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Betsky Asked To Leave Early?

The situation at the Cincinnati Art Museums gets stranger and stranger. Director Aaron Betsky, who was pretty much forced out at the beginning of the year, will leave on May 1 — instead of his earlier plans to stay until his successor was named.

betsky_aaron_jan07This move, my sources suggest, reflects deep turmoil within the museum caused by Betsky, who is a polarizing figure, if nothing else. His tenture there has been marked by turmoil.

In a statement sent by board president Martha Ragland to employees yesterday, she said: “The Director has asked us to leave on May 1 instead of Sept. We have granted his request.  Dave Linnenberg (the COO) will be the interim Director. Let us support him at this time, especially with our limited budget.”

But these statements rarely reflect the whole story, and one source tells me that the search firm looking for the new director “will not send candidates until he left and is not apart of the decision making process.” I hope that is not entirely correct — if the search firm, which in this case is Russell Reynolds, is driving the decision instead of trustees, that is a big problem.

I hope to have more on this later.

Meantime, here is the press release from the museum; here is my post from last May outlining some of the problems; and here’s what the Cincinnati Enquirer had to say.



  1. Museums are like fish too? My real hope as someone working in art and design is that a new director with proven exhibition skills and a background in the arts steps in to bring the museum’s level back up. The quality has dropped, even more over the past two years in my opinion. I don’t take clients there now. A question for the board: why the major press release about an interim director? It sounds like he was overseeing the loss of key curators and the problem finances and the falling community interest too? I hope they aren’t planning to try to get by with another non-art person as director? If the board thinks that Cincy is so out of the world view that anything goes, I worry we’re in for a long dark night. So to see this post and that someone cares about what’s happening here gives me hope. Please bring back the professionals that left when the place switched from world class art to serving up small-town fare like Pinocchio park statues and too many D-list shows. Put the money back into exhibitions and art stewardship. The 21c group came in and showed focus and quality and a sense of welcome energy that put the Cincinnati Art Museum to shame. Or look at Indy or Chicago or NYC institutions. I can support art when it’s solid or even in a state of real endeavor but not when it is this sloppy and barely even half-hearted. Put the pieces together again. I live and work in a great city and I want to be proud of my art museum.

    • Thanks for your comment. My guess about the press release is actually a more positive: I think the board is trying to put Betsky behind it and signal to the public that it has already moved on. I would be surprised if the interim head, or someone else without an art background, were in the running for the director’s post. I agree with you that Cincy deserves better.

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