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Will Smile for Cash Page 6

Feature: At $43 million and counting, The Leonardo Museum better kick some ass.

By Stephen Dark
Posted // August 29,2007 - LAST ONE OUT, TURN OUT THE LIGHTS
Many see The Leonardo as part of Rocky Anderson’s legacy for this city. But Anderson prefers to credit those who have worked to put the start-up together.

“There’s times [Anderson] told me it’s the best thing since sliced bread,” says Salt Lake County Councilman Randy Horiuchi. “There’s other [times], he’s cursed them.”

Whether praising or damning, Anderson hopes the museum will make it. “If I was a betting man, I would say this was going to happen one way or another,” he says.

Perhaps a recent awareness at board level that, as Tessman says, “we really have to make certain we are moving ahead quickly,” might be grounds for upping the odds in Anderson’s favor. Tessman accepts that “there have been times when differences of opinions have delayed decisions.” Consensus, she says, sometimes has not been reached. “We need to make sure we are making some serious progress quickly here—not only because of the money, but because people invested in the idea of The Leonardo need to see some serious action.”

hspace=5 Among those invested in The Leonardo are, including Tull, its seven staff members. What they make of the board’s commitment to “action” is debatable, especially if the board’s problems with executing its own corporate governance are taken into account. Tull did not vote at board meetings until four months ago, although, as the May board minutes state, The Leonardo’s bylaws require that its $75,000-a-year executive director is counted as a voting board member. “We made a mistake,” Weinshenker admits. In addition, not only do bylaws, according to the minutes, “mandate regular changeover in founding partners’ board positions, which is not currently taking place,” Tull has yet to receive an evaluation. Wright says he will do one within three weeks’ time.

Some fiscally conservative nonprofit boards, says Utah Nonprofit Association head Don Gomes, “are really not open to vital discussion on issues and directions.” With a board more open to discussion as, by all accounts, The Leonardo’s is, Gomes says, “things can move more slowly; there’s a possibility of financial opportunities being missed, prices going up. Ideally, there needs to be some balance” between a discussion-adverse board and one constantly seeking consensus.

What a board also must do, Gomes says, is reflect the community—particularly, it might be argued, the board of a museum that’s reaching out to Salt Lake Valley for future visitors. Whether The Leonardo board reflects the diversity of the valley is hard to say. Wright, a business adviser who is black, says, “When they asked me to go on the board, I definitely thought it was to reflect more of the community.” Tull, asked if there were Republicans or LDS Church members on the board, said, “There are Republicans, I know that,” then added that they don’t screen for religion.

Whatever the overall makeup of the board, one issue that might need to be addressed is communication between management and the board’s chairman. Wright says he was unaware of the scathing Mr. Leo e-mail being circulated.

“I thought it was odd it didn’t come up somewhere along the way,” he says, after being informed of the e-mail version of a distress flare about The Leonardo’s future. “It’s not necessarily a terrible thing I didn’t know about it.”

The mysterious Mr. Leo e-mail couldn’t have helped staff morale either. Perhaps it was “Mr. Leo’s” dramatic appearance that prompted management to instruct staff to sign a confidentiality agreement. That’s something even Tull says she’s yet to do.

For now, the library building remains empty. Water still runs in the drinking fountain, the clock still ticks away the inflation-laden minutes. The coolly elegant lines of the escalators rise up to the second floor, the traffic on 500 South gliding by obliviously outside the bank of windows.

Hesse describes the interior as having a cavelike intimacy, an impression enhanced by the towering V. Douglas Snow painting near the entrance. Virulent greens, blacks and reds erupt up the 30-foot canvas, seemingly giving birth to a dove at the top of the frame.

What Tull and the city are doing, of course, is trying to breathe life into the golem-like clay of an institution. Indeed, when you stand in the old library building and listen for a moment, it’s almost as if there’s a subterranean echo of a heartbeat, slow, deep and firm.

Wright, for one, is optimistic. He says once the seismic issue is resolved with the city, the bulldozers go in and they put a banner up announcing, “The Leonardo is rising,” all the donors Tull has told him are so close to signing on the dotted line will start “jumping on the bandwagon.”

Regardless of its ups and downs, Deeda Seed believes that even at $50 million or more, it’s a reasonable price to pay to have The Leonardo open its doors.

“But we need to have that conversation as a community,” she says. “Admittance needs to be free, the value to the public greater. The more we put in it, the more we own it.”


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Posted // August 30,2007 at 06:03 Stephen Dark is to be complimented. Having worked obliquely with various parties at various times - the CDA, the Leonardo, and SLC Corp - I found the issue difficult to get my arms around and comprehensively understand it well, especially understanding how it developed and continued to grow, and as a result, what problems exist now and into the future. nnThis article has provided an excellent, fairly comprehensive explanation of most of this. Thanks for the great work!