(photo credit Tom Crane Photography, Inc.)
Philadelphia Inquirer’s Culture writer Peter Dobrin broke the news last night that Aileen Roberts (Comcast) and Joseph Neubauer (Aramark Corporation) were the unanimous choices for The Philadelphia Award.
No reflection on Mr. Dobrin, but this news is about as surprising as time marching on.
We won’t bore you with the multiple layers of connections among Philly-stines that wormed their way into the Barnes and are ripping it apart. Just to mention that the Chair of the “Independence” Foundation that gives “The Philadelphia Award,” is Phyllis W. Beck, former legal counsel for the Barnes Foundation. And Comcast executive David Cohen heads the Barnes Corporate Council. All very cozy in Philadelphia, as usual.
The award announcement does include a couple of real gems. Joe Neubauer is given credit for raising $150 million for the new building and more than $50 million for the endowment. Wonder what happened to Rebecca Rimel of Pew, who used to get credit for raising the big bucks?
But wait a second. let’s remember that about $50 million for the pork barrel project is from Pennsylvania TAXPAYERS, part of the 2002 $107 million appropriation put in place when former state Senator for Philadelphia Vincent Fumo was the head of the Appropriations Committee. He’s in jail now.
Then there are Aileen Roberts’ self-serving comments about the building on the Parkway, including “…it takes your breath away.” But gee, she doesn’t explain why. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung piece, “The Revenge of the Rich” “The ‘Barnes on the Freeway’ is going to look like a cross between a multiplex cinema and an upside-down milk carton.”
Having seen it, we can tell you that it really is breathtaking, but not in a good way; rather in a “what were they thinking?!” way.
But on the occasion of the “honors” bestowed within the clique known as true Philly-stines, let’s turn to Dr. Albert C. Barnes and his words at the dedication of the Barnes Foundation in Merion on March 19, 1925:
“The Foundation is an educational institution and not an entertainment bureau for ‘aesthetes.’ Anybody serious can link up with us, but nobody is rich enough or prominent enough to get in with us on those qualities [alone].“
(Reference taken from Art, education & African American culture by Mary Ann Meyers)
If only the Barnes Board members’ and supporters (Pew, Annenberg, Lenfest, et al.) wealth was matched with enough sophistication, imagination, creativity to let them see how to embrace the unique place that Dr. Barnes bequeathed instead of remaking what was already here, already accessible, and already financially sustainable.