The Anatomy of Gossip

Not much surprises me about CoCA anymore, but I have to say I did a little double-take when a friend casually tossed off the news that board president Shawn Ferris had resigned, or been made to resign. (Inaccurate? Perhaps. This is how gossip works.) Ferris has been CoCA's staunch supporter for ever so long, always the one to write in and correct me when I'd write something equivocal about the organization's latest attempts to rebuild or reinvent itself. There is no way, I thought, that Ferris' removal could be anything but a coup d'état, or at least a grand and doomed gesture. (Assumption leads to investigation.)

The official word from CoCA was as devoid of human story as you might expect, and new board president Dino Martini insisted there was no scandal. It was only, he said, that the yearly elections to determine the position of board president had been put off for too long while CoCA looked for and confirmed a new exhibition and office space--it would be detrimental, the board felt, to have too many elements in flux at once. When the time came for elections, Martini said, Ferris simply felt that she had served long enough and it was time to go, adding that she would still serve on the programming committee. (Denial.)

Still, I thought, there must be more to it. (Denial of denial; desire for gossip is just too great.)

As befits someone who may or may not be sitting on a fence, Ferris told me her story while simultaneously pledging her support for the organization. It's true that she thought it was a good time to leave, but it turns out there was more to it. (Aha!) "It seemed to me," she said, "that [exhibition] programming was getting left by the wayside. Here we are in the middle of 2002 and there's only the Northwest Annual planned, and one other show. We have this new mandate to have CoCA be all about Northwest and local programming, and instead it was getting to be about certain people railroading through their visions." (Shades of tension, of egos clashing and bitter resignation.)

It's not surprising, then, that she will not be serving on the programming committee. Martini got that wrong. (Misunderstanding? Misinformation?) "I'll still be on the events committee," Ferris said. "Maybe that's what he meant."

(The writer having finished her column, it only remains for the news to filter through society, gathering momentum and untruth as it goes.)

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