Seattle's arts institutions have seen their share of board vs. staff conflicts in the past year, but nothing that's gone on here can match the current brouhaha just north in Vancouver, BC, where Vancouver Art Gallery director Alf Bogusky resigned recently, reportedly over a fight involving a photography show by washed-up Canuck rocker Bryan Adams.
Adams now fancies himself an artist, and had been handed the keys to both the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the McCord Museum in Montreal to show Made in Canada, 89 black-and-white portraits of famous Canadian women (let's see: Celine Dion, Margaret Atwood, Alanis Morissette, Anne Murray, Anne Carson, Natasha Henstridge, k.d. lang, Maggie Trudeau -- how many more could there be?). The show and accompanying book are pitched as a benefit for breast cancer research. Famous non-artist plus good cause does not equal good art, of course, though the equation often means good business for institutions willing to sell out their artistic integrity. Bogusky's refusal to take the show, along with other conflicts, led to his resignation, according to unquoted "anonymous sources" mentioned in an April 4 Vancouver Sun report on the fiasco.
Bogusky was the museum's fourth director in the past 10 years. A search for his replacement is under way, but the board has already drawn attacks -- including a petition signed by 90 prominent members of the Vancouver artistic community -- for naming a board member as interim director. It's a shame, especially given that the VAG [Ed. Note: That's a hard "G," eh?] is hosting a very interesting touring show at the moment: Mirror's Edge, which collects work by 25 contemporary artists, including Francis Alÿs, Steve McQueen, Raymond Pettibon, Liisa Roberts, Yinka Shonibare, Thomas Struth, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
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The National Endowment for the Arts announced $50.2 million in grants -- about 63% of its total annual disbursements -- last Wednesday. Due to congressional dictates, most of the money will be passed along to state commissions, including $472,200 to the Washington State Arts Commission. The rest of the grants are in the categories of Access (getting kids, poor people, disabled people, non-white people, hayseeds, and so forth to see your projects), Education, and Heritage and Preservation.
Our Seattle Symphony ($60K) and Pacific Northwest Ballet ($50K) got the biggest chunks of change locally, the former to tour Eastern Washington, the latter for its school. Other winners include Earshot Jazz ($11K to support website improvements and commissions and residencies featuring jazz artists), Jack Straw Productions ($10K to teach audio production skills to blind youth), Tacoma Art Museum ($10K to bring a contemporary folk art show drawn from the Smithsonian's great collection), and Intiman Theatre ($12K for a school tour of Measure for Measure, a rather creepily misogynistic text to expose high-schoolers to).
My favorite grants to West Coast institutions are $20K to the San Francisco School of Circus Arts to establish a full-time clown training program -- I only wish they'd been given more money; who else will train the clowns of tomorrow? -- and $10K to the Greater Wenatchee Community Foundation for the Mariachi Northwest Festival, which apparently will "reinforce the existing program of Mariachi music in the public schools." Who said arts instruction in public schools is dead!?
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