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TMCNet:  Board, community concerned about salaries, benefits at Holter

[November 21, 2012]

Board, community concerned about salaries, benefits at Holter

Nov 21, 2012 (Independent Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Holter Art Museum board president Madalyn Quinlan said recently the museum board is concerned about the salaries of staff members.

"The entire staff is not paid well ... We have to lift the salaries of everyone." The comments came in response to a meeting Monday regarding the recent hiring of Caleb Fey as the new executive director of the Holter. Brandon Reintjes, a former Holter curator who is curator of art at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University, was initially offered the job but declined it because the offer didn't include health insurance.

Former Holter assistant curator and artist Cheri Thornton questioned why the Holter was no longer offering health insurance and a retirement plan for professional jobs.

"People invest in people they trust," she said of Reintjes. "People love him. They believe in him and they trust him," noting that Montana's Museum and Art Gallery Directors' Association had voted him their leader.

Interim executive director Karen Bohlinger said the Holter continues to offer a retirement package.

Artist and former Holter board member Suzy Holt said, "I feel the board has shot itself in the foot. It's unfathomable to me that you didn't go the extra mile to secure a person we trust." In response to the community criticism, artist Richard Notkin, who just joined the Holter board said: "I feel torn. I have a foot in both camps. I've been a member of the arts community for 18 years.

"The thing that pains me the most is how the board will restore faith -- that's ... what we need to do. This community always was the Holter. To see a rift like this threatens the Holter. I had some communication with Caleb and he could be a very fine director. I think he can be what we're looking for. Let's see what we can do to make Caleb a successful director." Artist and art teacher Katie Knight, who was the Holter curator of education for eight years, said she can't remember how many executive directors worked at the Holter during her tenure because of the turnover in the position.

"I sympathize with the board's need to balance the budget," she said, "but I think it's so sad when the community worked so hard and they weren't listened to.

"A lot of people are very disappointed. To me it's immoral to not offer health insurance.

"I couldn't afford to stay," she said of why she left the Holter, referring not only to her salary but also to "the emotional cost of unstable leadership.

"The Holter is a great place. It's a well loved, community-based organization -- that's obvious by all the people who showed up." ___ (c)2012 Independent Record (Helena, Mont.) Visit the Independent Record (Helena, Mont.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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