YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A board of trustees for an Ohio art museum has delayed accepting Norman Rockwell art from the Boys Scouts of America, fearing community backlash because of a recent report detailing the scouting organization’s problems involving child sex abuse allegations.
The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown had agreed to accept the estimated $130 million collection of more than 66 Rockwell works in September. Museum Executive Director Louis Zona said he decided to seek a delay after reading a news article in December detailing the legal and financial challenges faced by the Boy Scouts of America over sex abuse allegations, The Warren Tribune-Chronicle reported.
“We’ve worked very hard here to maintain a solid presence in a conservative community like ours,” Zona said. “We’re very proud of our reputation. Could it have been hurt by this? I don’t know.”
Butler Institute trustee Ned Gold, an attorney who has been involved with scouting for nearly 70 years, said he spent two years working to bring the collection to Ohio. Initial plans called for displaying half the collection at the Youngstown museum and the other half at its Trumbull branch in Howland.
Gold scoffed at the notion that people would be troubled that the Boy Scouts is the benefactor for the Rockwell works. The organization offered the collection to the Butler museum after deciding in 2016 to close a museum next to its national headquarters in Irving, Texas.
“I’m very disappointed in how Lou handled this thing,” Gold said. “I brought a Scout executive to talk about the child abuse thing, but he wasn’t listening.”
Rockwell, who died in 1978 at age of 84, once worked for Boy Scouts of America and created numerous Scout-related images for magazines, calendars and handbooks.
The initial deal called for the museum to cover the cost of moving the collection to Ohio and paying Boys Scouts of America $100,000. The organization later agreed to waive the $100,000 fee.
Zona said he is committed to revisiting the issue in a year.
Gold fears the Butler could lose the collection altogether.
“I’m bewildered by the view that this great institution of the Butler would censor this collection … because of the subject matter of the paintings and the ownership of the collection,” Gold said.
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