A caretaker, a will and legal motions from prison

January 29, 2019

Harvey Fuller, a decadeslong member of the Mystic Art Association, now the Mystic Museum of Art, signed over to his beloved art guild the deed to his 1857 Victorian house overlooking the Mystic River six years ago, when he was 94.

In giving the house to the museum, Fuller, an accomplished artist whose first commission, in the 1930s, was for murals at the famed Cotton Club in New York City, broke the intent of a trust established by him and his late wife in 1994, leaving the property to their four children.

Both Fuller and the museum told The Day in 2013 that the house, the largest gift in the museum’s history, was meant to be used as a retreat for artists.

“It is situated in a nice place overlooking the river. I thought it would be a nice place for young artists to come and work,” Fuller told The Day at the time.

“It’s very exciting for us,” said Karen Barthelson, then the art association director. “The artist-in-residence program has always been one of our goals as far as our mission.”

The article explained that Fuller would keep life tenancy in the house, and the museum would maintain it.

Fuller, about the time he signed the deed, moved out to live with his caretaker. He died Nov. 21, 2017. The museum, which never did anything to establish an artist-in-residence program, also did little in the way of maintenance, given the peeling paint, falling plaster, rotting stairs and vines growing in the windows today.

The museum put the property on the market in December, with an asking price of 190,000.

Cushman told me last week be negotiated a contract between Fuller and Urena in which she eventually was paid about 4,850. He did not return my phone messages. I had a lot to ask him, including his thoughts on the request by Jancis Fuller to have the court nullify the deed giving the art museum the house.

I met with Susan Fisher, museum executive director, and David Madacsi, president of the board of trustees, and they told me no artist-in-residence program was ever developed for the Fuller house because there was no money to do that. They couldn’t tell me when exactly plans for that changed, from the time it was announced as the reason for the gift and listing the house for sale in December.

At the time of Fuller’s gift, the art association applied for and received an exemption from Groton property taxes on the house, now 700,000 in restricted and nonrestricted funds. She told me when we met Wednesday she expected the house to sell for less than its $628,000 asking price. The Realtors’ listing status changed to pending sale Thursday.

I would suggest to whomever might have a contract to buy Fuller’s charming old home on Bindloss that they might want to put aside money, not just for renovations, but for legal bills, as well.

I doubt the legal motions coming from prison in the Fuller case, all neatly written by hand and citing all the relevant laws, are going to stop any time soon.

This is the opinion of  David Collins.


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