Marions Should Be Thanked For Their Generous Offer And Willingness To Help

I am very proud to say I was one member of a group of concerned citizens who for two years tried our hardest to offer the Prendergast Library real alternatives to selling the permanent art collection Mary Prendergast left to the people of Jamestown.

It pains me we were unable to convince them from selling this collection. It also pains me to know that most people in Jamestown still have no idea of what really went on. I am writing this letter as an individual. I do not speak for anyone other than myself. Malinda Stoller wrote in her recent Letter to Editor:

“During this year our library officials made the difficult decision to auction artwork to enable these treasures to receive proper care. This will help with the endowment fund which provides one-third of the budget.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In my opinion the board, led by Tom Rankin and Joni Blackman, did not decide to sell this collection because they wanted it to receive “proper care.” Cathy and Jesse Marion of Houston, Texas, were two members of our Save Local Art Group. Cathy was born and raised in Jamestown. The Marions are actual philanthropists. If you go to SUNY Fredonia you can visit the beautiful art gallery they donated to the college. If you go to the new Amphitheatre at Chautauqua you can enter through one the gates named after them for their extremely generous donation to build the new structure.

The Marions made various offers to the library to keep the art collection in Jamestown. One of these offers was in three parts. The Marions would pay for the entire collection to be cleaned, restored, repaired and reframed if needed. Secondly, they would pay to totally refurbish and renovate the Fireplace Room at the library creating a new state of the art gallery. Whatever it took including climate control, refiguring walls to hang and display the art, new lighting and security.

The third part of their offer was that Jesse Marion would personally head a fundraising committee to add to the library’s endowment fund. Mr. Marion was the chairman of the board of the Alley Theatre in Houston and led a committee that raised over $45 million for that organization. He would certainly be someone any nonprofit organization in Jamestown would be extremely lucky to have on their side.

Instead of accepting this offer, the Prendergast Library declined it. The board of the library, who are not elected by the public, turned down this offer worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. We will also never know how much Jesse Marion could have raised for the endowment fund.

I would personally like to thank the Marions for this incredibly generous offer and for their willingness to get involved. It is Jamestown’s great loss that the library chose not to accept their gift and the irreplaceable collection of art that Jamestown owned for over 100 years is now gone forever. Imagine what a new state of the art gallery downtown would have added to Downtown Jamestown’s revival. I understand this argument is over and our side lost.

The art is gone and will be sold, but I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of this particular offer made by the Marions.

Tom Andolora is a Jamestown native who now lives in New York City.