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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Vizcaya to be run by a nonprofit

Vizcaya will be taken over by a nonprofit organization that will run it. They are not actually taking over, they are "just following the success of other institutions like the Museum of Science, HistoryMiami and PAMM to name a few," said a friend who is on the board. The non-profit hires and fires the director, and raises money to help the institution.  Vizcaya had been overrun with events for so many years, which destroyed the property. It is being managed now, they are making money to support the museum and grounds and not having many events while doing that.

This letter to the editor from the members of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust was sent out this week regarding the nonprofit takeover or running the museum. 

The members of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust are honored to serve Miami-Dade County. The Trust was formed by the County Commission in 1998 to oversee Vizcaya. With support from elected officials, private individuals and staff, it has made great strides. Vizcaya's visitation has nearly doubled, important conservation projects have been accomplished, and our finances are sound.

In anticipation of the estate's 2016 Centennial, over the past three years the Trust has concluded that the best way to realize Vizcaya's full potential is to migrate its management to a nonprofit organization. The Trust recommended this governance modification to Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who, after careful evaluation, has now recommended it to the County Commission.

If our proposal is approved, this newly created organization would be rooted in the existing Vizcaya Trust, include appointees by our elected officials, and be led by the same professionals who currently serve Vizcaya. No one has suggested that the county give Vizcaya away.

Our recommendation is that Vizcaya remain a county-owned property, operated under an agreement approved by the county commissioners, with safeguards for Vizcaya's future.

Vizcaya is the only nationally accredited museum operated by the county. Based on the success of our county-affiliated peers, the change to a nonprofit management structure is critical to increasing private-sector support for Vizcaya.

To clarify, the Village - the property across South Miami Avenue from Vizcaya's main house and gardens and part of the National Historic Landmark designation - has been part of Vizcaya for the past century. The Village is where Vizcaya's original employees lived and worked.

When the Deerings conveyed Vizcaya to the county, they included all of the Village: 11 small historic buildings that stand today as well as the site currently occupied by the science museum. The Deering family's deeds restricted future use of the Village to purposes supportive of the main house and gardens across the street.

In 1998, county commissioners included in the Trust's responsibility the whole of the Vizcaya Village. In 2004, the county commissioners and voters approved the Building Better Communities bond program. The bond provided funding for the new science museum downtown. It also specified that Vizcaya would reintegrate the Village - including the current science museum site - to tell Vizcaya's whole story.

Our proposed approach to the Village combines open space with educational, recreational, museum and garden activities that celebrate the history and respect the scale, ambience and integrity of Vizcaya. We will continue to solicit public input before proceeding to the County Commissioners for their approval. It is clear that the entire Village is vital to Vizcaya's future, and restoration of the historic buildings and the landscape that once supported Vizcaya must be at the heart of this plan.

To elevate Vizcaya as a model of our community's passion for creativity, the natural environment, beauty, history, internationalism and inclusiveness, we believe that the change to nonprofit governance and full use of the Village property are required.

Joel Hoffman, Executive Director and the members of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust: Rayfield McGhee (Chair), Shawn Khosravi (Vice Chair), Carlton Cole (Treasurer), Laura Munilla (Secretary), Max Blumberg, Abbie Cuellar, Mireille Chancy Gonzalez, Angel Cabrera, Ruth Clyne, Kathy Heinly, Stella Holmes, Cathy Jones (Former Chair), Donald Kress, William Meyersohn (Deering Family Representative), Barnaby Min, Jeffrey Rynor (Former Chair), Lyse Cuellar Vidal, Jose Villalobos (Former Chair), and Arva Moore Parks (Founding Chair). 

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