January 04, 2008

Dueling views on West

E-Mails Regarding Washington Post Story About National Museum of the American IndianI am amazed that the reference to the Venice Biennale and the Luna exhibit resulted in such lavish entertainment, particularly since I was pressured by then Director for Development, Elizabeth Duggal, to help subsidize the events in Venice and I contributed $5,000 of my own to in effect, pay for $1,000 a night stay for Rick West !!!! And I have no idea of how many nights he stayed....

[T]his sort of publicity does nobody any good. It just serves to paint a negative picture to Indian Country, it alienates the very people the Museum is supposed to represent and while you may not think the money spent is outlandish, it is to those who need the very basics in life...like shelter, medicines, education and they not only do not have the access, but worse, we as a nation have denied them the resources. I am ashamed that my family's resources might just have well gone elsewhere to benefit Indian people more directly, then subsidizing a lavish life style by Rick West.
On the other hand:The story by James Grimaldi and Jacqueline Trescott (December, 28, 2007) on National Museum of the American Indian Director Rick West's travel budget marks a low point in journalism. The "news" in the story is that West's travel was "lavish." By whose standards? Not by mine. All travel was approved by West's superiors (including the Board of Trustees on which I serve). When West was hired the NMAI did not exist. Congress had mandated a new institution with close ties to American Indian communities, but insisted that much of the money to build it would have to come from private sources.

Today the NMAI exists at three venues-all built under West's tenure. The museum is internationally-celebrated and boasts thousands of supporters.
Meanwhile, the revelations continue:

American Indian Museum Spent $48,500 on Director's PortraitThe founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, W. Richard West, Jr., commissioned a portrait of himself using $48,500 of museum funds, the Washington Post reports.

Last week, the Post reported that West spent more than $250,000 over the past four years on chauffeured cars, first-class train tickets, business-class plane tickets, luxury hotels, and trips around the world.

Two U.S. senators have called for investigations into the costs; West, who was removed from the Smithsonian's payroll on Monday after retiring last month, maintains that the expenses were authorized. Kevin Gover, the museum's new director, defended West's spending.
Portrait Cost Indian Museum $48,500

Senators, Trustees Question Spending By Former DirectorWest, the founding director of the museum, helped raise $155 million to open the Indian Museum. The museum spent $124,000 on going-away activities for West, including $30,000 to produce an eight-minute DVD biography.

West authorized the expenditure for the portrait, completed in 2005, after consulting with some members of the museum's advisory board, St. Thomas said.

Henderson and another trustee, Norbert Hill, said they were not consulted. Hill said he thought the portrait was paid for by a law firm.

The Adams portrait, along with those of other secretaries of the Smithsonian, are in the administrative wing of the Castle, but belong to the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery collections. No other museum directors have commissioned portraits of themselves, St. Thomas said.
Comment:  For more on the NMAI, see The Feel-Good National Museum.

1 comment:

dmarks said...

Just a good example of public "Servants" out to serve themselves.