Brandeis, plaintiffs settle Rose Art Museum lawsuit
Parties agree to focus on the future of the important cultural treasure
Brandeis University and four Rose Art Museum supporters who filed suit two years ago against the university over its handling of the museum during the financial crisis have settled the case and say they are now focused on the future of one of the region's greatest cultural treasures.
As a result, the claims of plaintiffs Meryl Rose, Jonathan Lee, Lois Foster and Gerald Fineberg have been dismissed in Suffolk Probate and Family Court in Boston. On June 20, the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General terminated its review of Brandeis.
"This is a very good day for Brandeis and the Rose Art Museum and people who care deeply about both," said President Fred Lawrence. "The Rose is and will remain an active and valued part of Brandeis. We are thrilled that this is behind us and we look forward to celebrating the museum's 50th anniversary this fall."
The settlement agreement, which brings to an end all claims concerning management of the Rose and the potential sale of artwork, states that the Rose is, and will remain a university art museum open to the public and that Brandeis has no plan to sell artwork.
The agreement reiterates the university's policy, adopted by a vote of the board of trustees in March, 2010, that the Rose Art Museum will remain a university museum open to the public and that it will be better integrated into the educational mission of the university.
The origins of the dispute stretch back to January 2009, when the board of trustees, in the midst of a historic economic downturn, voted to authorize the sale of artwork if necessary – a move that sparked widespread and prolonged controversy. However, the university sold no artwork and 13 months ago Brandeis announced it would explore a range of alternatives to the sale of art as a means of realizing value from a portion of the collection while maintaining ownership of the artwork.
Malcolm L. Sherman, chairman of the Brandeis Board of Trustees, called the settlement "an outstanding resolution of a difficult community issue."
The agreement notes that the settlement followed "a series of constructive and collegial conversations about the Rose Art Museum and its future," between President Lawrence and the plaintiffs.
"We're very pleased that the case has been settled," said Roy Dawes, director of museum operations at the Rose Art Museum. "It is another important step forward for the Rose and we look forward to bringing new and vibrant contemporary art to the community."
Allen Alter '71, former head of the Brandeis Alumni Association and a current university trustee, added: "This is great news for our alumni, who treasure the Rose and take pride in it as part of the Brandeis experience, for them and for future students."
The agreement also reaffirms that Brandeis will continue its search for a new museum director. A search committee was named last year to fill that position, which will carry the title of the Henry and Lois Foster Director of the Rose Art Museum.
The museum, which houses New England's preeminent collection of modern and contemporary American art, currently is undergoing extensive renovations, funded by Gerald and Sandra Fineberg, to enhance the appearance of the original building, to make it more energy efficient and to create a better physical environment for the collection. The work is scheduled to be completed this fall in time for the 50th anniversary exhibition.