An eminent player in the development business, and a highly connected arts advocate, wrote to congratulate me about the opening of MOCA in September. For many practical reasons, I had to decline the praise. MOCA isn’t just a building, it’s also a corporation.
In 2014, we began working on the corporation, under the direction and authority of the Board. By 2015, the Board had asked us to focus on the MOU and eventual building lease, and then the design and building process. In my view, the pace of organizational and facility development should have been synchronized, but it progressed in different directions at different speeds, with suboptimal results.
This happened in other building projects, like the National Ballet School. It’s unbelievably stressful on staff and volunteers to have a big capital project looming in the background of a daily operation that seeks to form and reform itself in anticipation of uncertain but drastic change.
Ideally they would be synchronized, but a times MOCA’s organizational development, including the Board, fell behind the building project, and at other times, the building lagged behind organizational capacity. Some of the consequences were very public, like the sudden resignation of CEO’s. Some were only evident internally. Yet the outward dimensions were extremely positive in that the new MOCA was 4-6 times greater, in terms of facility size, operating budget, and staffing.
These visible assets are offset to some degree by invisible organizational liabilities with which the Board and staff bravely contend as MOCA grows into its new circumstances. This is regrettable, and to accept congratulations, I would have needed to see a healthy, strong, and fully resourced MOCA light up its building and engage Toronto in a new relationship with its latent contemporary art appetites.