Small Step Forward for Miami Art Museum, $69 Million Left to Raise

Miami-Dade is finally ready to give the blighted Miami Art Museum $100 million to begin construction of its long-in-the-works home at Bicentennial Park. While the museum has suffered a number of setbacks in the past decade, County Manager George Burgess wrote last week he's satisfied with the $31 million MAM has raised in private donations.

Still left to raise in donations: $69 million more.

Plans for an expanded Miami Art Museum have been around since its inception in 1986. They didn't solidify until 2001, when the museum won $3.5 million from a bond issue to begin planning for a future home. In 2004, it won $100 million more as part of a $2.9 billion bond referendum. That money had been mostly held hostage until the museum could prove it had raised $31 million in private hands.

Despite that proviso, the county has been paying the museum's planning and design bills so far. Since 2001, nearly $20 million in taxpayer money has been spent for the planning of the Bicentennial Park home. As we reported in March, there have been other setbacks too.

Nine trustees have left the museum's board, only to be replaced by

noncollectors with little time for museum business, such as embattled Jackson Memorial CEO Eneida Roldan. Museum director, Terence Riley, resigned last fall and has yet to be replaced. (He's still on the museum's ledger as a consultant, a gig paid for by the county, natch.) 

And while board Chairman Aaron Podhurst said

earlier this year that the museum would break ground this summer, he now

tells the Miami Herald that won't happen until the fall.

As a private nonprofit, the museum doesn't have to disclose the names

of those who've contributed to its capital fundraising campaign.

Podhurst did admit in March that Ella Fontanals-Cisneros didn't finish

paying her $5 million pledge, only paying through December, when she

resigned. Cisneros also took with her daughter Mariela, who was a board

member, and [email protected], a popular partnership between the museum and her


None of the major collectors in town is associated with the museum,

including Rosa and Carlos De La Cruz, longtime museum critic Marty

Margulies, and Don and Mera Rubell, who've recently opted to open their

own satellite museum in Washington, D.C., rather than continue to donate

to MAM's collection.

Burgess's green light to begin disbursing the $100 million in bond money

should mollify nervous donors from removing their soft pledges, which

account for at least half of pledges at hand, according to an early February report from the manager's office. Still, it doesn't mean a whole lot in context. Those millions won't

be paid as a lump sum, the county manager points

out, but rather as the museum pays its construction fees, which the

county already had been doing.

And county commissioners can still butt

in before bonds are sold to pay for the construction.   

Three months after our original story about the museum's future, there is

still no museum director. In the Herald, Podhurst sounds chipper about

construction at Bicentennial Park, but even the hobos who live there say

they don't anticipate moving out anytime soon.

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Erik Maza

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