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Shakeup Rumored at the National Academy

Because of my past coverage, I’ve become an unofficial clearinghouse for rumors about trouble at the National Academy. Some haven’t checked out and I’ve not published them.

But I believe that the rumors I started hearing yesterday regarding an impending change of status of the Academy’s director, Carmine Branagan, are likely to stick.

Carmine Branagan, director of National Academy

Carmine Branagan

One tipster (who gave me his name but has not yet responded to my query about how he knows what he knows) today provided me with more details about what he says is happening: He wrote that the board “recently requested Carmine Branagan‘s resignation and appointed the new chief curator, Maura Reilly, as interim director.” Part of the reason, the tipster said, was that “what was supposed to be a balanced budget last year” had a significant shortfall.

Contacted by email today, Reilly told me that “none of that [the directorship changes] is true at this moment [emphasis added]. I would advise you to await word from the Academy’s Board of Governors. Anything shared publicly prior to that would be inaccurate.”

I also learned from Bruce Fowle, president of the Academy, that a press release will be issued today or Monday, “clarifying her [Branagan’s] status at the Academy.” The first rumor I had heard was that Branagan had been fired, which Fowle said was “inaccurate.”

When I called Branagan’s extension at the National Academy today, the voicemail message still named her as “director of the National Academy Museum and School.”

I have queries out to several people who might have firm information. One board member told me flatly that she had “no knowledge of this at all.” My guess is that something is in the works, but the decision leaders are still in the process of consulting the full board.

In response to an email query regarding earlier rumors that I had heard regarding the health of the Academy, Dewey Blanton, the Academy’s director of communications and public relations, whom I respect from his longtime work in the same capacity for the American Alliance of Museums, had written me this last February:

At the National Academy, the trend lines are decidedly moving in an upward trajectory.Turnarounds take time and there is no set formula for success.

We have righted the financial ship [emphasis added], at the same time as we have made museum admission “pay what you wish.” We are now deep into assembling the right team to take the National Academy School & Museum to future success.

Simply, Lee, I do not think there is a story here, save for a good one.

I’m guessing that there will be a story this time. I’ll be following up.

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