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Thursday Morning Roundup

by Stephen Becker 1 Apr 2010 7:08 AM

WON’T YOU HELP?: Fort Worth Opera General Director Darren K. Woods has posted the above video to the organization’s YouTube channel. In it, he talks about some of the nice things being said about the opera around the country and, as you might guess, asks for your financial support in light of other funding drying […]


WON’T YOU HELP?: Fort Worth Opera General Director Darren K. Woods has posted the above video to the organization’s YouTube channel. In it, he talks about some of the nice things being said about the opera around the country and, as you might guess, asks for your financial support in light of other funding drying up.

TISK, TISK: The Council for Artists Rights, an advocacy group based in Chicago (I looked for a Web site but couldn’t find one) is none too happy with the DMA and the Modern. Its beef, according to Glasstire, is with the museums’ curators working with the Cowboys on the art program at the new stadium and essentially taking work away from an independent curator. Legitimate complaint? Much ado about nothing? You decide.

MUSIC BITS: Are Fort Worth’s Whiskey Folk Ramblers breaking up? Preston Jones is looking into the matter, and all signs for now point towards yes. (dfw.com) … Grapevine’s Mount Righteous has a new album out. The band’s songwriter, Joey Kendall, tells Hunter Hauk that the new release is, “all about suburbia, sort of the status quo and what people expect of you when you get older.” (quickdfw.com) … Sleep Whale is the guest for the latest episode of DC9 Live at El Sibil. (DC9 at Night)

  • Council for Artists Rights

    April 4, 2010

    Regarding your post “TISK, TISK,”
    A comment posted by Laray on D Magazine’s blog Front Row, on this topic is right on the money! However, the Council for Artists Rights original letter brings up Dallas art world issues that have yet to be addressed by anyone. It’s truly a shame Laray had to go out of her way “on a digging exhibition” to Glasstire.com’s website to find the hotlink to the unedited Council for Artist Rights letter. Glasstire.com, D Magazine’s Front Row and KERA’s Art & Seek need to post the original Council for Artists Rights letter so its respective readership can decide for itself if the Dallas art world issues it raises are legitimate or not. Further, each of them needs to publish Glasstire.com News Editor Bill Davenport’s reply. The eyes of history are upon us. (By the way, yesterday, Texas art historian Sam Blain Jr. broached the subject on his Facebook wall.) Here is the entire CFAR letter:
    ” Senior Staff of Two North Texas Museums Curate Artwork for Dallas Cowboys Stadium

    Decision raises questions about the use of nonprofit employees to manage art-related profit-making ventures

    March 30, 2010

    Dear Friend of Artists’ Rights:

    Here is a copy of our open letter which was conveyed today to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram /DFW.com.

    Open Letter to Ft. Worth Star-Telegram/DFW.com

    Re: “Cowboys Stadium calls for artwork on a grand scale and team delivers” March 25, 2010, DFW.com article by Gaile Robinson (reporter for Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)

    Dear Ft. Worth Star-Telegram/DFW.com:

    Given the restraints a recession imposes on businesses of all sizes, it is wonderful that despite the economic strains on North Texas, a new Dallas Cowboys Stadium came to fruition. However, the Council for Artists Rights has a two-pronged concern.

    Our first concern is about the heavy outlay of nonprofit human resources used to support a private enterprise via the stocking of the Cowboys stadium with new artwork. We disagree with the Dallas Museum of Art and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth letting its employees spend significant amounts of their time to manage the Dallas Cowboys Art Program (DCAP). This issue is about museum staff using their expertise as curators to benefit the DCAP, a private venture. As employees of nonprofit museums, senior curator Michael Auping and lead curator Charles Wylie–as part of an art council created by Mary Zlot–used their knowledge to advise Zlot how to spend the big bucks on 19 artists. Having museum curators directly involved accrues the museums’ reputation to the Cowboys Stadium. The museums’ prestige–gained at public expense–should not be for sale at any price.

    Is it not the purview of art dealers, independent curators and artists to earn their bread and butter from commercial ventures like the DCAP?

    If Auping and Wylie do not have enough work to keep them occupied at the museum, perhaps the museums’ board of trustees needs to take a hard look at those positions and consider making them part-time jobs with the commensurate reduction in salary and employee benefits. Issues such as these–museum professionals’ ties to art-related commercial ventures–is the subject of a New York Times article dated November 18, 2007 “Museums Solicit Dealers’ Largess,” concerning the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. That article caused art lawyer Sérgio Muñoz Sarmiento to write an editorial called “Private Contributions and Public Institutions,” which was published on Clancco.com November 28, 2007. He references the NYT article in it.

    We are not legal scholars but it appears that these North Texas museums’ seasoned curators are serving private interests rather than the public. Is that behavior a classic example of having a conflict of interest? Their actions–and by extension, the museums themselves–strongly intimates of having violated Internal Revenue Service rules. The IRS code states that not-for-profit museums must be operated exclusively for the purposes which gave rise to receiving its tax-exempt status under code Section 501(c)(3), namely, serving the public and not private enterprise. In other words, the private enterprise has already received a private benefit via their tax deductible contribution. Museum resources ultimately belong to the public; the public is the museum patron via being a taxpayer.

    Is it time to blow the whistle on these museums’ policy by getting nonprofit ethics and accountability investigator US Senator Charles “Chuck” Grassley (R-Iowa) involved? His campaign to clean up nonprofits is legendary and well-covered by the press.

    Secondly, for over 150 years this country had an organized national system to educate, through exposure, the entire art community and the public, including art collectors, as to what was regularly being produced by living artists and how artists were ranked by many of the top professionals in the field. This was done without favoritism and was a system available to all artists, professionals and the public, including collectors, without compromising or jeopardizing the tax-exempt status of public institutions. It was called the juried exhibition and it occurred at the local, regional, national and international level. Such a system may or may not have produced the same artists hand-picked to stock the Dallas Cowboys Stadium. As it stands, only few people chose those 19 artists which is a tremendous concentration of power. Is this method of choosing artwork really fair to the rest of the artists who were not given the opportunity for their work to be seen by the DCAP?

    Texas art historian Sam Blain Jr. echoes our last point. He recently posted this response on a social networking website after receiving a query about whether or not a certain “credentialed” Texas wildflower artist would get any mention or “ink” in textbooks:

    John, it appears the only contemporary artists who do get “any” ink at all, appear to get it as a result of their dealer/gallery/collector promotional handiwork or through their publicity agents. With the absence of true juried regional exhibitions, as were held throughout the country up through the early to mid 1960s, our American artists have … lacked any honest means by which to become “credentialed” as professional artists. A good example of this is the Texas art scene. When the Texas Annuals were in-place, Texas artists were juried by highly esteemed professional artists and well respected museum professionals brought in from across the the country. In turn, those prize winners from those juried shows received national (and, in many cases, international) “ink” in newspapers and periodicals. Those prize winners from those “feeder” exhibitions went on to enter the larger multi-state shows and the press always followed…as did all the museums across the country. Then came the Nationals and Internationals. It was a much healthier art scene, all the way around! When the Texas Annuals were done away with, the investor-collectors, private dealers, etc….took over and proclaimed who the professional artists were….and, in many cases, private art collectors became private art dealers. The 1930s and 1940s were the “ideal” time, it appears. From the late 1940s through the early 1960s, Jerry Bywaters of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts kept the state scene “alive” by bringing in the other major Texas art museums as co-sponsors of the Texas Annuals… up until the DMFA’s board of directors replaced him with Merrill C. Rueppel, who can be credited with turning the DMFA into a private showroom for private-collectors who had become private dealers.

    Regarding our first concern at the top of this letter, perhaps at the next Dallas Cowboys home game President Obama and his Cabinet will personally provide valet parking for stadium cars. Why not?”