The Washington Post

Hirshhorn board meets to discuss fate of Bubble project

The Hirshhorn board held a specially convened meeting Wednesday to discuss the fate of the seasonal inflatable structure informally known as the Bubble. It comes on the heels of Hirshhorn board member Beth Dozoretz’s resignation Monday.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Dozoretz, who had been on the board for a year, said she had just accepted a position as vice chair of the board for the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School at Harvard. “I believe the time and energy required to participate on the Hirshhorn board, especially with so much change upon us, is not something I’m going to have,” she said. “I don’t believe I’d be able to fulfill my responsibilities on both projects.”

The loss of Dozoretz, who directs the State Department’s Art in Embassies program, is an organizing and fundraising loss, according to sources close to the project who requested anonymity because discussions are ongoing. And it comes at a tenuous time.

It follows the resignation of board chairman J. Tomilson Hill in October and board member Barbara Levine early this year and raises further concerns about the viability of the Bubble project. “We hope to make a decision by spring 2013 that would enable us to put up the structure in 2014,” Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s undersecretary for history, art and culture told The Post last month. He said half the construction costs have been raised.

Since it was first announced as the signature project of newly appointed museum director Richard Koshalek in 2009, the structure, which was to rise from the center of the Hirshhorn to provide a culturally and architecturally transformative programming space, has been plagued with challenges. Cost estimates for the 145-foot-tall structure have grown from $5 million to more than $15 million, excluding programming and operating costs, and the opening date has been postponed twice.

Beth Dozoretz, second from left, has resigned from the Hirshhorn’s board. Above, she appears with her husband, Ron, and Rhonda and Dan Glickman at the 2011 Ford’s Theatre annual gala. (Rebecca D'Angelo/For The Washington Post)

Hirshhorn spokesman Chris Wailoo called the board energetic and focused despite the losses. “Three have left, but in the same time we’ve recruited several more. This happens in the arts. It is a vibrant place, and we’ve had more than three members join the board this year, so nothing to worry about. The board is growing.” Smithsonian officials are still planning on a spring decision about whether the Bubble project will move forward, he said.

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