. And he has clearly entered the realm of slander.
    Unfortunately, the more Ken rants the more he is alienating old friends. It’s quite sad.

    • Art Lover says:

      Excellent points. It’s one thing to be a great mayor – 30 years ago. It’s another to have some outburst of a personal vendetta in the public realm.

  4. Asheville Parent says:

    As an Asheville parent and a small business owner, I am saddened by these attacks on the Art Museum just like I was saddened by the failure of the Health Adventure. It seems as if Mr. Michalove has a political agenda and he is using the art museum as a pawn for whatever political end he is trying to achieve….perhaps the next mayor’s race.

    There is a sort of “gotcha” theme going on here that abstracts these institutions in a negative way . Let us not forget that the art museum annually provide thousands of positive experiences for the youth in our community from the entire Western North Carolina region. Why do some people in Asheville continually try to tear down the institutions that have made Asheville a great place to live. What does it achieve?

    Instead let’s try to figure out a way to make all our cultural institutions succeed. It benefits everyone in the community.

    I know our roads need fixed and our infrastructure needs repaired but I do not want to raise my children in a place with no artistic institutions. They are both important to the heritage and legacy that we leave our children who were born in these beautiful mountains.

    http://www.ashevilleart.org/about/

  5. Mike Holcombe says:

    Mr. Michalove is/was the greatest public servant that I have ever encountered. His behavior while City Manager (late 70s-mid80s ) profoundly affected dozens of young City staffers. He stressed transparency, honesty, respect for others, and the highest ethical standards. If he cries that something is amok at the Art Museum, the citizens of this town (Ken is a native, by7t he way…) had better pay attention!

  6. Shorty says:

    Sorry hauntedhead. My civic pride is being sucked out of me by the leeches in our new welfare society who I’m having to support. Like I said, if you want a world class museum, find a way to pay for it without the use of our tax dollars. We already provide them with free rent.

    • hauntedheadnc says:

      Thank you for proving exactly what I said. In other words, you have yours, and to hell with everyone else — and because they’re not going to hell quite fast enough, you’re deeply, personally offended. Welfare leeches indeed.

      I often wonder what a perfect nation would look like for people like yourself who hate your fellow citizens and who detest having to pay for anything resembling community… Then I remember we already have Somalia as a template. Personally, I don’t see the appeal of it, but I was born with empathy and a realization that “us” and “we” are concepts as valuable as “I” and “me,” so may be more difficult for me to wrap my brain around it.

      • Shorty says:

        Oh, there’s that wonderful sense of entitlement that’s taking our country right down the dumper. Because I’ve worked my ass off and achieved, I owe you a nice museum. I see. Let those who use it and want it pay more for it. I pay more than my fair share in local, state, and federal taxes. Yes, I’m one of the ones who actually pays federal income tax. I still manage to find time and money to support charities that I want to support. The museum isn’t one of them. This organization doesn’t deserve one more penny of taxpayer dollars until they are completely transparent.

        • Tim Peck says:

          Shorty, what you are seeing articulated here is the progressive morality of self-sacrifice: If a need exists, you are morally obligated to sacrifice your self-interest to serve it. Also known as altruism. It killed Detroit. It will kill Asheville.

        • hauntedheadnc says:

          It’s not a sense of entitlement. It’s a sense of community, and it’s what built this country. Tea Party selfishness (personified by everyone’s favorite sociopath, dear Tim Peck) is what is killing this country, and why we’re falling behind in the world, and why we’re a laughingstock to the rest of the world. This is bigger than at art museum in a little city in WNC. This is about the philosophy of founding, funding, and running cultural institutions that enrich a community. Community is more important that you or me. Community is what made this country great, and community is what is under attack nowadays.

          To make it specifically about you though, I’m glad that charity itself as a concept does not send you into a frothing rage. I’m glad it’s just the museum. However, the fact remains that even though you worked and achieved, you did not do it alone using all your own resources, unless you built from the ground up every educational institution you attended, all the infrastructure that those institutions used, and the roads you used to get to those institutions. Like it or not, you got something from the government and from the community in order to succeed, and like it or not, thanks to that, you have a duty to give back. To not acknowledge that fact is a selfish delusion.

          But don’t worry, if you’re selfish you’ll have Tim Peck to cheer you on, and he’s proven what a loveable little scamp he is so well and often in just about every local forum there is. Maybe you two should meet up. I doubt he’s ever had a friend before, and it would be exciting.

    • scottonmtn says:

      Shorty is very shortsighted (maybe he knows that, which is the basis for his name) . Tax dollars going to building a new museum will bring visitors to Asheville which means more money to restaurants, hotels, and the general economy. It’s an investment in that has been shown to repay about $7 for every dollar invested in cultural institutions. Shorty is not so good at long term thinking. Or thinking in general

  7. doghaus28815 says:

    so…is it about cash, or what?

  8. Arts Administrator says:

    The tone of Mr.Michaelove’s letter, as well as his memo to City Council, was puzzling in its vitriol. Does he have a personal vendetta against Ms. Myers? It’s also puzzling that he’s choosing to use Ashvegas to conduct his campaign against . . whom. . .Ms. Myers?. . against what . . the museum? Is this what one would expect from a former city manager and mayor?

    On the other hand, this is a public relations/arts administration case study in how not to handle an attack. The unforthcoming response from Ms. Meyers only exacerbates the sense that a cover-up is going on. Most public relations wisdom counsels getting out in front of a controversy and making a quick, honest, and transparent response. And the strange silence from her board – is thundering. They are, after all, the public’s representatives in running the museum and setting its policy. Where are statements from the chairman of the Board of Trustees? Oddly, the museum’s website does not make their names available.

    From the viewpoint of this longtime arts administrator, both Mr. Michaelove, Ms. Myers, and the art museum Board of Trustees need to proceed in a more professional way. Who is acting as their public relations counsel?

    • Murphy says:

      You deride Michaelove’s use of this blog for his “campaign” and then you question why Ms. Meyers hasn’t come forth with a response …

      I suppose if she responded here on Ashevegas you would consider that inappropriate as well.

      • Arts Administrator says:

        To clarify, a public relations adviser would probably suggest that Ms. Myers and the chairman of her board request a meeting with a reporter or the editors at the Asheville Citizen-Times and provide full financial information and long-range plans.
        Mr. Michaelove probably does not need a public relations adviser, but one might suggest that he have an on-the-record conversation with the cultural reporter/editor at the Citizen-Times as well. Sending a copy of his private letter to Ms. Myers to a blogger seems less than above board.

        • Thanks for your note, Arts. To clarify – Michalove send a copy of his letter to Myers to me and to a whole slew of other local reporters. The earlier Michalove memo that I posted was a public document that Michalove submitted to Asheville City Council. He’s also emailed that out to numerous reporters. Michalove is not just communicating with me, in other words.

          • Arts Administrator says:

            Jason, thanks for your reply. I’m still puzzled that Mr. Michaelove doesn’t request a conversation with a reporter (or that a reporter doesn’t request a conversation with Mr Michaelove). I’m still puzzled that Ms. Myers and Mr. Pulleyn haven’t taken a pro-active role, rather than a reactive role. From an arts administrator’s perspective, it will be a shame if the museum expansion fails, after the failure of the Health Adventure, after the failure of the Performing Arts Center project, after the failure of the Arts Council. Asheville will really need to stop marketing itself as an “arts destination.”

          • Arts, Michalove has had a conversation with one of our reporters. Sabien Warren. Interview was about three weeks ago, and Warren’s story ran a few days later on the front page. Warren interviewed Myers as well.

          • Arts Administrator says:

            Thank you for further clarification and pointing me to the Sabian Warren article. It was very thorough.

  9. Art Lover says:

    I think Micahelove is a bit bat-crazy. Have any of you ever even been inside the art museum? There’s a room right there with the plans, theyve been working on this project and its no secret plan. Its only a secret if you don’t look up the records for yourself, which you can find, its a public thing of how much money they’ve raised. Its certainly no great scandal like the fake performing arts center that’s never going to happen and who’s “director” was getting something like 200,000 a year for soemething that didn’t even exist and will never exist. Thats pathetic. Who was paying that guy’s salary? Wake up people, you’re smarter that to believe everything you hear from bat-crazy people.

  10. Asheville Local says:

    This all sounds very familiar…does everyone remember the Health Adventure’s Momentum Project? The Health Adventure tried to build a $25 million dollar facility in Montford and it flopped because of lack of funding. Local contractors and suppliers are still owed money for this Asheville eyesore and I would hate to see it happen again with the Asheville Art Museum. Maybe people would feel better about this project if they knew more about it and knew how much money has been raised thus far. But like Michalove says, the Art Museum has been very secretive about their plans and progress. If the project is going to be partially funded with public money, the Art Museum should be transparent with all details and plans.

  11. John R. says:

    Maybe, but as I’ve heard it from everyone who has ever worked inside of the high-turn-over of the Asheville Art Museum, the executive director is a real pill and can’t separate herself from the organization. Seems to me like another non-profit gone rogue with an ineffectual board, which tends to be the norm for Asheville. Rumor is that Ms. Myers doesn’t even have a master’s degree in her field, which while not necessarily required, it is quite far from industry standards and best practices. If you want a quality art museum in Asheville, then it needs to function as so from the inside out.

    • Art Lover says:

      Why would you want an executive director who COULD separate themselves? Isn’t that their job?

      • John R. says:

        I prefer effective boards who work in partnership with the Executive Director.

        The whole thing seems really short sighted. I agree with some of the points that everyone here has made.

        But I’m also wondering, is it possible to link the Art Museum’s ED’s almost insanely dedicated pursuit to take over the Pack Place building (owned by taxpayers) to the fact that the our region is now left bereft of the Health Adventure?

        I don’t dispute the Health Adventure shot themselves in the stomach with the grandiose visions of Momentum, but did Ms. Myer’s pursuit at all affect their leaving that space to move somewhere that was unsustainable and eventually caused their closure? I’m just wondering because I know that 20th & 21st century art is great and all, but my kids really got a lot out of the Health Adventure – and I would much rather still have them there than the new wing of the Art Museum. And I’d rather not lose the Gem Museum & Pack Place Theatre either. Or if it did happen that the museum takes over the building after they’ve raised these lofty funds, I’d like to see a more regionally inclusive museum – meaning culture, art, science and history all under one museum.

        I’m just not believing that Asheville will ever have a world-class museum that focuses on just 20th & 21st century art (minus the remote possibility of some insanely rich 1% benefactor donating their money & personal collection to museum) – but I could see us having a world class museum that caters to a greater community need in a multitude of areas.

    • bergeron says:

      “the executive director is a real pill”

      That is putting it so lightly.

  12. hauntedheadnc says:

    I wonder if this is really a crusade for fiscal responsibility… We have an ironbound tendency in Asheville to pounce on anything that looks like it might ever be getting ready to progress to the next level, lest it become something other than mediocre. Heaven forbid we ever get a decent art museum in town… things like that are for all those nasty people down in Greenville. It’s much better to keep it lame and congratulate ourselves.

    • Shorty says:

      You need to wake up and smell the bullshit. And if the people in this town want a “decent” art museum, they need to support and pay for it. Get out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

      • hauntedheadnc says:

        Sure, Shorty, because that’s how it’s done in all the other cities. And God knows rich folks around here are just endlessly generous. Why, the way they throw their money around, everyone knows our arts facilities are the envy of the region and certainly never outshone by the likes of Greenville *and* Spartanburg. Certainly not.

        • Shorty says:

          I don’t care how its done in Greenville, or anywhere else for that matter. If the market wants it, they will support it. The museum receives over $1 million dollars in FREE rent every year. And now, the taxpayers are expected to cough up another $2 million and Myers won’t answer simple questions?? I call BS. And please stop with the whole “rich people don’t pay their fair share” bullshit. Go do YOUR part. Let the museum succeed or fail on its own merits, not what you and the “occupiers” believe them to be.

          • hauntedheadnc says:

            I love comments like yours because they prove the era of civic pride is over. Hell, they prove the era of community itself is over. Build something enriching for an entire community enjoy? Hell no and never again! They might get away with commie crap like that in France, but this is ‘Murka! We don’t need no community!

            All I can say is thank God people didn’t think like you back in the 1800′s (when most of this country’s great cultural institutions were established), because had they, America would still be a backwater.

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