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By Jane Smith
The Boca Raton Museum of Art is in talks to take over the operations of the Cornell Art Museum on the Delray Beach Old School Square campus.
City Manager Terrence Moore told commissioners March 1 that he is talking with the Boca museum about running the Cornell Art Museum for 18 months. The costs will be determined during the negotiations.
“I’ve had a challenging time containing my excitement and enthusiasm for this relationship,” Moore told the commission before introducing Irvin Lippman, executive director of the Boca Raton museum.
Lippman said he and his museum’s board were concerned that the Cornell Museum had been closed to the public.
“We decided to offer our assistance,” Lippman told the commission. “It will be a full partnership, not an annex of the Boca Raton museum.”
Lippman talked about the benefits of a partnership with a nationally accredited museum that must adhere to the highest budgeting and accounting standards, establishing a Delray Beach advisory board, and the possibility of creating an artist-in-residence program in Delray that could have a regional reach.
“It sounds very exciting,” said Mayor Shelly Petrolia. “We’re very pleased to have you here today.” On Feb. 24, Moore went to the Delray Beach Preservation Trust meeting, as part of his visits to all nonprofits in Delray Beach. He talked about the relationship between the Boca Raton museum and the Cornell.
“I have been to the Boca Raton museum for the past number of years,” said Sandy Zeller, a Preservation Trust executive board member who also sits on the city’s Planning & Zoning Board.
“I like how they expanded and was impressed with their Machu Picchu exhibit,” he said on Feb. 25. “It is of international quality, not just local artists showing their stuff.”
That exhibit features 192 artifacts from the royal tombs of the ancient Incan retreat of Machu Picchu in Peru. It also has a virtual reality upgrade that transports visitors to the site and its iconic facets, such as the Temple of the Sun.
The exhibit was featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Miami Herald newspapers. It has helped the Boca Raton Museum of Art triple its membership, Lippman said Feb. 27.
The Boca Raton museum board waited until the city’s lease ended with the old operators of OSS before contacting Moore. It did not want to get involved in the dispute between the city and the former operators.
“We met with him on Feb. 14 about running the Cornell,” Lippman said.
The Boca museum’s executive committee then met on Feb. 17 and approved “moving ahead with discussions to manage the Cornell Museum,” according to a Feb. 18 email from Lippman to Moore.
“We will come as an established institution with strong curatorial and marketing departments,” Lippman said.
The first thing the Boca museum would do is hire a full-time curator and set up an advisory committee, Lippman said. It would not take over the creative arts classes that are held in the Crest Theatre building. Renovations stopped there last summer amid a dispute between city officials and the former operators of OSS.
Lippman pointed out that the Boca Raton Museum of Art already has relationships with two Delray Beach nonprofit institutions, the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum and the Milagro Center.
Three of its board members either live or have businesses in Delray Beach, he said. About half of the Boca Raton museum members live in Delray Beach or Boynton Beach.
“It will never have Boca Raton in its name,” Lippman said of the Cornell. “It will have its own identity.”