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Layoffs at the Lab and MCA: Job losses in the wake of Adam Lerner appointment

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Mark Falcone, head of the board at MCA Denver and the founder, former board chairman and current boardmember of the Lab at Belmar, is apparently running both not-for-profit institutions as though they were his own private business interests -- which they are not. With the announcement that Adam Lerner, the former director of the Lab (who was handpicked by Falcone for that post ), would be taking over a similar role at MCA, those "transformational" changes we've heard so much about have begun.

The first change was the sacking of MCA's public relations firm, Fitz & Co, which specializes in promoting the visual arts. Fitz was let go just before the Lerner announcement was made public a couple of weeks ago. That outfit was replaced by a marketing and lobbying firm that specializes in "issues management" and "media relations." I haven't heard of the company, which is strange, since I'm one of just a handful of writers who are covering the MCA story -- well, not counting some of the snarky commenters who responded to my previous blog postings about the changes afoot at the museum.

Then the boards at the two venues decided that the heads of several loyal employees at both would need to roll.

First, those fun-loving kids at the Lab were told they'd be let go. The entire staff, save for Sarah Baie (who will be moving to LoDo with Lerner) will soon be looking for work.

Now, the bloodletting is moving over to the MCA. Today, Lerner's first official day on the job, the museum will formally announce that four employees are being dismissed -- a total that represents 20 percent of the staff. They are: public relations ace Daniele Robson; assistant to the director and curatorial assistant Petra Sertic; creative I.T. manager Sterling Crispin; and the only person in the education department, Alison Croney.

In each case, these jobs will need to be filled eventually, so it's hard to understand why the positions are being eliminated. Maybe the plan is to change the job titles and bring the former Lab-sters over after a brief interlude.

In an episode that has to be entered into the annals of chutzpah, Robson was assigned the task of developing talking points to rationalize the firings -- including her own. And to underscore the Falcone-as-CEO point, the four who are leaving are getting exit interviews from an HR staffer at Continuum Partners, Falcone's development company.

One tiny bright spot in all this is that the offensive image of the crudely drawn yellow Labrador retriever that was superimposed over the photo of the handsome David Adjaye-designed building has been removed from the MCA's website. The dog was posed as though it was licking Sue Webster and Tim Noble's "Toxic Schizophrenia" and in the process giving new meaning to that work's title.

And you know what? That idiotic image had a Falcone connection, too, because the model for the dog in the cartoon was the pooch that's owned by Ellen Bruss, Falcone's wife. One commenter on a previous blog has sarcastically suggested turning over the MCA building to Falcone, but it looks like that's already happened.

Now, remember: Don't blame the messenger.

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