FRAMINGHAM – The Boards of Trustees and leadership of both Danforth Art, an independent museum and studio art school founded in 1975, and Framingham State University, a public university founded in 1839, both in Framingham, Massachusetts, have announced today that, after nearly a year of negotiations, organizations have 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.
“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,” says Debra Petke, Executive Director of Danforth Art Museum\School. “We see many new opportunities for substantial academic collaboration, creative programming, and more profound community engagement. This new vision of a vibrant organization and its 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.”
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.
“We have worked diligently on this merger over the past year, not only to enhance the University’s programs and standing – which we believe it will – but also to preserve a wonderful cultural institution for the residents of Framingham and MetroWest,” says FSU President F. Javier Cevallos. “We could not be more excited about this opportunity.”
Under the terms of the merger, the Massachusetts State College Building Authority (MSCBA) will seek to purchase the Jonathan Maynard Building from Danforth Art on behalf of Framingham State University. (The MSCBA 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.
Highlights of the merger include:
- The Danforth Art Permanent Collection, that includes American Art in all media from the early nineteenth century to the present day, and including the Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller Special Collection, is gifted to the Framingham State University 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.
- A newly renovated Danforth Art Museum in the Jonathan Maynard Building on Framingham Centre Common would open to the public in 2019, and would feature bright, welcoming, and thoughtfully-designed galleries for changing exhibitions of contemporary and historic works, installations of the Danforth Art Permanent Collection, and selections from the Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller Special Collection. In addition, renovations will include flexible space for academic and public programs and specialized storage and workroom for the stewardship of the Permanent Collection.
- After the merger with Framingham State University, Danforth Art School will operate as a division of the University’s Department of Continuing Education, offering full range of classes for all age groups and ability levels in a variety of disciplines.
- 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 and will feature newly-renovated studios and state-of-the art equipment for the University’s enrolled art students.
While there are likely to be some required policy and procedural changes to the operation of Danforth Art School following our merger, Framingham State University and Danforth Art are committed to maintaining access to affordable non-credit studio art classes and workshops for artists of all ages and levels of experience, said the museum and art school, in a statement.
Danforth Art and Framingham State first reached an agreement in April, the terms of which included a transfer the building’s title from Danforth Art to Framingham State University, and the expectation for the merger to be effective by July 1, 2017.
However, the transfer of title was not acted upon by the Town of Framingham at a May 11 meeting when the warrant was referred back to sponsor, and Danforth Art was asked to present the Town with an alternate solution.
The leadership of Framingham State University and Danforth Art began to investigate alternatives immediately, and a revised contract which stipulated that the MSCBA would purchase the building outright, was approved by the leadership of both Danforth Art and Framingham State University in August 2017.
Danforth Art purchased the Jonathan Maynard 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; the sale of the Jonathan Maynard Building, like the proposed transfer of title before, is thus subject to approval by Town Meeting.
On Friday, September 1, 2017, Danforth Art submitted to the Town of Framingham paperwork related to the Massachusetts State College Building Authority’s purchase offer for the Jonathan Maynard Building in the amount of $2.21 million.
The Town Manager will issue a warrant for the matter to be discussed at an upcoming Town Meeting.
Town Meeting members would vote on two measures related to the building’s sale: first, waiving the right of first refusal for the Town to purchase the building itself (at two-thirds the offer, or just over $1.47 million), and, secondly, waiving the reverter, which relates to Danforth Art’s payment of in-kind services.
Should the Town approve the sale of the Jonathan Maynard Building to the MSCBA, it would receive $650,000 for the balance of Danforth Art’s mortgage and $350,000 to close out remaining commitments for in-kind contributions.
Release courtesy of Framingham State and Danforth Art