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Why Was a Miami Museum the Site of a Trump Town Hall?

The Pérez Art Museum Miami says it has a responsibility to remain nonpartisan, per official guidelines on election advocacy released by the American Alliance of Museums.

The Pérez Art Museum Miami (photo by Philip Pessar via Flickr)

The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) drew ire this week for allowing a town hall with President Trump to take place on its premises yesterday evening. On social media, critics lambasted the move, calling the event a “fascist rally” and even threatening to withdraw their support of the museum.

“Are you seriously hosting Trump tomorrow, this is sickening, especially for a museum catering to the Latinx community which has been systematically attacked by the GOP and Trump himself time and time again,” said a comment on a post on the museum’s Instagram page.

PAMM has responded to the objections by invoking its responsibility to remain non-partisan per official guidelines on election advocacy released by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). According to the organization, museums may allow candidates or elected officials to rent their space, but must do so “at fair-market value and with equal availability to all candidates, parties, and elected officials.” On October 5, PAMM was the site of a similar town hall with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

In a statement shared with Hyperallergic, the museum said it did not “sponsor, host, or conduct the event, but merely rented the space.”

“PAMM is a public-private partnership with a duty to the non-partisan County Mayor and commissioners to uphold its commitment to not be a political organization,” the statement reads.

“The request was made from NBC to PAMM for rental of space for the town hall event NBC conducted first with one party’s candidate, and at a later time, NBC sought to do the same with regard to the other party’s candidate,” the museum added.

A screenshot from an Instagram story by @j_bandler_f  criticizing the museum’s response.

But some have raised issues with PAMM’s explanation. Jesse Bandler Firestone, a curatorial assistant at Wave Hill, told Hyperallergic that the museum’s response was “an attempt to skirt responsibility by hiding behind bureaucratic procedures.”

“What’s most troubling, however, is the museum’s decision to champion non-partisanship in today’s political landscape where a flagrantly racist and fascist-fire-fanning presidential candidate undermining an election may very well win what could be the last democratic election in this country for years,” Firestone added.

In its statement, the museum also said it was not aware town halls by both candidates would be broadcasted concurrently by NBC last night, October 15. As Trump addressed Florida voters in Miami, Biden took to the stage in Pennsylvania in an event hosted by ABC. The dueling events replaced the scheduled face-to-face debate that was canceled when Trump contracted the coronavirus and refused to participate in a virtual debate.

The Miami developer Jorge Pérez, the namesake of the museum, is among a bipartisan group of Cuban-Americans in the city campaigning for Biden, according to the Miami Herald

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