By Adam Freudberg
Framingham’s final Town Meeting will vote next week on a real estate proposal which can result in the merging of Framingham State University (FSU) and the Danforth Art Museum. Town Meeting members are appropriately doing their due diligence.
As a resident who is not on Town Meeting I have done mine and believe that authorizing this merger is the only option because it represents the best in innovation, creativity and fiscal management to solve a complex issue.
My professional career working in both the Office of the Governor and Office of the Lt. Governor as well as for the U.S. Air Force has been focused on creating mutually beneficial partnerships. Whether it was efforts for statewide Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and Arts education initiatives, enhancements to Veterans’ services, or renewable energy projects to save taxpayer dollars and reduce carbon emissions, I pride myself on doing what it takes to review all sides of deals and making sure they are primed for success before enacting them.
In recent years I’ve begun to bring my partnership mentality to local initiatives. Framingham now has this new partnership opportunity before them to save the Danforth Art Museum and authorize it to team up with FSU, resulting in the creation of the new Danforth Art Center. This innovative concept creates the first art museum to be led by a state higher education institution.
This merger will bring in $4.5 million in FSU funding as well as hundreds of thousands to the Town budget and provides long-term financial stability and organizational viability.
Simply put, the museum and art education programs remain open. Or Town Meeting can choose to let the Museum disappear.
I am not in the weeds on the contract, finances or building infrastructure. I don’t need to be, and I don’t want to be as others I trust have the formal responsibility to pay attention to those details. Signoff from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office who has oversight over nonprofit management has come as well. What matters to me is simply keeping this cultural resource open in our community.
Closing Danforth Art is not an option to me.
One valid fear with this deal is that art camp and courses offered to the community at affordable prices in the past will rise to college credit prices. I asked FSU to clarify prices. They are committed to keep prices affordable, stable and aimed towards the past customer base. That’s a relief to me and should be to anyone thinking about voting against this deal.
I believe FSU can have a larger positive impact when common sense deals like this are proposed. Higher education institutions are hubs for economic development, creating opportunities and experiences for our residents you cannot easily replicate elsewhere. I see tremendous opportunities for libraries, public schools and nonprofits to work with the new Danforth and deliver meaningful life changing educational services to our residents. I see this one deal as a starting point for FSU’s larger contribution in our new city as we pursue many novel efforts in support of learning, creativity and innovation.
If Town Meeting agrees to support this merger, it is a wonderful accomplishment for the Town and will be a legacy item all involved with Town Meeting can be proud of. If they say no, it is validation that becoming a city was absolutely without question the right choice.
What I’ve seen in my career in government is that funding and policy solutions occur when people come together and speak with one voice to simply get the job done. Frustratingly, Framingham has often seemed to do the opposite. We have many positive attributes, yet it’s difficult to believe in an outgoing government structure where often time the opposite of what should happen, often happens.
Based on the successful partnerships I’ve seen, I am confident that the creation of the Danforth Art Center at FSU is the true definition of a tangible mutually beneficial partnership. Don’t let one of the last acts of Town Meeting result in the opposite of what truly should happen. Town Meeting members can and should be proud of the legacy they are leaving by authorizing this merger.
Adam Freudberg is a father of a first grader who goes to Danforth Art Camp, is a former senior policy advisor to Governor Deval Patrick and Lt. Governor Timothy Murray and is a candidate for Framingham’s School Committee in District 4.