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Weine & Weiss (aka Ken & Dan): Alliterative Communications Partners at Metropolitan Museum

As chance would have it, I was on the premises of the Metropolitan Museum today when it issued its press release about regime change in Communications, the department with which I have the most contact. Kenneth Weine, an attorney, will soon become the Met’s chief communications officer, with responsibility for media relations, as well as marketing, audience research, tourism, and internal communications.

Kenneth Weine

What the press release didn’t say (but what the NY TimesRobin Pogrebin today reported) was that Elyse Topalian, the Met’s point person for dealing with pesky press people like me (as vice president for communications since 2008) is taking a buyout. It’s unclear, at this writing (I’m checking), whether Weine will assume Topalian’s functions or whether someone else, reporting to him, will become chief press spokesperson.

Weine has not been anointed with a vice president’s designation, unlike Topalian and Cynthia Round, whose short-lived stint as senior vice president for marketing and external relations (a position newly created for her in 2013) ended as part of the Met’s recent staff shakeups. To his credit, Weine (unlike Round) has worked for an educational/cultural institution—the New York Public Library, where he has been VP for communications and marketing since 2013. He also has experience in publishing, having headed communications and marketing at Newsweek and communications and branding at Consumer Reports/Consumers Union.

But there appears to be nothing in his background indicating knowledge of art or museums. Since a large part of his job will be communicating about art-related activities, let’s hope he’s a quick study and can sling the lingo.

Without rehashing my gripes (shared by others from the scribe tribe) about the current communications regime, let me just say that I’m looking forward to a fresh start with someone who (I hope) sees his function as elucidation, not obfuscation and procrastination. Three hours ago, I sent written queries to the Met’s press office about the Weine announcement (with a follow-up phone call), but I’ve yet to receive an answer, notwithstanding assurances that I’d hear back promptly.

Weine-and-Weiss (Daniel Weiss, the Met’s highly accomplished, articulate president) has a nice ring to it. In conversations with me, Weiss has been unfailingly responsive, informative and unfazed by tough questions. We can only hope that Weine will be as forthright and forthcoming. He’s already gotten off to a rough start with Pogrebin, who chose to zing him in the lead sentence of her article about his appointment:

Having come aboard nearly four years ago at the New York Public Library to help that institution navigate its controversial expansion—which was ultimately scrapped in the wake of protests—Ken Weine is moving to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as chief communications officer, just when the museum is embarking on its own potentially problematic expansion.

Ouch!

Ken might want to disabuse the NY Times of the notion that visitors should “plan to eat elsewhere,” in the words of Daniel McDermon, an editor on the Times’ culture desk and author of this article. “There are dining options inside, but that’s not why you’re here,” McDermon advises his readers. “Grab a hot dog or some ice cream from the vendors outside.”

Does he really want to deprive the Met of much-needed earned income and encourage the problematic proliferation of food carts out front?

One more bit of unsolicited advice: Ken should test drive one relatively new part of the Met’s communications arsenal—its mobile app. At the Jerusalem show today, I decided to take advantage of the app’s free access to the audio guide.

Two screenshots are worth 1,000 words:

I clicked “Listen to the Audio Guide” and got this:

The work-around for this tech glitch (which lasted for the entire time I was at the show) was to access the audio guide for free from the Met’s website, or pay the $7 to rent the museum’s equipment.

We’re all looking forward to meeting Weine at a press preview in the coming weeks.

an ArtsJournal blog