More news at troubled Sequim Museum & Arts Center — executive director resigns, new trustees scramble to keep exhibit center open

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– With the departures of the executive director, all but one employee and several volunteer staffers, the new board of trustees for the Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley is scrambling to see whether it can open its exhibit center to the public Tuesday.

In a special meeting Saturday morning, the board accepted the resignations and were given keys, computer passwords, bank account information and other data.

The board also elected a new slate of officers after its only standing officer, Vice President Priscilla Hudson, told them she was resigning as well.

“You're going to have to decide who has the keys,” Hudson said.

The museum's exhibit center at 175 W. Cedar St. was not open Saturday.

Staffers intended to stay with the museum through Monday.

Hudson said that changed after Executive Director DJ Bassett resigned Friday night.

Some staff announced their resignations after six descendents of Dungeness Valley pioneer families were added as trustees in a contentious meeting March 20.

“Do you think you can open the museum? Because until there's somebody there to show you what to do, you're going in blindfolded,” said Bob Clark, a founder of the museum who was at Saturday's meeting as a special adviser.

Getting tough

“It's going to get real tough here for a while,” said trustee Ross Hamilton, whose photographs are currently featured inside the locked exhibit center.

Trustees decided to contact Bassett, who resigned effective Monday, for a meeting about the museum's operations.

“Let's put him to work for his last darn day,” said trustee Candace Burkhardt.

They asked Hudson, a seven-year volunteer of the MAC, to stay and help them figure out the museum's operations.

“You would be doing a great service to this museum if you stayed and helped,” Clark said.

“I cannot,” Hudson said. “You don't know how my heart bleeds.”

Members of the board were uncertain whether the museum would be open for this Friday's First Friday Art Walk, though Burkhardt said they should plan a blowout bash for the May art walk.

Hudson handed the board a letter from the Olympic Driftwood Sculptors, who asked that their exhibit, scheduled to be set up Monday as April's art exhibit, be postponed during the museum's current uncertainty.

New trustee Jerry Brownfield, elected board president Saturday, said Linda Stadtmiller and Bridget Baker of the Sequim Arts organization had volunteered to open the exhibit center Tuesday.

Sequim Arts

Sequim Arts severed its relationship with the MAC last October after receiving no proceeds from the juried art show held during last year's Irrigation Festival in the exhibit center.

Randy Radock with Sequim Arts offered his organization's help to the MAC's new governors.

“We want to renew our relationship with the museum,” Radock said.

Brownfield said he's had a lot of that sentiment come his way.

“I've had a lot of past members, volunteers and employees call me up to offer to help us out,” he said. “I'm getting a response that the community has been waiting for this to happen.”

New trustees Bob Stipe and Chuck Trudel volunteered to manage the Dungeness Schoolhouse with the resignations of mangers Mike and Kathy Bare.

Clark, who serves on the schoolhouse's advisory committee, was surprised by the Bares' departure.

“I didn't expect that,” Clark said. “They did not indicate they were leaving.”

Finances in question

Part of the new board members' efforts to get on the board was the MAC's annual operating losses and a lack of response from Bassett or others in the museum's leadership when asked about its finances.

Clark said the schoolhouse committee could not get financial information about the schoolhouse from museum management.

In 2012, the museum took in $165,624 in revenue and spent $247,117, a loss of $81,493, according to its filings with the Washington Secretary of State's Office. It lost a combined $179,609 the previous three years.

“We've already turned this around $80,000 this year,” said new trustee Louie Rychlik, elected treasurer Saturday.

In 2011, the MAC paid $90,037 in salaries and wages, according to its IRS filings.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 29. 2014 10:57PM
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