Danforth Art...An Important Announcement about our Future

On behalf of the Danforth Art Board of Trustees, I am pleased to announce that, after nearly a year of negotiations, the leadership of both Danforth Art Museum\School and Framingham State University has agreed to a thoughtful and mutually beneficial merger, after which Danforth Art will become the Danforth Art Center at Framingham State University.

The comprehensive final agreement outlines in full the legal, financial, and operational obligations of both organizations, including Framingham State University’s initial commitment of $4.5 million dollars toward the integration. For Danforth Art Museum\School, which has faced a near-crippling spike of more than half a million dollars in critical operating costs, and significant losses due to lengthy, but unavoidable, business interruptions this year, this merger provides long-term financial stability and organizational viability through University infrastructure support and economies of scale; the potential for new sources of revenue and donations; and opportunities for programmatic growth and widespread professional recognition. For Framingham State University, the merger provides ample opportunities for new educational resources as its faculty, in the art department and other disciplines, will integrate original works of art into their current curricula and future course offerings; the prestige of operating the first Massachusetts state university art museum, cultural destination, and high-visibility public forum; and opportunities for new and more profound community engagement in Framingham, Metrowest, and beyond. Together as one, the combined assets of both organizations are given new footing, new potential, and new creative energy.

Under the terms of the merger, the Massachusetts State College Building Authority will seek to purchase the Jonathan Maynard Building from Danforth Art on behalf of Framingham State University. (The Massachusetts State College Building Authority finances, plans, designs, constructs, and oversees the management of facilities for the nine State Universities, including Framingham State University.) The building will be immediately renovated for shared use, opening in 2019 with the Danforth Art Museum at Framingham State University, the Danforth Art School at Framingham University, and part of the Framingham State University Art Department.

As you may recall, Danforth Art purchased the building from the Town of Framingham in 2013. Under the terms of the original mortgage, the Town has the right of first refusal for its sale and has 120 days to purchase the building for 2/3 the cost of any viable offer. The purchase of the Jonathan Maynard Building is thus subject to approval by Town Meeting on October 17, 2017.

The merger of Danforth Art and Framingham State University, and thus, the future of Danforth Art, is contingent on the sale of the building to Framingham State University. Should the Town of Framingham vote to purchase the building rather than allow its sale, the merger contract would be voided, likely resulting in the dissolution of Danforth Art. (Please note: the museum’s primary ethical responsibility is to the ownership and stewardship of our museum collection of more than 3,000 works of art and artist ephemera. Should the museum close, efforts would be taken to ensure that the Permanent Collection is sufficiently protected in the public trust and in perpetuity.) We will be in touch with our community in the coming weeks with information on how you can support this effort.

For those of you who have been following Danforth Art’s developments over the years, particularly those who navigated with us through the transitions of this past year, we thank you. Your support has been truly heartening. We assure you that great time and consideration have gone into this agreement, that all possibilities were explored and all protections taken, and hope you are as excited as we are about the bright future promised by this merger.


Imagine an art museum that celebrates American art with vibrant exhibitions and thought-provoking programs, where ideas about art and art-making flourish in a dynamic dialogue and encounters between audiences both within the university and the wider public...

The Permanent Collection at Danforth Art consists of approximately 3,000 objects in all media. The museum has been building its collection since its founding in 1975, and actively collects and holds examples of American Art in all media from the early nineteenth century to the present day. The collection includes familiar names from American art history as well as significant holdings of contemporary regional art from both established and emerging artists. Of particular interest is the Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller Special Collection, which consists of ephemera, process pieces, studies, and other objects of art: seventy years of creative output from one of the first African-American female sculptors of importance. In the merger agreement, the Permanent Collection is gifted to the FSU Foundation, protecting it from dissolution or sale, with numerous assurances that, should the relationship between the organizations fail for any of a myriad of reasons in the future, the Permanent Collection would be transferred in full, or to the greatest extent feasible, to a museum with a similar mission.

As you know, it’s been over a year since we last exhibited art work in our own museum galleries. We are grateful to the community partners who hosted offsite exhibitions throughout 2017, but are eager to once again invite you to our own museum. With this merger with Framingham State University, a newly renovated Danforth Art Museum in the Jonathan Maynard Building on Framingham Centre Common would open to the public in 2019. These freshly renovated galleries will be bright and welcoming, and will allow Danforth Art to again present changing exhibitions of contemporary and historic works, installations of the Danforth Art Permanent Collection, and selections from the Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller Special Collection. And, although the format of the exhibitions may change some, the public can expect to see, in the coming years, the return of our celebrated juried exhibitions—the Danforth Art Annual and the New England Photography Biennial. In addition to thoughtfully-designed galleries, renovations will include flexible space for academic and public programs and specialized storage and workroom for the stewardship of the Permanent Collection.

Imagine a community studio art school where art is created by artists of all ages and levels of ability or previous exposure to art, where students learn the tools, techniques, and vocabulary of art and art-making…

From the very beginning, Danforth Art has offered a robust series of studio art classes, workshops, and other offerings. During its first term, starting March 1, 1975, Danforth art offered beginning and advanced courses in drawing, painting, printmaking, and other disciplines. And, although our programming has changed over the years, the goal was, and remains, to provide consistently high-quality art-making experiences, taught by professional artists and art educators, and to use authentic works of art to inspire creativity and inquiry in our studios.

After the merger with Framingham State University, Danforth Art School will operate as a division of the University’s Department of Continuing Education. We expect to offer, as we do today, a full range of classes for all age groups and ability levels, in a variety of disciplines, taught by many familiar faces! Our current and prospective students can expect policy and operational changes over the coming year, and that we will do our very best to communicate those changes clearly and in a timely fashion. We appreciate your patience as we work through the transitions of this merger.

Imagine a university art department annex where the next generation of artists and art educators discover, discuss, and create, where innovative and inspired art is created in two and three dimensions…

After the merger, Framingham State University’s Department of Art will occupy a portion of the Jonathan Maynard Building as an extension of their studio art facilities on campus. In these working studio-classrooms for the study of studio arts, University faculty will facilitate a collaborative, innovative and interdisciplinary learning environment. The Framingham State University program is designed to help students pursue creative endeavors while also imparting specific skills appropriate to the various disciplines of fine arts, design, art education, and scholarly and professional endeavors in art history, and museum studies.

Located in the same facility as our museum and community art school, the Framingham State University Art classes will expand a concept core to Danforth Art’s founding—that it is at the crossroads of art and art-making where creativity sparks and perception is challenged. These newly-renovated studios will offer state-of-the art equipment for the University’s enrolled art students. Just as our community students will do in the Danforth Art School studios in another part of the building, our University students will expand their definition of art and practice their craft in dialogue with their faculty and peers.

A new vision, a new future…

Beginning in 1973 when the idea for a regional art museum and center was first discussed among leaders from the community and the college, the two institutions have remained cultural and educational partners through programming, tours, and membership benefits. When Debra Petke became Executive Director of Danforth Art Museum\School in 2015, she and Framingham State University President F. Javier Cevallos renewed their mutual interest in enhancing and expanding the program and services of both organizations. With this merger, a new vision, a new future, for Danforth Art and for Framingham State University, is finally taking shape, and the possibilities are truly great.

We understand that, for some of you, these plans may be different than you expected. As early as 2012, prior to our purchase of the Jonathan Maynard Building, our members and students were shown conceptual designs for the site prepared by Ann Beha Architects as part of a Feasibility Study to assess if the building could, in fact, work as a museum and studio art school. These ambitious drawings, which were neither architectural plans nor final design concepts, represented a three-phase project that was estimated to cost upwards of $20 million dollars. Under the leadership of Executive Director Debra Petke, and with the completion of the organization’s strategic plan in 2016, she and the Board of Trustees recognized that the 2012 conceptual drawings represented a building project that, even prior to the financial and organizational blow of the eviction, was not attainable. Just as attention was refocused on refining the organization’s programmatic commitments and goals, and considering a more modest renovation of the Jonathan Maynard Building to support that vision, Danforth Art was evicted.

As part of Framingham State University, the Danforth Art Center at Framingham State University has greater potential to serve its broad community as a university and public art museum and community art school. We see many new opportunities for substantial academic collaboration, creative programming, and more profound community engagement. And, this new vision of a mixed use building that serves museum, community art school, and university audiences will allow for a creative and collaborative dynamism for which we have been longing.

This is the future of Danforth Art. We invite you to be part of it.

Best Regards,

Debra Petke
Executive Director
Danforth Art Museum\School

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