The Houston Arts Alliance has released an official statement on their sudden change of heart about awarding high-profile commission to Houston Artist Ed Wilson:
Houston Arts Alliance Statement
The review process for the commission of a large-scale work of art for the new lobby to be built at the George R. Brown Convention Center is currently on schedule, with an anticipated installation of the artwork by November 2015.
It is unfortunate that artist Ed Wilson received a premature communication regarding the status of his proposal in the review process.
As for Mr. Mathew [sic] Lennon’s resignation to the position of Director of Civic Art + Design, it is with sadness that we accept his resignation. He has dedicated his life to the arts, and we hope his passion and commitment to it continue to serve our city and its artists. Respected art consultant Sara Kellner will serve as HAA’s Interim Director of Civic Art + Design.
The release goes on to list Kellner’s substantial qualifications for the job, but fails to address any of Lennon’s reasons for leaving, which he detailed in a detailed letter of resignation to Marc Melcher, Chariman of the HAA Board, dated November 22. In the letter, Lennon places the blame for the commission snafu squarely on HAA’s Civic Art Committee:
Dear Mark [sic],
The recent CAC meeting was disingenuous.
Everything being sought had been requested of the CAC [Civic Art Committee] by staff many times over the past years. Staff has asked for a sub committee to review and amend the ordinance and other policies on a number of occasions. There was plenty of time to form a subcommittee for GRB [the George R. Brown project] while I negotiated the contract. The leadership did not facilitate this. Blaming staff is hypocritical.
CAC was informed of the GRB requirements in August and asked to put forward names for the artist list. Only Janet Hobby responded. Had the committee thoroughly read the September minutes they would have seen that the artists list was vetted at committee, had support by the attending members and that Paul Kittleson had been endorsed as a panelist by their Chair. Not acknowledging that reveals the lack of consistency within the CAC and demonstrates the need for the team’s self- sufficiency.
To undermine a process that has served HAA well, to denigrate local art professionals and belittle local talent- no matter how cleverly masked- is not the job of CAC. They were not formed to select or reject artists or to decide who or what is ‘Blue Chip’ (see September Minutes). They certainly aren’t there to depreciate the value of staff. Our leadership did nothing to divert that, its silence encouraged it.
No Civic Art Committee changes policies during an active contract. It’s unprofessional.
Ed Wilson, and the other artists, followed the procedures provided. A professional panel with stakeholder representation was formed. Ed was selected unanimously by a blind vote. Derailing that process is naïve and insults everyone engaged. Depriving Ed Wilson of his commission is unethical.
The CAD team has successfully delivered permanent and temporary projects. To treat those successes as insignificant because they’re not perceived as iconic, displays an insular understanding of civic art. As director I negotiated the first 3 year contract, the 17% fee, the contracts with SWA and GRB. I did this with the benefits to HAA in mind and fully aware that it’s the clients requirements that drive the projects.
It’s quite evident that the program now needs an Arts Administrator with a submissive nature. Therefore I am resigning effective immediately. Please forward any paperwork to my personal Email.
Independent Curator, Artist, Writer and
Professional Public Art Facilitator
Several times in his letter, Lennon mentions the minutes of the reportedly dramatic September meeting of the CAC about the GRB project where HAA staff presented CAC with a list of seven artists and five selection panelists, and CAC members, according to Lennon, “denigrate local art professionals and belittle local talent.”
This morning, Glasstire made a request to HAA Communcation Director Marie Jacinto to see a copy of these minutes, which are public records, offering to visit the HAA offices to do so. Jacinto said she would “forward the request on to the CEO and COO, who could pull the records” and she would make them avaliable. So far, there has been no action.
UPDATE: Details of the Fall CAC meetings and the HAA’s big do-over here.