The foundation created to turn pop artist Robert Indiana’s dilapidated island home into a museum dedicated to his work is ready to engage with the community about the size and scope of the project even as a lawsuit against Indiana’s estate heats up.
Larry Sterrs, chairman of the Star of Hope Foundation, said the process gets underway Monday when he visits Vinalhaven Island to meet with the Board of Selectmen on the day after the anniversary of Indiana’s death.
The reclusive artist known for his iconic “LOVE” series died last year on Vinalhaven. The lawsuit was filed the day before he died.
Sterrs said his message to the community is that the foundation’s work continues despite the estate’s legal entanglements. And he said islanders will help to shape plans for the museum through community engagement that begins next month and with a survey later this summer.
When he died at 89, Indiana left behind a Victorian house, known as the Star of Hope, with a hole in the roof and millions of dollars of artwork inside. The estate is currently valued at about $66 million — virtually of it artwork.
The building, with boarded-up windows, continues to fall further into disrepair and pigeons are infiltrating, said Erin Creelman, who lives next door.
“As it stands, it’s precarious,” Creelman said. “All I want is for the Star of Hope to be loved.”
The estate has more than enough money for Star of Hope to transform the decaying home. But it’s tied up in a lawsuit by an art business that claimed Indiana illegally entered into a contract with another art company for reproductions of his work.
Last week, the rhetoric became heated when lawyers for the estate filed notices in federal court in New York seeking to terminate licensing agreements the late artist had with both of the art businesses: American Image Art and the Morgan Art Foundation.
Michael McKenzie, from American Image Art, had this to say about estate attorneys: “We’re going to crush them like a grape.”
The Star of Hope Foundation, which recently added two more board members, is not a party to the lawsuit and will be working over the next several months to ensure its board and Vinalhaven residents are on the same page about the museum.
At the same time, an engineering study will be conducted over the next year to examine what improvements are possible for Indiana’s Star of Hope home, a converted fraternal order hall that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sterrs remains excited about the project even though he expects that there will be some bumps along the way. Indiana, who was sometimes cantankerous, is beloved in the art community but isn’t universally loved on the island.
“I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for what a great thing this can be for Vinalhaven, the coast of Maine and the state of Maine. There’s a great opportunity here,” Sterrs said.