Brown University’s new performing arts center, in the form of a stunted square pillar with flutes squatting atop a rectangular glass lobby, is almost ready for its dedication. It will be called the Lindemann Performing Arts Center, named for a billionaire family of Brown graduates and donors that has been in the news lately because of Brown’s decision to name the center for the family.
The Lindemann Center, designed by the architect Joshua Prince-Ramus of the firm REX, was the subject of my 2019 post “REX wrecks Brown PAC Rx.” Its “flutes” are not the wind instruments known and loved by all, but the technical name for the vertical concave grooves in some classical columns, which you can see in the photo above. (I have no idea why Brown felt some weird desire to make an allusion in the design to classical architecture, if indeed that was the thinking.)
But let’s go now to the Lindemanns and their current plight.
Historically pedigreed families high on any university’s donor list would prefer to see their names in a newspaper only twice in their lives: upon marriage and upon death. The Lindemanns have been in the news considerably more than twice because some people object to naming the center for the family, given the shenanigans of various family members. The following was cribbed from yesterday’s GoLocalProv.com:
- George Lindemann, the billionaire family patriarch (deceased) and Brown donor, owned a firm, Southern Union Group, that was convicted of a mercury spill in Pawtucket. The $18 million penalty was overturned and reduced to $500,000.
- His son, Brown graduate George Jr., was convicted of hiring a hitman in 1990 to murder his prize jumping horse for the insurance – but also for the crime of embarrassing the fellow with his “horsey” set. He faces a 33-month prison term.
- His sister, Brown grad Sloan Lindemann Barrett, has recently been tied to an alleged art theft discovered after a photo shoot of her mansion in San Francisco. Architectural Digest published the photo of Khmer sculptures, believed to have been looted years ago from Cambodia. In the published photo, the plinths were empty but the works turned up when journalistic art sleuths discovered an online photo in which the sculptures had not yet been photoshopped out.
Is this the sort of family behavior that epitomizes the gathering of wealth that so bedazzles Brown bigwigs that they agreed to name the new performing arts center after it? I’m afraid so.
Not because other Brown donors necessarily have similar rap sheets in their backgrounds, but because American capitalism these days does not reward entrepreneurs anymore for investing in products that people need or want. Instead, capitalism today is about the manipulation of money to buy even more money – lots more money.
That is true not only of Wall Street but of the American university system as well, not to mention many other sectors of the economy. And through entities like the Davos world economic forum, most other countries are in on the secret. Main Street businesses here are crushed underfoot, and Big Architecture sees itself as reaping huge profits from the crumbs that fall off the counting tables of the 1 percent. Hence the ugliness – symbolic of immorality – of Brown’s stupid new box, which, it seems, is quite aptly named. Sad but predictable.