Budgets in the red, culture broke: museum director will work for free, in return he'll make resumes

Could there have been anything crazier than the call for bids issued by the Municipality of Deruta (Perugia), which, as we told you yesterday on these pages, decided to hire a director for the Regional Museum of Ceramics and the Municipal Art Gallery free of charge despite the high profile required and the many responsibilities that the position demands? Yes: the statements by the mayor of Deruta, Michele Tonaccini, that not only is it perfectly normal for a professional not to be paid for the work he or she will perform for the municipality (evidently he or she must have a very low regard for the work of art historians), but, indeed, to pay the director in his or her opinion would be “irresponsible.”

We are not witnessing a play of the theater of the absurd: unfortunately, it is all true, the mayor proudly claimed in a note sent to local newspapers. “Let’s sweep away any doubts about the legitimacy of this notice,” Tonaccini premised, “not only is it fully legitimate, but it is also quite common that relationships of this nature, with non-profit entities and rendered without subordination, are freed from the recognition of any remuneration whatsoever, except for the reimbursement of expenses. In terms of content and modalities, other public bodies have adopted, and well before us, similar notices. To give an example, the mayor of Senigallia, as well as president of the regional Anci, Mangialardi.” The first citizen, however, may not remember that Senigallia’s notice had also sparked controversy to no end.

But that is not all. The mayor lets it be known that “we have an example at home for years, with the Conservator of the Museum, in Deruta, who performs his function for free.” Evidently in Deruta they believe that culture is a hobbyist’s pastime, or at best, as he candidly states, to make a resume (although it is unclear what use a resume could be if, for Tonaccini, the fate of art historians is to work for free): “it all boils down to the fact that the activities are presumed to be lent for the realization of a specific cause of a noneconomic nature directly related to the cultural aims pursued by the institution, that is, to enrich one’s resume and for the prestige that the role held entails. I also specify another issue: previously there was no director figure, nor a regulation of the Museum, which, as a junta, we adopted instead.”

And then there are the economic reasons: “all this being said, I would like to go into the merits of the decision: the budgets of the municipalities, which were already fragile in the pre-Covid-19 period, have suffered a very hard blow in these three months. We know very well, and Anci President Decaro, has repeatedly stressed this to the Conte government, that the resources allocated by the government are not enough to cover the municipalities’ shortfalls in revenue.” We make a suggestion to the mayor: he could give up his allowance altogether, and so could his aldermen. With the total that the City of Deruta will save, he could invest in the figure of the director. But the mayor may already have the answer: “at this time, the budget cannot be touched, it would be wicked to do so, and we cannot proceed with hiring. It is surprising that such a fuss has been raised over a notice for a free appointment. Usually there are cries of scandal when prestigious appointments are given for large sums of money, in a context, moreover, where families are in dire economic straits. Around us there is a great deal of poverty; we have supported families with shopping vouchers.”

According to Tonaccini, in fact, museum directors receive nabobs’ incomes: “at this time, should I have given a 50-80 thousand euro per year appointment, if not more? Some directors receive 140 thousand euros a year, for museums dependent on the Ministry we are on 80 thousand euros. I am planning phase 3, that of the new start and not restart, because it is unimaginable to start everything the same as before, because nothing is the same as before. We are building a new future in Deruta, and doing this requires a sense of responsibility, but also foresight.”

Finally, we learn that the first citizen of Deruta has thought about it, about paying the director, but only if and when the museum becomes “an attractive factor again.” “once everything is up and running,” Tonaccini concluded, “if the museum returns to being an attractive factor, if resources come back into circulation, I will be the first to want to give a paid position to the director, contributing to employment, which is a goal of mine. Of course there is a need to boost employment, but it would be irresponsible at this time to do so, and what’s more, with such an onerous and prestigious post.” In short: it is true that the mayor of Deruta, a surveyor, is acommercial agent by profession, but perhaps he should know that there are professions that should be paid on the basis of what the employer earns...

Pictured: the Municipal Art Gallery of Deruta. Ph. Credit

Budgets in the red, culture broke: museum director will work for free, in return he'll make resumes
Budgets in the red, culture broke: museum director will work for free, in return he'll make resumes