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Controversy in Jamestown:
New Museum Proposed by Arnazes

December, 19, 2001

On Sunday, December 16, the children of Lucille Ball wrote an open letter to the people of Jamestown, New York, regarding the current Lucy-Desi Museum and how the museum has been managed by the Arts Council for Chautauqua County. In the letter, they stated that they will no longer support the existing museum, and will try to create a new one that will not be controlled by the Arts Council.

Philip Morris, executive director of the Arts Council, refused to comment on the issue over the weekend, but has since made a public statement on the museum web site www.lucy-desi.com. In that statement, Morris states that the Arnazes' decision is based on the fact that Ric Wyman, an Arnaz associate who served as Museum Director the past three years, was recently removed from that position.

This is not necessarily true, according to at least one source who is close to the situation and does not wish to be identified. "This has more to do with priorities than personalities," we were told. "It has to do with the fact that the Museum is currently set up as an element of the Arts Council -- not a free standing entity. This has proven to be problematic, especially with the appropriation and allocation of funds."

Chief among the problems is the fact that of the Arts Council's many endeavors, the Museum is one of the few that can be counted on to bring in a lot of revenue. It is, in essence, the Council's "cash cow" that finances a lot of the other worthwhile events it sponsors. No one, in theory has a problem with this -- everyone has always known that this was the main reason the Council suggested the Museum be established in the first place.

Things became complicated, however, when Wyman arrived on the scene in 1999 and wanted to make the then-struggling Museum into something Lucy fans all over the world would want to see -- and something in which the Arnaz family could have a great deal of pride. Such goals require a lot of work -- and a lot of money. The work Wyman -- himself a longtime Lucy fan (he's been a member of We Love Lucy almost since its start in 1977!) -- gladly undertook, not only offering up 24 hour days and 7-day-work-weeks when necessary, but enlisting the energies of others. The money, however, proved to be a stumbling block.

Often times, we are told, Wyman's plans for the Museum were denied by the Arts Council not because they were bad ideas, but because the dollars (most of them raised by the Museum) had been earmarked for other Council endeavors. Even the gift-shop inventory (an important fundraiser for ALL Museums worldwide) was made to play second-fiddle to some of the Council's other projects.

No one is certain at this writing how the Jamestown situation will resolve itself, but we applaud that Arnazes for taking action at this time. Indeed, a Museum that carries the names of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz should be of the finest caliber possible, and should not be beholden to anything else.

We will keep you posted as new developments occur.





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