Closing the Barn Door: How one non-profit helps estate managers to deal with art that has been left

Dec 14, 2016

Image: David Shainberg, What If It Happened, 1989, source:

“When we opened the barn door for the first time, there were more than 1,000 remarkable sculptures inside, some could fit in your palm and some were over 10 feet tall! The family had no idea what to do with all these objects. They understood for the first time that their mother had, quite literally, created this remarkable phantasmagoria of sculptures, closed the barn door and hidden the key before she died,” Regan McCarthy, Co-Manager of POBA | Where the Arts Live, told The Clarion List.

“In our experience, this is not an unusual situation” McCarthy continued. “This family is hardly alone in having to face a real challenge - how to manage a collection that has been created or amassed by a loved one who has left neither the instructions nor the resources to make sense of the collection, organize it, monetize it, or dispose of it in a responsible way.”

Nor is this situation limited to the heirs of creative legacies or estates. This is true for collectors of all kinds - from foreign service officers who build remarkable collections of eclectic objects from their duty posts and travels to “amateur collectors” who collect specialty items - like, ceramic cows; to aging widows of World War II vets who have large collections of wartime letters they now want to preserve to small organizations whose long-ignored files document the histories of rural communities; from working artists who not only store the works they have created but all the materials needed to make those creations to those who inherit or collect the works of talented, perhaps recognized, deceased artists; and everything in between.

Where do we start?

“We try to help regular folks who are faced with these questions: Where do we start? What do we do now?” said Jennifer Cohen, Co-Manager of POBA. “We listen carefully to their concerns and their hopes, try to assess the actual state of the situation, figure out with them what they can afford to do now and perhaps going forward, and then say: Start here. We can help.”

POBA | Where the Arts Live® was founded by the James Kirk Bernard Foundation with the simple purpose of keeping creative legacies alive. An act of love that resulted from the tragic death of a young member of the Bernard family, they created a virtual online resource hub with two main purposes: to display the works of talented artists in all media who were not fully recognized during their lifetime and to provide practical technical and expert assistance to those who manage or are responsible for creative legacies or collections.

The mission: to preserve creative legacies

POBA fulfills its first mission by creating, showcasing and promoting the works of talented deceased artists in more than 150 portfolios on POBA. More of these are added all the time, as POBA receives referrals and works from individuals, from State Arts Councils and from other POBA partners and affiliates to present remarkable artists in all genres. It is well worth a visit to the site to see (and perhaps, buy in the POBA Shop) the unusual range and depth of talent shown by POBA’s undiscovered masters that would otherwise be lost.

POBA meets its second mission - to assist with expert collections management - through the POBA Concierge Service. Through online resources and real-world services, POBA helps individuals and institutions that own or manage a creative legacy or arts collection to preserve, protect, document, digitize, complete and in many other ways ensure these collections live on. POBA also assists working artists in managing their own works for future preservation, viewing, and value.

Working with the best, for the best

POBA provides collection management services directly and also works with some of the best professionals in the areas of appraisal, conservation, photo-documentation, production, archiving services and more available through POBA affiliates and among service providers listed on The Clarion List. In those instances, POBA coordinates the myriad services, ensures work is done on time and on budget and brings an exceptional standard of care to POBA’s collections management work.

“POBA is a non-profit for a reason,” remarked Cohen. “Not everyone who has a collection, even a “fine” collection by artistic standards, is wealthy, sophisticated, or prepared for what it takes to preserve, protect and honor the creations in their care. We are here when the barn doors get opened up, to help anyone who has an artistic {or historical documents) collection in a fair, expert and cost-effective way. Our mission is to preserve creative legacies, not to make a financial killing.”



To learn more about POBA | Where the Arts Live, check out their listing on The Clarion List or visit their website