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Peter Dobrin of “Philadelphia Inquirer” Devises a Barnes Solution

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Peter Dobrin
It takes a music critic to solve the Barnes problem.
Bucking his own newspaper’s MegaBarnes-friendly news coverage, as well its editorial writers’ campaign in strong support of the Barnes Foundation’s planned move from Merion to Philadelphia, Peter Dobrin, the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s music critic, solved the whole Barnes mess in two paragraphs in the most recent post on his ArtsWatch blog:
Keep the Barnes where it is, build a Barnes interpretive center on the Parkway downtown with the compulsory gift shop and bookstore and a theater preparing visitors for the Barnes experience with a 20- or 30-minute documentary. Then bus visitors from the interpretive center out to Merion to see the Barnes.
Is $150 million really raised toward this project? If so, take $50 million to build the interpretive center, and put the other $100 million in endowment to save the Barnes from its ongoing financial troubles.

That’s fine, except that the $100 million was allocated (but only partially appropriated) by the state to support the Barnes’ move to Philly. So let them use part of that stash for the Philly-based satellite facility. The Barnes gets to have the $50 million from bonds proposed to be issued by its home county, Montgomery, as well as the revenues from increased visitation now allowed by Merion. If the Philly-centric state government decides to kick in some money for Merion, so much the better. The Barnes doesn’t need $100 million for financial stability, anyway—just $50 million, according to its officials’ testimony at the hearings before the judge who granted permission for the move.
Dobrin believes “there’s a change in the air surrounding the Barnes Foundation’s proposed move to Center City,” partly because Stanley Ott, the Montgomery County Orphan’s Court judge who allowed the move in 2004, has now agreed to hear arguments on new petitions opposing it, and partly because Inquirer art critic Edward Sozanski and other prominent opponents of the Philly Barnes have now been joined by respected NY Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff.
On Saturday, Ouroussoff wrote this about “the beloved old Barnes in suburban Merion”:
Dismantling it is a crime.
It’s criminal? Maybe it’s in the wrong court!

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