With the Austin Museum of Art shuttering their downtown location, the city’s crackdown on home/studio spaces on the east side, the House voting to gut the funding for the Texas Commission for the Arts, and the recent news that Art Lies is ceasing publication, what could make this a bleaker month for central Texas art?
Arthouse, the 100-year-old Austin-based organization I’ve been proud to support since the days when it was still called the Texas Fine Arts Association, is beginning to show signs of fracture, despite their beautiful new façade. You can get the bigger story over at Austin360 if you’ve missed it in the news, but to summarize: exhibited art has been mishandled and censored, their admired and successful curator was fired abruptly (possibly after having written a letter of concern to the director about the above-mentioned mishandling), and some of their prominent board members and staff members have resigned in protest. There’s also a growing collective voice of concern by the artists who were to be contributing work to the upcoming 5×7 fundraising show (myself included). So far, apart from short responses directly to inquiring reporters, I don’t believe that Arthouse has issued a statement on the matter, which isn’t especially good PR in my humble opinion.
Eric Zimmerman has a nice summary of the concerns on his cablegram blog:
No one would argue against a new building, or at very least a renovation. But when you dump truckloads of cash into a designer building and neglect to budget for a curator, the person who puts the actual art in the Arthouse, there seems to be some serious priority issues. I said it before, a building is nice and all, but what you show in that building is where the rubber meets the road. I’d love to see art organizations forgo the starchitect buldings and put money into paying artists, curators, and their staff instead.
For the curatorial angle (or perhaps, the “lack of curator”), you might be interested in Wendy Vogel’s take over on …might be good.
Here’s to hoping that Arthouse can steer itself back on track as the leading space for contemporary art in Austin.