Jan. 28, 2011
UI to take request for Museum of Art replacement funding to Washington, D.C.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VII office has denied the University of Iowa’s appeal of FEMA’s ruling that the UI Museum of Art (UIMA) is ineligible for replacement funding. The next step is to forward an appeal to Iowa Homeland Security and request the appeal be submitted to FEMA headquarters in Washington D.C., a move UI officials say they will take soon.
The UIMA was one of more than a dozen campus facilities damaged or destroyed in the flood of 2008. Generally, to be eligible for replacement under FEMA rules, a building must have greater than 50 percent damage and it must be “feasible to repair the facility so that it can perform the function for which it was being used as well as it did immediately prior to the disaster.”
In denying the initial request, and the appeal, FEMA Region VII has argued that the UIMA suffered less than 50 percent damage and that it could be restored to use as a museum.
But the UI contends that the former art building, even after repairs, cannot “perform the function for which it was being used as well as it did immediately prior to the disaster." The UIMA facility was built in 1969, entirely with gift funds, for the sole purpose of serving as a fine art museum, and it has always served as such. After the flood, Lloyds of London, which insures the UIMA’s artwork, stated it would not insure the collection if it were returned to the building, effectively rendering the building unusable as a museum for fine art.
UI General Counsel Carroll Reasoner said the disagreement stems from differing interpretations of FEMA rules, a matter she hopes can be resolved in the UI’s favor on appeal to FEMA headquarters.
“The building might be able to function as some sort of a museum but it has always been a fine art museum and it would be irresponsible and irrational to put the university's valuable fine art collection in a facility in the revised flood plain where it would be at risk and not be able to be insured for some reasonable amount,” Reasoner said.
During its review of the UI’s appeal, FEMA directed the UI to solicit quotes from other fine art insurers—a group that constitutes a relatively small market. Four of the five companies that responded said they would not insure the art in the current facility, while one declined to make a commitment because it said it did not have sufficient information.
In its denial letter, FEMA stated that while it “understands it may be difficult to obtain insurance, we are not convinced insuring the fine art collection is impossible.”
However, Reasoner points out that the university has not been able to obtain insurance for the art in the old facility and said there is no evidence such insurance could be obtained. She said that even if some form of insurance was available, the cost would likely be so prohibitively high it would prevent the museum from functioning as well as it did prior to the flood. She said the university does not believe the statute requires proving a negative—basically, that insurance is impossible—and will appeal.
The museum’s holdings, considered by many as one of the top university collections in the United States, comprise more than 12,000 works of art, including some of the world’s most famous paintings. Since the flood of 2008, the UIMA has made efforts to display at least a portion of its holdings at two temporary locations: the UIMA@IMU in the Iowa Memorial Union, and the Figge Art Museum in Davenport.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, firstname.lastname@example.org