According to numerous published reports, the Young At Art (YAA) Children’s Museum has catered to more adult tastes since its new taxpayer-funded building opened in Davie. On multiple occasions, Young At Art curator Zack Spechler has boasted of the museum’s focus on more adult art. Spechler is the son of YAA CEO Mindy Shrago.

Over the last month, REDBROWARD exposed several raunchy exhibits sponsored by Young At Art. One exhibit, “Naughty By Nature,” featured naked men and women and pornographic images. Photographs and video from the event show children in attendance. An independent consultant reported that one exhibit dealing with mental illness highlighted the potential liability issues for the museum and the County.

“EVERYTHING CHANGED IN MAY 2012”

An April 2013 New Times article declared,” Bedlam Lorenz Assembly Upgrades Young At Art.”  The New Times story documented how YAA changed from, “a children’s museum cast away on the outskirts of suburbia” under the direction of Zack Spechler. “And now, with the involvement of young professionals, this formerly dinky kids’ museum is turning into Broward’s most exciting new focal point for arts and culture,” the New Times reported.

New Times wrote, “One way that Young At Art has made strides toward an elevated, ‘adult’ museum experience has been through a core group of young innovators who originally came together to help raise funds for the new museum.” This group of friends was led by Zack Spechler.

The article stated Spechler was the chairman of the nonprofit organization Bedlam Lorenz Assembly (BLA). New Times wrote the BLA “steers some of YAA’s programming.”

“One of the things that I thought was particularly important to the museum was changing content all the time,” said Zack Spechler, Bedlam Lorenz Assembly chairman.

WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE, KIDDIES?

A New Times article from November 2013 highlighted how Young At Art’s content had become more “adult-friendly.” The “Counting Backwards” exhibit was an experimental media show which ponders, “the world’s demise and our own.” Even the New Times questioned if the apocalypse was an appropriate Young At Art exhibit.

“The exhibit may seem like strange fodder at a place designed primarily for kids, but the Bedlam Lorenz Assembly, a sort of a ‘young friends’ alternative projects group, has been programming more cutting-edge entertainment at the museum,” the New Times reported.

The article speculated the “deep” debt YAA owed to County taxpayers drove the “appeal to a broader audience.”

WHAT IS ZACK SPECHLER’S ROLE AT YOUNG AT ART?

Zack Spechler and Bedlam Lorenz Assembly’s role at Young At Art was a major focus of the independent consultant’s review of the museum. In a slide show presentation, consultant Louise Stevens wrote Young At Art had, “not properly disclosed relationship” with the Bedlam Lorenz Assembly. She wrote the YAABLA relationship had been, “extensively publicized…, but not disclosed in County agreements nor IRS form 990s.” Stevens believed the YAABLA relationship constituted a breach of the museum’s deal with the County. Stevens wrote the lease forbids any person, firm or corporation to occupy the building without the written consent of Broward County. 

Stevens found other problems with the YAABLA relationship. She believed BLA commissioned exhibits and held classes at Young At Art without any formal relationship. Stevens believed BLA had been given curatorial authority over YAA. Stevens noted that Mindy Shrago was listed as a member of the BLA and its “key members” included her children Zack Spechler and Ali Shrago Spechler.

In its response to the consultant, Young At Art management claimed BLA was a “volunteer group” which helped the museum. Management claimed BLA hosted a museum fundraiser and helped publicize YAA in the South Florida arts community.

YAA management insisted the museum “incurs no cost and they are not an in-residence group.”

YAA PAID SPECHLER MORE THAN $40,000

Despite claiming the museum incurred no costs from its relationship with the Bedlam Lorenz Assembly, IRS forms show YAA paid Zack Spechler more than $40,000 over two years. The 2013 Form 990 shows Spechler was paid $17,636 for “services as an artistic/exhibit consultant.” The 2014 form shows Spechler received $24,000 for services as an artistic consultant.

While management stated BLA was not an “in-residence group,” an April 2014 SouthFlorida.com story stated an exhibit was “from Young At Art’s in-house contemporary art collective the Bedlam Lorenz Assembly.” The story even quoted “exhibit curator and BLA founder” Zack Spechler.

That’s at least three local newspaper stories documenting the very close relationship of YAA, BLA, and Zack Spechler.

The Young At Art response labeled BLA as a volunteer group, but Broward court records show Zack Spechler was more than a volunteer. Records filed in a discrimination lawsuit show Zack Spechler took part in the hiring of a museum director.  Answers to interrogatories,written by Young At Art lawyers, labeled Spechler as an “independent” consultant, but they stated he “was on the interview committee and has knowledge of job candidates’ qualifications, experience and suitability to job positions.” 

Additionally, several articles mentioned BLA was a nonprofit organization with Spechler serving as the chairman. However, a search of State records and nonprofit watchdog web sites do not show an organization by that name.

Did Broward County taxpayers plan on Young At Art becoming more adult? Did Mindy Shrago’s vision change as her children grew up? Are Broward taxpayers funding the artistic tastes and talents of Mindy Shrago, Zack Spechler and his friends? Should the YAA reigns be passed on to someone with a real passion for children and age-appropriate art?

Mindy Shrago and YAA chairman David Di Pietro should answer these important questions. Broward taxpayers deserve answers.