Young At Art Website Deletes Board Member Who Questioned Whether 17 Year Old Student Is Truly “Victim” Of Sexual Assault By Teacher

It is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.“–Howard Baker

On Monday, the Young At Art (YAA) Children’s Museum website deleted any mention of a board member after REDBROWARD started asking questions about a controversial Facebook post.  In a March 2017 Facebook post, Young At Art Board member Brian Silber questioned whether a seventeen year old Texas student could truly be the victim of his twenty-seven year old teacher. Sarah Fowlkes, a Lockhart High School science teacher, was arrested for having an improper sexual relationship with the student. Fowlkes became an instant internet sensation when her smiling mugshot was posted online.

On March 22, Silber posted a link to a Huffington Post story about Fowlkes’ smiling mugshot. Silber added the caption, “The ‘victim’ is 17,” with the word victim in quotation remarks. In response to a comment from a Facebook friend, Silber wrote, “In less than a year he can be sent to die for this country. 17 year old male is hard argument for victimization (unless its unconsensual).”

A Miami Herald story responded to those who questioned whether the teenaged male could truly be a “victim”–

Grown women chasing after pubescent boys is a difficult and disturbing scene to imagine, but just as troubling are the comments from the flakes who think that a young boy’s sexual initiation by a female teacher is something to be envied. It’s not. This is victimization. This is abuse. This is rape. And it is particularly unnerving when the horror is committed by the very people trusted by parents to guide their children. Preying on someone who is young and vulnerable is never, ever right, regardless of age, gender or circumstance.

In 2009, a TIME magazine investigation showed how rampant the problem of female teachers preying on students had become across Florida. In response, then Congressman Adam Putnam pushed for the passage of the Student Protection Act. Putnam said, “Let’s call these cases what they are: sexual assaults.” Currently the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Putnam is running to be the next Governor of Florida.

As a criminal defense lawyer, Brian Silber should be well versed in Florida’s consent laws. As the operator of police blotter blog, its natural for Silber to discuss titilating cases and trials. But it’s troubling that a board member of a taxpayer-supported children’s museum could be so nonchalant about the sexual assault of teenagers.

The Young At Art website and social media accounts boast how local teenagers work at the museum. Teens are recruited to be museum volunteers and summer camp counselors.

It’s safe to assume most parents believe Young At Art will protect their children while visiting or volunteering at the museum. Many parents would agree that any minor is the “victim” if they are sexually involved with any adult or authority figure.

DEAFENING SILENCE FROM YAA BOARD

REDBROWARD tried to discuss this matter with members of the Young At Art. Messages asking for comment were left for eleven board members. An attorney for one board member stated there would be no comment.

A voicemail left for Brian Silber asked for an explantation of his Facebook comments as well as information regarding the two YAA lawsuits filed against Broward County.

On Monday afternoon, the rarely camera-shy attorney sent a brief reply via email.

Silber wrote, “You are mistaken–I am not a member of the YAA board. As for whatever lawsuits you mentioned regarding the Spechlers, I have no knowledge and therefore cannot comment.”

REDBROWARD informed Silber that a screenshot of the YAA website taken on Monday morning showed his name on the list of YAA board members. By Monday evening, the YAA website deleted Silber’s name.

REDBROWARD asked Silber to explain the sudden disappearance. He has not responded.


This is just the latest troubling incident of Young At Art and hyper-sexualized topics. Last year, REDBROWARD reported how the Young At Art sponsored “Naughty By Nature” exhibit in Fort Lauderdale exposed children to nude peep shows, vagina-shaped sculptures and other exhibits of a highly sexualized nature. REDBROWARD showed how YAA curator Zack Spechler created a PEN15 (Penis) Club and his sister painted a self-portrait of herself laying nude across her father’s lap. The Spechler’s parents are Young At Art CEO Mindy Shrago and her husband Jay Spechler.

Former Judge Jay Spechler and Brian Silber represented YAA Board Chairman David Di Pietro in his lawsuit against Florida Governor Rick Scott. Di Pietro dubbed them his legal dream team.

If Young At Art will delete a board member over a Facebook post, what else would they be willing to hide from Broward taxpayers?

Broward voters deserve answers before giving Young At Art another public dime.

Brian Silber, right, with former Judge Jay Spechler

Young At Art Children’s Museum Files Second Lawsuit Against Broward County

The family operating the troubled Young At Art (YAA) Children’s Museum has filed another lawsuit against Broward County and an independent museum consultant. Last Thursday, former Judge Jay Spechler filed a libel and slander lawsuit on behalf of his wife, Mindy Shrago and his son Zack Spechler. The lawsuit alleges eight counts of libel and slander against Broward County, ArtsMarket, Inc and its owner Louise Stevens.

Lawsuit claims Broward County Commissioners and the independent consultant made numerous false statements about Shrago, Spechler and YAA. The Spechler family claims former County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger made inaccurate and false statements regarding the amount of money spent on YAA exhibits. The Spechlers claim County Commissioner Tim Ryan made inaccurate statements about YAA not paying its debt to Broward taxpayers. The Spechlers claim County Commissioner Dale Holness made similar inaccurate statements about the museum spending $20 million dollars on exhibits.

The Spechlers claim Broward County knew Gunzburger’s comments were, “[F]alse and never took affirmative actions to mitigate the damage that was done to Shrago’s reputation as reported by the Sun Sentinel.”

The new lawsuit takes issue with Louise Steven’s report to the County Commission which alleged issues with payments made to Zack Spechler and his sister Ali Spechler.

The 139 complaint filed in Broward County Circuit Court appears to rehash the same facts contained in the lawsuit filed against Broward County and Artsmarket late last year.

YAA LAWSUIT VOL. 1

Last October, Young At Art claimed it filed the lawsuit fearing an imminent takeover by Broward County government. YAA was trying to negotiate another new payment deal with County officials. Numerous documents obtained by REDBROWARD showed Young At Art officials and Broward County leaders were aware of problems with controversial exhibits two years ago.

Last November, REDBROWARD detailed issues surrounding a report from Louise Stevens, an independent consultant hired by the County to examine the financial situation at YAA. One of the main issues uncovered by the consultant was the Bedlam Lorenz Assembly (BLA) program operated under the guidance of Zack Spechler, the son of of YAA executive director Mindy Shrago.

IRS forms showed 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.

In October, County Commissioners blasted YAA Chairman David Di Pietro for filing the lawsuit against the County while trying to negotiate another deal for the troubled taxpayer-funded museum. County Attorney Joni Coffey called it “ridiculous” while Commissioner Mark Bogen signaled the County was ready to “go to war” if YAA did not come back to the table in good faith.

Di Pietro attempted to blame the County for the hastily filed lawsuit. He claimed the museum had no choice because the County was ready to take control of Young At Art.

However, REDBROWARD showed YAA insiders laid the groundwork for the lawsuit back in 2015.

THEORY OF THE CASE AGAINST BROWARD COUNTY?

Despite David Di Pietro’s claims the lawsuit was an emergency maneuver to block a hostile takeover by the County, documents showed Young At Art planned legal action against Broward County for more than a year. In 2015, REDBROWARD received a briefing book detailing alleged missteps committed by Broward County officials and others including Gretchen Cassini (Assistant To The Broward County Administrator), independent consultant Louise Stevens, and former YAA chairman Jose Pagan. Compiled by a museum insider, the book focused upon a “scathing report” by the independent consultant which exposed serious financial issues at the museum as well as the problematic payments to curator Zack Spechler, son of YAA CEO Mindy Shrago.

(Many of these same allegations are made in the latest lawsuit by YAA.)

Di Pietro tried to portray the museum as victims of an attempted government takeover led by Commissioner Lois Wexler. Di Pietro claimed to be “shocked” that the County Commission wanted to discuss the ongoing scandals at the taxpayer-funded museum in Davie. “I don’t know why we’re here,” Di Pietro said. “I cancelled my whole day to be here.”

In August 2016, REDBROWARD reported former Commissioner Wexler asked for an update on the third round of renegotiations with YAA. According to County Administrator Bertha Henry, a framework for a new deal was submitted to Young At Art management in July. The museum had not responded to the proposal.

Di Pietro claimed no YAA board meeting had been planned over the summer. Believing the inaction on the part of YAA as a sign of “bad faith,” Wexler placed the issue on the County Commission agenda.

David Di Pietro claimed the Young At Art board voted to file the lawsuit because the County planned a hostile takeover of the museum with just four days notice. He claimed the County proposal was full of “non-starters.” He said the museum never received a written appraisal for price of the museum building and property. Di Pietro even made the attempt to claim the County owed the museum money.

“We don’t want to be in an adversarial position with the County,” Di Pietro said. “You left us with no other choice.”

However, much of information REDBROWARD received back in September 2015 is included in both YAA lawsuits.

MOTION TO DISMISS

Last week, REDBROWARD reported Broward County lawyers filed a motion to dismiss YAA’s first lawsuit against the County.

In February, YAA asked a Broward County Judge to stay the proceedings for another ninety days. Judge William Haury gave them just forty-five days to finalize a deal. The stay was set to expire on March 23rd.

On that very day, Broward County lawyers filed a motion to dimiss three key counts of the YAA complaint. As of Friday, YAA has no responded to the motion.

Earlier this month, key representatives from Young At Art visited Broward County Commissioners to discuss the matter. Representatives included Mindy Shrago, David Di Pietro, Dana McLean and attorney Bruce Green.

Zack Spechler

MORE CONTROVERSIAL ART AT YAA?

Last week, REDBROWARD reported Zack Spechler continues to promote highly inappropriate artists appearing in exhibits tied to the taxpayer-supported children’s museum. According to Spechler’s social media posts, things may get really wild at the already controversial Davie museum later this month. Even though Young At Art is seeking to make a new financial deal with Broward County, it appears Zack Spechler is not shying away from controversial exhibits.

In April, Spechler mentioned an upcoming YAA show on Instagram. He wrote, “In Boston, but can’t get @sleeperspeaks off my mind! May 20th performance at @youngatartmuseum is coming soon!” Mindy Shrago was one of the fifteen people who “liked” Spechler’s post.

According to the museum’s website, YAA will be closed on that Saturday to accomodate two events. One is party celebrating Gerry Greenspoon, a local attorney. The other event is a Hi-Tech/Lo-Tech exhibit, “Created by Young At Art Museum, this exhibition explores how technology and art intertwine and will feature an array of technological artwork produced by contemporary South Florida artists.”

A review of “@sleeperspeaks” social media accounts shows the use of LED lighting in avant garde costumes, but it appears most of the costumes are featured in highly adult performances. @Sleeperspeaks hosts regular “gender bending” fetish shows at Miami nighclubs. Videos posted by @sleeperspeaks show acts not usually featured at children’s art museums. Videos included a woman dragging a masked man around the stage with a rope attached to his penis. Another posted video shows a woman preparing peanut butter sandwiches on her gentials.

Last year, REDBROWARD revealed hyper-sexualized exhibits under the direction of Spechler included a PEN15 (penis) Club, erotic peep shows and vagina-shaped sculptures. Video and photographs of the events show children attended some of these shows. These same videos showed Spechler’s father, former Judge Jay Spechler, helping to hang these sculptures.

Also, REDBROWARD obtained artwork showing a topless woman laying across Jay Spechler’s lap. The woman in the painting appears to be the artist herself, his daughter Ali Spechler.

TAXPAYERS LOSING MONEY FAST

Now, in addition to the money spent on the museum, Broward taxpayers are footing the bill for two lawsuits. Last week, REDBROWARD asked who was paying for Young At Art’s legal fees. Shouldn’t Broward County Commissioners ask these same questions?

Broward residents deserve answers.

Coming Soon To Broward Children’s Museum: Drag Shows & Fetish Art?!?

According to social media posts, things may get really wild at the already controversial Young At Art Children’s Museum (YAA) in Davie, Florida. As REDBROWARD exposed last year, under the guidance of YAA co-founder Mindy Shrago and her children, the children’s museum has morphed into a western Broward outpost of hypersexualized art and nudity. 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. 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.

Last year, REDBROWARD revealed racy exhibits under the direction of Spechler included a PEN15 (penis) Club, erotic peep shows and vagina-shaped sculptures. Video and photographs of the events show children attended some of these shows. These same videos showed Spechler’s father, former Judge Jay Spechler, helping to hang these sculptures. Also, REDBROWARD obtained artwork showing a topless woman laying across Jay Spechler’s lap. The woman in the painting appears to be the artist herself, his daughter Ali Spechler.

COMING SOON: DRAG SHOWS, FETISH SHOWS AND PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES?!?!

Even though Young At Art is seeking to make a new financial deal with Broward County, it appears Zack Spechler is not shying away from controversial exhibits. Two weeks ago, Spechler mentioned an upcoming YAA show on Instagram. Spechler wrote, “In Boston, but can’t get @sleeperspeaks off my mind! May 20th performance at @youngatartmuseum is coming soon!” Mindy Shrago was one of the fifteen people who “liked” Spechler’s post.

According to the museum’s website, YAA will be closed on that Saturday to accomodate two events. One is party celebrating Gerry Greenspoon, a local attorney. The other event is a Hi-Tech/Lo-Tech exhibit, “Created by Young At Art Museum, this exhibition explores how technology and art intertwine and will feature an array of technological artwork produced by contemporary South Florida artists.”

A review of “@sleeperspeaks” social media accounts shows the use of LED lighting in avant garde costumes, but it appears most of the costumes are featured in highly adult performances. @Sleeperspeaks hosts regular “gender bending” fetish shows at Miami nighclubs. Videos posted by @sleeperspeaks show acts not usually featured at children’s art museums. Videos included a woman dragging a masked man around the stage with a rope attached to his penis. Another posted video shows a woman preparing peanut butter sandwiches on her gentials.

No wonder Zack Spechler cannot get @sleeperspeaks off his mind!

WHY ARE BROWARD TAXPAYERS FOOTING THE BILL?

Last year, REDBROWARD revealed an independent consultant detailed issues surrounding the Bedlam Lorenz Assembly (BLA) program operated under the guidance of Zack Spechler. Louise Stevens of ArtsMarket found 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 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.

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.

Young At Art is suing Broward County and Louise Stevens.

Last month, YAA officials, including Mindy Shrago, Dana McLean and Chairman David Di Pietro, visited Broward County Commissioners to discuss a new deal. Did they try to sweeten the deal with tickets to the fetish show and all-you-can-eat peanut butter sandwiches?

These fetish extravaganzas are fine for Wynwood or FAT Village, but should Broward taxpayers pay these artists to perform at a County-owned museum/library complex?