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North Miami, former MOCA board continue talks

The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami
The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami Miami Herald Staff

Settlement talks between the city of North Miami and the former board of the Museum of Contemporary Art appeared — for a short time — to have fallen apart Wednesday when city officials sent a press release announcing they had reached an impasse.

But it wasn’t long before a spokeswoman said the city’s position might have changed, and by the end of the day both sides said they were continuing to negotiate.

City spokeswoman Pam Solomon said the city’s outside counsel had formally declared an impasse in the mediation with the former board members, but ultimately decided to reverse that decision and continue talks this week.

The two parties have been in mediation for more than five months after former MOCA board members filed suit against the museum’s municipal landlord in April.

In recent months, the city and former board appeard to be drawing close to an agreement, referring to “the final stages of the mediation process” in public statements. One main sticking point left to resolve has been how to divide the 600-work permanent collection.

Even as the negotiations continue, both sides have moved forward.

In August, the former board of the North Miami museum created a new entity, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, and announced a temporary move to Miami’s Design District while it worked on plans for a permanent home. ICA Miami later announced it had hired an interim director, Suzanne Weaver, and revealed plans for an opening timed to coincide with Art Basel Miami Beach in December.

Back at the North Miami site, MOCA held its first exhibition under new director Babacar M'Bow in September. The city appointed a panel of volunteers to serve as a steering committee, and the museum announced an exhibition and event lineup for Art Basel Miami Beach.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the city initially announced — “with great disappointment” — that it would return to litigation and leave the matter to a judge.

“We entered these negotiations over five months ago in good faith, with the goal of finding a fair and equitable exit agreement for that board,” North Miami City Manager Aleem Ghany said in a statement. “Each time we were led to believe we were close to an agreement, the outgoing board would make additional, unrealistic demands that were simply not in the museum’s best interest and further damaging to MOCA’s existence and reputation.”

It was unclear Wednesday afternoon exactly what prompted that announcement and its reversal.

In a statement late Wednesday, ICA Miami co-chair Irma Braman said: “We continue to negotiate in good faith with the City of North Miami and remain pleased with the progress we have made during mediation.”

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