Katya Kazakina talks to Ralph Esmerian, the American Folk Art Museum’s former benefactor who has fallen on hard times, to find the root cause of the museum’s distressed circumstances. She fingers the six figure salary of the museum’s head and large legal bills paid to the museum’s law firm:
“We’re not on the verge of closing,” Maria Ann Conelli, the museum’s executive director, said in an e-mail. Museum board members have offered $375,000 in challenge grants, she said, and the rest of the board “is actively fundraising” to meet them. […] “It’s just a rotten situation,” said Ralph O. Esmerian, 70, the museum’s chairman emeritus. “You try to be active and unfortunately you fall flat on your face.” […]
He said he hasn’t given any financial support to the museum “for several years.”“There’s no way I can do it since my other follies of life have come to pass,” Esmerian said. Esmerian said his financial woes aren’t the cause of the museum’s problems. “What happened to me and what happened to the museum has to do with the economic downturn,” he said. “Small institutions and businesses truly suffered and not through our fault. […]
Conelli was paid $263,628 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009, down from her 2008 compensation of $279,236, according to the tax returns. The museum also paid $341,580 in legal fees to Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, a firm based in New York City.