Monday, February 6, 2012

Viktor Schreckengost Museum Opening Delayed Amid Allegations of Misconduct (Updated)

Posted By on Mon, Feb 6, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Viktor-Schreckengost.jpg

Update: The Vicktor Schreckengost Museum is being delayed again. Where have we heard that story before? Oh, that's right.

What was supposed to be a Spring 2011 launch got pushed back after what sources told us was some hinky conduct by its former director. The reasons this time around are much less sinister and more practical: they don't have any money.

The AP reports:

The new foundation backing the museum didn't achieve nonprofit status in time for the scheduled opening, and didn't have its first official meeting until December, Edward "Ned" Hill, dean of the Maxine Goodman Levin College at Cleveland State University and president of the board, told The Plain Dealer.

The foundation has no cash but is laying plans to add more board members, create a clear mission, start raising money and hire museum staff, Hill said. The foundation has a lease on gallery space in an early 20th-century factory turned into an office and loft building.

"It's way too premature to say whether an exhibit is in the offing," Hill said. "Step one is to make sure we have a viable organization."

***

The planned opening of the Viktor Schreckengost Museum has been pushed back once again — this time amid hints of misconduct by its former director.

The showcase of work by the heralded Cleveland designer was originally slated to open in the Tower Press building in May. The launch was switched to June when director Wally Berry departed this spring. According to current director Craig Bara, there is no fixed date for the premiere, though he is hopeful for a summer opening.

“A lot of little things culminated to hold us back,” says Bara.

Some of those little things pertain to the previous director. When Bara took over, he believed that Berry had been further along than he actually was in securing the museum’s non-profit status. Final approval has yet to come, Bara says.

Berry resigned in April, ending his contract to work for one dollar a year plus “a small percentage of income from any profits,” according to a Plain Dealer article.

But Bara tells Scene that Berry had been placed on leave prior to his departure and was instructed not to remove certain files from the museum. Within 48 hours of the order, Berry removed the files, resulting in his “immediate dismissal.”

The museum is pursuing an investigation against the former director. “We hope that we can stop him before he hurts anyone else,” says Bara, who declined to elaborate.

Gene Schreckengost, Viktor’s widow and the museum’s primary financial backer, also refused to comment on the nature of the investigation.

Schreckengost’s century-spanning career yielded objects that were optimally functional as well as beautiful. As director of the museum, Berry led an effort to commercialize some of Schreckengost’s designs, hoping the items could be manufactured again for profit that could be pumped back into the museum.

Berry is now in Texas, heading a company that manufactures a toilet-flush apparatus he designed.


“All I know is that I submitted a letter of resignation,” Berry says. “I’ve got some attorneys involved, and there are some questions I’m not answering.” — Joseph Clark

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