LongHouse Reserve was created by founder Jack Lenor Larsen, internationally acclaimed fiber artist, textile designer, collector, author, gardener and landscape designer, turning his residence, collections and 16-acre sculpture gardens into a foundation for the public to experience his unique vision.
Mr. Larsen chose Matko Tomicic as executive director, and for over 25 years they worked together, expanding the incredible power and beauty of LongHouse. LongHouse flourished, with important sculpture and gardens, expanded programs for all ages, increased membership and visitors, volunteers and donors.
Prior to his death, Mr. Larsen and Mr. Tomicic met with a group of supporters and donors, to discuss long-range plans for successful transition while preserving the founding vision (i.e., Larsen residence becoming educational museum). Jack Lenor Larsen trusted and expected Matko Tomicic to keep and expand his legacy. With Mr. Larsen’s death, Mr. Tomicic has the international and national contacts to carry out a smooth, successful transition.
Yet, the current board — Caroline Baumman, Dianne Benson, Sherri Donghia, Richard Dranitzke, Karol Fitzhugh, Dr. Derick T. George, Nina Gillman, Ayse Kenmore, Mark Levine, Alexandra Munroe, Deborah Nevins, Peter H. Olsen, Suzanne Slesin, and Jim Zajac — abruptly dismissed Mr. Tomicic after over 25 years, and less than one year after Jack Larsen’s death, because they wanted to proceed in a different direction, and replaced Mr. Tomicic with a current interim director unconnected to Jack Lenor Larsen and LongHouse. No details given of the different direction. The current board’s summary of priorities is a rehash of the Jack Larsen/Matko Tomicic priorities discussed years ago and in progress.
The reaction to the current board’s actions? Outrage, shock and dismay. Internationally acclaimed artists condemning this action in published letters, stating that the “continuity of LongHouse is now threatened,” and removing their sculptures from LongHouse grounds. Many letters and social media from volunteers, visitors, supporters and donors denouncing this action. Large donors pledging to withhold support. And governmental investigation.
Questions: Donations to LongHouse — how much goes to PR firms and lawyers to defend these regrettable actions? Or to the “different direction” — what is that? With scores of artists, volunteers and donors not supporting this current board’s actions, how will your donations be spent?
Government officials, town civic organizations, neighboring property owners, what is this “different direction”? How will it impact the community?
The incredible power and beauty of LongHouse reflects one genius’s vision to be enjoyed on so many different levels. LongHouse is both very personal and universal, and Jack Larsen gave LongHouse — his residence, his collection — to us, for us to experience that uniqueness, and chose his Matko Tomicic, who he trusted for over 25 years, to continue and expand that vision.
Ms. Golder is a former volunteer and donor to LongHouse Reserve — Ed.
One fine body…