SAAM Commissioner James F. Dicke II on SAAM
One of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's commissioners, James F. Dicke II (who as I recall is from Ohio?), is not only a respected artist (his work is actually in SAAM's collection and represented locally by The Ralls Collection in Georgetown), and an ubercollector, but also puts his money where his mouth is, and is very much an involved and hands-on commissioner.
Dicke has responded to the Smithsonian report parts that relate to the SAAM with this comment on Eyelevel:
The 30 Commissioners of the Smithsonian American Art Museum applaud Director Betsy Broun’s inspired leadership and the terrific work of the museum’s talented and dedicated staff over the past seven years. Under trying circumstances of a multi-year “dark house,” frequent budget cuts, and several staff moves, this team shepherded a $278 million dazzling renovation project. They conceived and created two wholly innovative public conservation and collections study centers that are models for museums everywhere. The collections are handsomely installed in elegant galleries, “telling the story of America” with nuance and insight, in a way that has delighted visitors from around the world. Terrific collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery makes the two museums complementary in wonderful new ways.I applaud a commissioner willing to gets his "hands dirty" as Dicke has, and regardless of how one feels about what's right or wrong about SAAM, he does deliver some valid points that now have introduced some questions into my mind about the depth of information and facts gathered (or not) by the external commission charged with the Smithsonian report, other than the obvious points about security, morale, leaks, etc.
During the same period, the contemporary program was enhanced with two new curators, an artist’s prize, endowments, and many exciting acquisitions. The same great SAAM leadership and staff undertook the largest touring exhibition program ever by an art museum – more than 1,000 artworks in 14 shows to 105 museums. The museum’s fabulous staff created award-winning programs in distance learning, K-12 education, new media technologies, and publications. The research resources for American art at SAAM include the biggest American art pre-doctoral fellowship program anywhere, the leading academic journal in the field, and more than 1 million research records in searchable online databases. SAAM’s branch museum, the Renwick Gallery, continues to present a full exciting program of exhibitions and collections.
It was SAAM staff that conducted the nationwide research defining how the museums might benefit from covering the open-air courtyard. A SAAM Commissioner provided the funds for the international architectural competition that selected Lord Norman Foster for the project. Director Betsy Broun was on the 5-member selection panel and subsequent Oversight Committee.
It’s quite a lot to manage and a stellar record of success that would distinguish a museum three times its size. SAAM and Betsy are outstanding within the Smithsonian complex and indeed in any context. Our entire Board of Commissioners is proud to be part of this great accomplishment and to have so generously supported it. Our regret is that the External Reviewers conducted their study while the museum was a construction site and apparently lacked information about any of these accomplishments. We wish they had invited comments from those who know the museum well.
James F. Dicke II, SAAM Commissioner
Dicke's comments seem to imply (and Mr. Dicke correct me if I am wrong), that the investigators did not talk to the SAAM commissioners.
If this is correct, then I am curious to find out (while I work my way through the 51 pages of the report): did they talk to any of the commissioners of any of the museums?
Did they talk to the "non-contributing board" of the National Museum of African Art?
I'd love to hear more from more of the commissioners from the various Smithsonian Institution's museums on this subject.