Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bloggers, now is your time.

The Contemporary has certainly been a punching bag for the Atlanta art's community for quite some time now, and I must say with reason. Not to harp on the "good ole days", but the programming has not a fraction of the old exuberance and intelligence that once reigned during the Nexus years.

Local artist, curator, director, founder, activist, general bad-ass, Ms Julia Fenton has taken on quite a campaign against the tailspin that The Contemporary is caught in. After many shove-offs from board members, she has taken the matter to a higher level: the press. Cathy Fox will be doing a story on the institutions current changing of the guard. If you would like to comment or provide your opinion for this story either on or off the record, please make sure to do so before the 14th of August when Cathy leaves for China. If you are interested and do not have her information already, please leave me a comment and I will get you her information.

Below you can read a snip of the much lengthier letter sent by Julia Fenton to the Contemporary.
As I see it, The Contemporary has pretty much reduced its programming to exhibitions, and a minimal number of education programs. I feel the concensus of people I talk to here in Atlanta is that the exhibitions are marginally aceeptable, generally neither current nor cutting edge, composed of the smallest possible number of Atlanta participants and more often than not of out of town artists represented by Stuart’s fairly small circle of gallery friends. I see no evidence of sound research in putting together exhibitions, no evidence of any long range plans on the part of the gallery, no evidence of any coherent exhibition design. It has been my experience that successful programming of the kind that not just I but a number of The Contemporary’s former Gallery Directors put together took full time research, lots of legwork, and broad involvement in Atlanta’s and other major arts communities. It is not possible to run a successful, exciting, stimulating gallery schedule on a part-time basis...

Artists on the whole are rather astute about their profession, and there is a very large number of well respected artists in this community and beyond who are offended by their treatment at the Contemporary. Most professionally run non-profit galleries schedule their programming at least two years in advance. Last minute invitations to exhibit are on the whole professionally offensive. And, unfortunately, the word I hear most often used to describe Stuart is arrogant; the second most frequent comment is that the Contemporary is haphazard at best, if not sloppy, in its programming content. I believe the community also has a vague, unsettling sense now of having been used rather than served. Many of the artists in the last Biennial were embarrassed both by the look of their work in its installation and in the general content of the show. These are comments I am now also hearing from some of the Portland arts community.

2 comments:

matt haffner said...

she is right on the mark. the contemporary has been in a sad state for so long i can remember so few good shows over the last 9 years that i have been in atlanta. this goes far beyond stuart's programming unfortunately.
it always feels like a huge missed opportunity to never or rarely exhibit atlanta artist. most often these artists only show outside of atlanta to get any props. the "studio" artists at the contemporary are the last to be considered for any programming and it has been the most ignored part of the institution as a whole even though the list currently and in the past has included some of the biggest names in the region.

Miss Darrow said...

Right. I think that the trouble definitely started with finanaces, as does most things. As soon as the funding started getting cut things really began to nosedive.

What I think is unfortunate is that it seems like now there is less and less interest on the part of The Contemporary to revive the interest of the community. It seems that if that were more of a concern perhaps their membership numbers could go up, and there would be more assistance in that way from the community.

I think that Atlanta artists are generally very supportive of what resources they have, but because they have kind of been given the push-off by Stuart (or so it seems) they are much less inclined to stay invested.