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MoNA to have change in leadership

March 4, 2018 GMT

LA CONNER — The Museum of Northwest Art’s executive director and the president of its board of trustees announced they will step down at the end of the month amid heated discussions about financial losses, mismanagement and the future of the museum.

“I think it’s important that the museum listens to the community,” Executive Director Christopher Shainin said.

The resignations of Shainin and Gary Molyneaux come on the heels of six board members who resigned in December over concerns of financial mismanagement and frustrations that they could not fulfill their duties to the museum under the current leadership.


Gretchen McCauley served nearly 16 years on the board before resigning with five others Dec. 2. Her mother was a founding board member.

“There was a real lack of transparency,” McCauley said of the board, citing incidents of money spent that she says was done without full input. “That was all done secretively. The finance committee knew nothing.”

The six said they would be open to serving in the future if management and board leadership changed.

For the past three years, MoNA has experienced high financial losses.

Expenses rose from 2015 to 2017 without income levels being able to keep up. The estimated deficit for 2017 is $277,762, according to a budget sheet provided by the board.

In response to the museum’s financial problems, a series of workshops were held to gain input from stakeholders on the direction of MoNA’s future.

Three options were presented to workshop attendees.

The first was aimed at stabilizing MoNA and addressing much-needed repairs to the roof, siding and HVAC systems. Renovations would cost about $300,000, board members said.

Option two — which museum leaders have said is not realistic at this time — calls for expansion, including on-site collection storage, classrooms, enhanced workshops and expanded galleries.

The last option is to close or revise MoNA and give away collections to the Tacoma Art Museum or other interested entities.

Community members such as Ann Reid have made it clear option three is not an option.

“(MoNA) has a responsibility to our community to continue as an advocacy organization and location where people in the valley and the region have access to the best of Northwest art,” she said.

The board has said it will pursue the option to maintain the existing museum.

Moving forward, the board said it will work to strengthen fundraising efforts that were lacking in the past.

Returning MoNA’s auction to La Conner, where the museum has deep ties, may help with the fundraising and rebuild community trust that may have been lost for the two years when the auction was held at the Swinomish Casino & Lodge.

Molyneaux will remain on the board after his resignation as board president takes effect March 31. Shainin will leave the museum after five years to be the state’s representative for arts, heritage and culture.