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HOWLAND — The Norman Rockwell paintings belonging to the Boy Scouts of America will open to the public March 22 at the Medici Museum of Art, and there will be no set admission fee to see them.
The public opening will follow two days of invitation-only events.
John Anderson, one of the directors of Foundation Medici, said they decided early on to request donations rather than charge admission for the new museum.
“It just seems appropriate,” he said. “We’re after an end result. That is to make art available, and to put an admission charge in the way of that would be a stumbling block.”
Foundation Medici donated the land and provided the bulk of the funding for the museum at 9350 E. Market St., which was operated by the Youngstown-based Butler Institute of American Art from 1996 until last December, after the foundation terminated its lease agreement with the Butler. The Butler had no admission fee in Howland and doesn’t charge admission in Youngstown.
The rift between the two organizations started when the Butler tabled efforts in 2018 to become custodians of the BSA collection. It includes 65 paintings by Rockwell, one of the most revered chroniclers of mid-20th century American life, as well as works by Walt Disney and other artists and illustrators.
Howland attorney Ned Gold, who was involved in the initial negotiations to bring the collection to the Butler and was instrumental in securing it for the new museum, said the inaugural event will be a cocktail party on March 20 for officers of the BSA’s Great Trail Council, which oversees troops in Trumbull, Mahoning, Portage, Summit, Medina and northern Wayne counties. National BSA representatives will be invited as well.
An invitation-only reception for donors and potential donors is set for March 21.
“We won’t have our cups out, but we’ll be seeking to inform the people attending about what we’ve done and what we propose to do,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he also hopes that work will have started by then on an expansion project at the existing museum that will increase exhibition, storage and classroom space and expand the gift shop.
Gold said they want to explain to donors “that the costs associated with having the collection exhibited are high. It’s very rare for a museum to open with this kind of collection.”
The public opening will be 1 p.m. March 22.
Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and it currently is displaying a variety of work from American and international artists assembled from local and regional collectors. That collection will remain on display until hanging starts for the BSA show. A specific closing date for the current show hasn’t been determined.
Anderson said it is their intent to display all 65 Rockwell works and a few of the other high-profile pieces in the initial exhibition, but those decisions will be affected by the available space.
Banners will be hung along East Market Street and state Route 46 in the township to publicize the exhibition’s opening, Gold said. It is expected to be a popular show locally and one that will draw visitors from outside the region.
Gold said, “Given the interest we have already received from throughout the United States, I strongly believe this will draw people from all segments of the population, particularly from the scouting community and those who enjoy fine art and understand the importance of Norman Rockwell as an American painter who painted America the way it ought to be.”