The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at 9th and Broadway will be closed Saturday, July 27, so new air conditioning can be installed. The museum of black history and entrepreneurship will reopen at 9 a.m. July 30.
Brendetta Murrell has been named the new deputy director of the Old State House Museum, director Bill Gatewood announced today.
Murrell joined the museum in 2002 and has been the museum’s business manager. She began work in the Department of Arkansas Heritage in 1994. She replaces Duncan Jones, who retired in late October 2012.
Sericia Cole, who's been the interim director of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center since March, when she replaced previous director H.L. McGill, has been named the permanent director. Her hiring was announced by Department of Arkansas Heritage director Cathie Matthews.
Before joining the museum, Cole served as director of minority affairs for Gov. Mike Beebe's office for two years. Prior to that, she was director of public relations at Philander Smith College.
The museum's exhibits tell the story of African-Americans in Arkansas business, politics and the arts from 1870 to the present. A special exhibition, “A Voice through the Viewfinder: Images of Arkansas’ Black Community by Ralph Armstrong," runs through Jan. 5.
That's right, tonight's Science After Dark monthly fundraiser at the Museum of Discovery investigates the science of beer — how it's made, why it tastes the way it does, etc.
From MOD's facebook page:
Fun fact: the term "rule of thumb" originated from brewing. Before the advent of thermometers, brewers tested the temperature of their maturing brews with their thumbs. If it was too cold, the yeast wouldn't grow. If it was too hot, the yeast would die. We'll be talking about all kinds of brewing trivia and the science of beer this Wednesday evening at Science after Dark!
Sounds like fun, and it's only $5. Cash bar. No kiddos.
A partnership agreement between a 19th century senator and governor creating the ancestor of the Rose Law Firm dating to 1820 has been donated to the Historic Arkansas Museum.
Sen. Chester Ashley, whose mansion once stood where I am now typing this blog item, and Gov. Robert Crittenden signed the agreement; both were among the most prominent figures of Arkansas's territorial period. The document was presented to HAM Commissioner Frances Ross by Rogers Cockrill, a descendent of Ashley, and Herb Rule, who was with the Rose Law Firm until he decided to make a race for 2nd District Congress.
HAM's press release said the document "will be the visual centerpiece of the museum’s growing collection of Chester Ashley family documents, furniture, silver and art."
The Arkansas Times ran a story in 2010 about the Museum of Discovery's deaccessioning of its trove of artifacts that would no longer fit the mission of the now hard science-focused museum, and a doll, Miss Kyoto-shi, featured in that story. At the time, it was unknown what would happen to the doll.
Now we know. She's returning to the Museum of Discovery, which will welcome her home with a reception from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 16. Saturday, Sept. 15. She returns restored, thanks to the Acadiana Babes Doll Club from Louisiana, which paid for transportation to Japan last year, where the grandson of the original artist lineage did the restoration.
Miss Kyoto-shi was one of 58 dolls friendship dolls given to museums across the U.S. in 1927 by the Japanese in an effort to improve diplomatic relations. Many have been lost and some are now in private hands. The U.S. reciprocated by sending what were called "blue-eyed dolls" to Japan.
The homecoming reception will have special guests: Mayor Mark Stodola, the Hot Springs Village Japanese-American Folk Dancers and Alan Scott Pate, a Japanese doll authority. Pate will give a talk in the Discovery Lecture Room.
There will be living history, pioneer music and political speeches on Saturday at the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Old State House to commemorate Arkansans' first opportunity to vote in a presidential election, in 1836. Arkansas had just become a state a few months before and the Conway, Ashley, Sevier, and Yell families were politicking for Martin Van Buren, the HAM says.
Here's the schedule at HAM: 9-11:30 a.m., living history; 10:30 a.m., political speeches followed by the election in the Tavern; 11:30 a.m., recreation of a Methodist Camp meeting; noon, parade from the HAM to the Old State House followed by a 26-gun salute and flag raising; 1-4 p.m., living history presentations at OSH, 2 p.m., a period theatrical piece performance; 3 p.m., political speeches and more voting, and 3:30-5 p.m., a period-style dance.
Will Van Buren win again, as he did 176 years ago? Or will Whig Hugh Lawson White?
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center Director H.L. McGill, whose firing and rehiring I reported on last year, has been terminated a second time. Assistant director Quantia Fletcher will head the staff while the state Department of Arkansas Heritage searches for a successor.
McGill has not returned a call, but I'll have more on this later, when I get a chance to look at files the former director has made open.
The Mosaic Templars museum, with its exhibits on black entrepreneurs and the history of Ninth Street, is a gem in need of experienced leadership that will grow its collections and public awareness.
UPDATE: On March 9, DAH Deputy Director Martha Miller cited several problems in a disciplinary notification issued McGill, including allegations that he ignored her request to see a draft of the museum's IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) grant for 2012 (the 2011 grant was also an issue in McGill's first firing last March), committed to various expenditures without prior approval, did not get with Miller to coordinate schedules in setting a meeting, failed to answer e-mail on a number of issues, failed to "plan for the future," citing a "last-minute rush to spend down the NCRC (Natural and Cultural Resources Council) 2011 grant," a "questionable understanding" of NCRC status and other communication breakdowns, including a situation in which his assistant put in a request to draw down $300,000 in funds in error.
McGill declined to sign the notification, and, according to Miller, said "he thought this was a matter that needed to be discussed with Lamar Davis of Gov. Mike Beebe's staff." Davis is Beebe's deputy chief of staff.
On March 16, Miller put a note in McGill's file saying she was also concerned about a request from McGill's assistant to draw down $73,000 for expenditures not approved.
On March 21, McGill responded to Miller in writing, saying he'd let her know where she could find the IMLS draft referred to in the March 9 disciplinary notice, had never been required to get prior approval for purchases, that his business specialist had taken care of items and declined being tardy in his response to DAH administrators.
Miller terminated McGill Monday for his "failure to respond to the concerns" raised in the disciplinary notice.
Laverne Feaster, who worked with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service for 39 years, will talk about her childhood at Big Dixie plantation at noon Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Old State House Museum, as a part of its Brown Bag Series.
Feaster attended the private Arkadelphia Cotton Plant Presbyterian Academy in Cotton Plant so she could advance beyond the 8th grade, the extent of education in the segregated public school system in which her mother taught. She earned a BS degree from Tennessee State University in Nashville and a MED degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She was also appointed by Governors Clinton and Tucker to the Commission for Arkansas’ Future and the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission.
Admission is free. Participants are encouraged to bring a sack lunch; beverages are provided.
Tin Grizzly Western art and furniture store at 516 Central Ave. in Hot Springs will hold its first anniversary celebration tomorrow at the Museum of Contemporary Art, in the old Ozark Bathhouse.
Bronze sculptor Burneta Venosdel will unveil a new work, inspired by Kiowa chief Satanta, at the event, from 7 to 9 p.m. Valerie Hanks will demonstrate pine needle basketmaking, Robbie Robinson will demonstrate silver wire wrapping jewelry and Ron Russell will demonstrate painting on wild turkey feathers.
Supporters of the Museum of Discovery are gathering at the Clinton Presidential Library starting at 6 p.m. to tipple wine and bid in a silent auction. Tickets are $100; tickets for a raffle to win a $1,000 gift certificate to Kenneth Edwards Fine Jewelers are extra. Go here to purchase tickets.
The MOD is being renovated and will open in Jan. 2012.
Erma Glasco Davis, the chair of the Friends of Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, writes to say that no one with the friends met with the governor. The Friends, a 501 c(3) stayed neutral on H.L. McGill's employment.
One argument for firing H.L. McGill as the director of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center was that he missed a Chamber of Commerce meeting that he was supposed to attend. In response to an earlier post on this blog, in which that allegation, made by McGill's supervisor, was mentioned, McGill called to suggest that I call the chamber employee who set up the meeting, Judy Knod. I did. He was at the meeting.
I don't know what nuances there might be here. In fact, I'm not sure the full picture of why McGill was terminated in the first place will ever be filled in. He says profanities were slung his way, that he couldn't file the IMLS on time because the person who created the online file at grant.gov had set the file up incorrectly. He said he came in for unfair criticism over the timing of an earlier $1 million proposal for an Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council grant; the museum was awarded $700,000 from the NCRC this week, he said.
He also said he was never able to give the speech mentioned in the post — in which he wrote that a white director would never have been treated the way he was — to the Black Legislative Caucus referred to in the previous post because they weren't able to give him the time during the session.
He also said he hesitated to call me to provide his side of the story, since it will keep the story alive. "I just want to go back to work," he said. He will, on Monday.
In what might be a first in state government, a museum director who was fired has gotten his job back thanks to the intervention of the governor’s office.
H.L. McGill was fired as director of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in March after, according to his personnel file, the museum missed a grant deadline and he missed a meeting at which he was to speak, among other things. He will be back on the job Monday, June 6.
The Black Legislative Caucus, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center Advisory Board and the Friends of the MTCC, and community activists went to the governor after the firing.
Matt deCample, spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said, “The governor is generally reluctant to get involved in any agency personnel matters. In this case, we had a number of other parties reach out to us who were affiliated with the Cultural Center.” After meetings with McGill’s advocates and his supervisors at the Department of Arkansas Heritage, which operates the museum, the governor felt “Mr. McGill’s termination may have been hasty and an additional review and opportunity for him to carry out his duties would be the most prudent course.”
The $11.4 million Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, which has exhibits on African Americans in Arkansas, including the Ninth Street business district, the fraternal organization that was created there, and a collection of art made by black Arkansans, opened in 2008. It has had two directors since its opening; Constance Sarto, who left in March 2010, and McGill, who was hired in December 2010. Curator Heather Zbinden acted as director in the interim.
There have been many reports of friction between Zbinden, who has left the museum for another state job, and McGill. Zbinden is white; McGill is black, and in a speech prepared for the black caucus he wrote that “shocking things” happened at the museum “and would never have happened to a white director.”
When people say things aren’t about race, they usually are. But Deputy Director of Museums Trey Berry and DAH director Cathie Matthews says that is not the case. Matthews said she has “no concerns” about race-related issues at the museum. There is now only one white person on staff.
In “desk notes” by Berry in McGill’s personnel file, Berry writes that he informed McGill that his No. 1 goal was to complete the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant, one that the previous director had failed to submit, demoralizing the staff. In later notes, Berry said he was concerned that McGill didn’t answer e-mails and over McGill’s response that it wasn’t his work style to check his e-mail all day. After McGill’s dismissal, Berry found 252 unopened e-mails from MTCC and DAH staff on McGill’s computer.
In January, after the museum missed the deadline to file the IMLS grant, Berry put McGill on a two-year “disciplinary action.”
McGill, interviewed Wednesday, after his reinstatement was decided, said Berry’s desk notes were falsehoods and that it was Zbinden’s failure, not his, that the grant deadline was missed. He said she refused to get in touch with partners the Friday before the deadline, but an e-mail from Zbinden to McGill says that the partners were for an old grant, would not fit with the new grant proposal, and that she didn’t have any partnership ideas for the new grant.
Berry, who will be McGill’s supervisor until August, when he leaves to become the dean of liberal arts at Southern Arkansas University, has set goals for McGill to meet over the next few months. Among them are that the director meet with the staff the second week in June and hear their concerns, conduct a search for an assistant director and a finance director, and set the museum’s rental policies and fees at a price the public can afford, but that will cover wear and tear on the museum. “I’m all for second chances,” Berry told a reporter Wednesday.
Museum Advisory Board head John Cain, who worked for two decades to create a museum in the Mosaic Templars building (the original burned down in 2006; the museum is a near-replica of that building), said he wrote the governor asking him to rescind the firing. He noted that the Department of Arkansas Heritage had asked McGill, who worked for the Arkansas Arts Council since 2002, to apply for the job, adding that the director’s job description was “nebulous.”
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