Facing tens of thousands of sex-abuse claims and a bankruptcy filing, the Boy Scouts of America said it plans to sell its portfolio of Norman Rockwell paintings in order to help finance a victims fund of at least $300 million.
The organization announced its intentions in court papers filed Monday in a federal bankruptcy court in Delaware after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February of last year. This followed allegations of rampant sexual abuse by Scout leaders, employees and volunteers dating back to at least 1944.
The BSA’s plan to sell off roughly 60 paintings “demonstrates that considerable progress has been made” in providing equitable compensation to victims and in meeting financial obligations, the organization said in a statement to HuffPost on Wednesday.
The artwork was commissioned by the BSA during a 64-year relationship with the late painter and illustrator, who got his first paid artist job with the organization’s Boys’ Life magazine in 1912, the BSA said. The paintings have been on display at the Medici Museum of Art in Howland, Ohio, since 2020.
The museum said in a statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday that it is “obviously disappointed” with the planned sale but that it has been aware of this possibility since agreeing to display the art back in 2019.
The artwork has not been formally appraised, the BSA said, and an estimated value was not included in the court filing.
“We firmly believe that these iconic works of art represent the best of the Scouting movement and that their value should be maximized to benefit survivors,” the organization said in a statement.
Though Rockwell’s scout paintings are famous, they are not ranked among his best works, one art critic and Rockwell biographer told The New York Times.
“He wasn’t free to invent or imbue the canvases with his usual array of closely observed details,” Deborah Solomon said of Rockwell’s commissioned work, which came with rules and specific instructions for him.
Attorneys representing BSA victims said the proposed sale, which doesn’t include sales of the BSA’s camps and various real estate, isn’t good enough.
“The BSA and its local councils are not making the effort necessary to provide a modicum of compensation to men and women whose lives were changed forever by BSA’s and the local councils’ failure to protect them as children,” John Humphrey, chairman of the court-appointed tort claims committee that represents the abuse victims, told The Los Angeles Times.
Humphrey estimated that the BSA’s proposal would result in around $6,100 per claimant.
Another lawyer representing individual claimants called the proposed plan “disgraceful” to the LA Times.
The BSA, in a statement posted online, said the claimants will have the opportunity to vote on its proposed victim compensation plan and that it hopes to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy this fall.