Second in a multi-part investigation.
Louise Stevens was ready to get to work. Broward County government awarded the founder of Artsmarket, Inc. the contract to conduct an independent review of the Young At Art (YAA) children’s museum in Davie, Florida. Since the 2008 recession had affected many museums throughout the area, Broward County wanted Stevens to develop a plan focusing upon increased visibility for YAA, a model for financial stability and a plan to strengthen YAA fundraising efforts. As REDBROWARD reported, from the beginning, Broward County officials tainted the process with a series of intimidation tactics and even overt threats.
Even though Stevens believed the County would sue her if her plan did not work, she was ready to help Young At Art. REDBROWARD obtained a February 18, 2015 email from Louise Stevens to YAA officials outlining her independent review process. Stevens explains she will draft at least five versions of her report and hold “retreats” with the YAA board to get their thoughts on the various drafts before a final version is submitted to the County.
The February 18, 2015 email contained Stevens’ first draft. “Here TaDa! is draft 1. As it explains on the cover page, I envision that after I get your immediate/top of mind thoughts I will revise it to be draft 2.” Stevens wrote. “Draft 2 is what I hope we will share with your board early next week so they have plenty of time to read, react, and think it through before the retreat. It is what we will work with at the retreat.” Stevens said draft 3 will be the product of their work at the retreat. This draft will be the basis of her review going forward. Any new details and changes will form draft 4 which will eventually become the final version.
This appears to be the standard process Stevens used during her 32 years as an independent arts consultant for government agencies. In her bid to Broward County, the Hockaday Museum of Art gave rave reviews of Stevens’ performance. The performance verification form states, “Louise…was a 99.9 on a scale of 1-100. ‘The company went above and beyond; having a retreat to ensure all staff was knowledgeable about the marketing plan.’ ArtsMarket, Inc. was very professional and has many National contacts.”
From Stevens’ Wednesday February 18, 2015 email, it appeared YAA was going to get the same professional treatment as the Hockaday Museum of Art. “This plan shows YAA will thrive.” Stevens wrote. “Getting this up and running in year 1 will be a giant lift. You can do it. You are an awesome team.” Stevens encouraged the YAA team to make notes, additions and ask questions. She hoped to get the YAA notes “by the end of the weekend so that I can turn around Draft 2 early enough next week to get it to your board for them to have reading time.”
Stevens assured YAA officials, “Please know that my feelings won’t be hurt and I won’t be upset at all if you think parts of this needs to change. It is part of my job to draft things so you can then change them.”
The retreat for Louise Stevens and Young At Art board members was scheduled for Tuesday, March 3, 2015. In a February 2, 2015 email, Stevens confirmed her attendance. “This is terrific,” she wrote. “I will fly in on Monday, so Monday, Tues, Wed night at hotel.”
On Sunday March 1, 2015, Stevens sent an email to YAA staff detailing her plans for the retreat. Stevens promises to send a “long” executive summary to YAA on Monday March 2 so the YAA board can review before the retreat. Stevens wrote she “will finish draft 2 of the plan tomorrow–luckily I have long flights!” Stevens would be coming to Fort Lauderdale from her home in Bozeman, Montana.
Stevens said the first part of the retreat will be a powerpoint presentation of her plan. The rest of retreat would feature “break out” sessions where staff and board members could discuss issues, including “changes and implications” for Young At Art.
Stevens would make the long 2,173 mile trek from Montana to Fort Lauderdale, but the retreat would never take place.
CONSULTANT MEETS WITH BROWARD LIBRARIES OFFICIAL
On Tuesday March 3, 2015 at 12:26 pm, less than 4 hours before the retreat is set to begin, Young At Art board members and employees are told the retreat had been cancelled.
Stevens cancelled the retreat after meeting with Jeffrey Tottenhoff, Broward County Libraries business administrator. A source told REDBROWARD that Tottenhoff, the County’s point person for the YAA review, was “in over his head.”
PART 3: INDEPENDENT CONSULTANT CHANGES TUNE FOLLOWING THREAT FROM BROWARD COUNTY EMPLOYEE