The Rest of the Story

By Deborah Davidson, vice president of governance education and research

Most of us at BoardSource, and I suspect many of you, have been fascinated by the ins and outs of the story of the Barnes Foundation. A recount of it is detailed in the film, “The Art of the Steal.” In brief, the Barnes Foundation runs a school for artists, and its late founder, Dr. Albert Barnes, considered the galleries of Monets, Cezannes, Picassos, African art, and even children’s art, to be classrooms.  But over time, the building housing the collection became more and more inadequate, for many reasons. And after years of legal wrangling, board changes, public outcry, and a fair amount of drama, the Foundation’s priceless art collection will be moved from its original “home” in Merion, Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia, where it will be dedicated next month.

I recommend the film for its entertaining look at the world of art, foundations, and governance. However, according to Kimberly Camp, that’s exactly what the film is: entertainment only. Kimberly is the former president of the Barnes Foundation and lived through many of the events that have led to the move, which has been controversial, to say the very least. In fact, the move is the “steal” referred to in the movie’s title.

I recently heard Kimberly speak at American University to a group of arts management grad students, where she told her story of how the film posits conspiracy theories where none exist, and how, contrary to the film’s central premise, it was actually Dr. Barnes’s intention that if the collection could not be housed in Merion, it should be moved to Philadelphia.

We’ve asked Kimberly Camp to tell her story at this year’s BoardSource Leadership Forum. I guarantee it will be fascinating. She’s speaking as part of a storytelling series we’re presenting this year, and you won’t want to miss it. Other storytellers are Greg Landsman, executive director of the Strive Partnership in Cincinnati, who’ll talk about his success with a sweeping, cross-sector educational program; Deirdre Maloney, who’ll relate how she, as executive director, overhauled the board of the Colorado AIDS Project; and Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association, winner of last year’s Prudential Leadership Award. Peg spearheaded a multiyear transformation of the organization where, as she puts it, the board voted itself out of office.

Every organization, every board, has a story. How could it be otherwise? We invite you to share yours with BoardSource.


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