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Clarifying Points About Art Museum

January 29, 1989

On behalf of the staff and trustees of the Santa Monica Museum of Art, I am writing to correct several factual errors in Tracy Wilkinson's recent article about the Edgemar development in Santa Monica (Times, Jan. 15).

First, and most serious among the misstatements, is the assertion that SMMOA is a "private" institution. This simply is not true. While I appreciate all the good press that the museum has received in The Los Angeles Times, the repeated characterization of SMMOA as a private museum is erroneous. The statement misrepresents the museum's legal status, and it is extremely harmful to our fund-raising efforts.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art is a bona fide, tax-exempt and nonprofit organization wholly supported by public dollars. Operating independent of municipal support, SMMOA's programs and operations are nonetheless publicly funded.

More than 250 individuals have become members of the museum during the past four months, grants have been received from charitable foundations, corporations and governmental agencies, and a devoted group of 40 volunteers and nine trustees have given freely of their time, money and expertise to make SMMOA a reality. Any recognition of the museum's considerable accomplishments would have to acknowledge the collective effort and public good will of this loyal group of friends.

There are two other matters that also need further clarification. First, the article asserts that programming at SMMOA has been "staged" by Edgemar's developer. In fact, the museum is a separate entity from Edgemar, and an independent curatorial committee was responsible for the opening shows at SMMOA. In no way did the Edgemar developer have a say in determining the exhibition schedule. In all curatorial matters, SMMOA's director has complete autonomy.

Finally, the issue of the Santa Monica Museum of Art's relationship to the Edgemar development needs to be set straight. SMMOA is a tenant within the development; its rights and obligations are accorded the same importance as any other tenant within the development.

There is, however, one essential difference. Because of the Edgemar developer's munificence, the museum has been given the privilege of occupying a lovely building rent free for five years within Edgemar. As most people know, it is an architecturally remarkable building, a building that has become a landmark within Santa Monica and the Westside community. SMMOA is proud of its relationship with the Edgemar developer. She has provided us with the necessary means to build a potentially great cultural resource for the city of Santa Monica. Surely, this act of civic charity deserves more than the acrimonious and harmful charges, which have been leveled against her. Wake up, Santa Monica.

THOMAS RHOADS

Director, SMMOA

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