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Naming rights — an unseemly way to proceed

April 8, 2019

I don’t believe I am alone in my dissatisfaction at the degree to which big money in the form of large companies and wealthy individuals have come to dominate “naming” rights. What began as an unfortunate renaming trend in the field of professional sports stadiums — Invesco Field, Coors Stadium, etc. — has unfortunately spread to our local state museum management.

There is something unseemly and totally inappropriate to name a major new museum facility — the Vladem Contemporary — after a wealthy family recently arrived from Chicago on the basis of a $4 million donation. Without having any long-standing historic connection with the state and its cultural history, the Vladem family has obtained permanent recognition solely on the basis of donated money. Rather than honor notable individuals in our state’s past cultural history such as Gustave Bauman, John Gaw Meem and others who deserve such recognition, a family with zero history in the state now has an unwarranted honor of a major museum facility featuring its name.

I know that many museum division employees were uncomfortable with this decision, but were ignored for the sake of a speedier process for the new museum. An example of the pitfalls in the commercialization of naming rights is the financial failure of Enron that entailed a rapid removal of the Enron name from the stadium in Houston. A notable current example of the potential problem with family or corporation names is the serious criminal investigation of the wealthy Sackler family that owns Purdue Pharma and was responsible for promoting widespread overuse of opioids like OxyContin. Eight members of the Sackler family along with Purdue Pharma are being sued in 2,000 lawsuits in 35 states. The Sackler name appears on facilities from Harvard to London that will undoubtedly be renamed in the near future.

In the absence of the Vladem donation, it undoubtedly would have taken more time for the museum division to acquire the required funding to allow completion of the new facility, but that delay would have better served the public than the process that was employed.

Craig Campbell is a retired landscape architect who has lived in Santa Fe since 1976.