Artist Ed Wilson’s Contract Withdrawn as $830,000 GRB Commission Process Collapses in Turmoil

by Bill Davenport November 22, 2014
The New GRB. Note Koons balloon dog!

The New GRB. Note Koons balloon dog!

Houston artist Ed Wilson’s $830,000 commission to produce an artwork for the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston in time for the 2017 Superbowl has been inexplicably withdrawn by the Houston Arts Alliance in the midst of contract negotiations. “I was stunned. This is a really big deal for me,” said Wilson.

Wilson was picked to create a sculpture for the renovated GRB by the unanimous vote of a five-member selection panel appointed by HAA a few weeks ago. The panel included the project’s architect, a representative of the GRB, and three arts professionals.

Sources involved in the process say that the GRB contracted with HAA to administrate their public art process. The project was to be completed quickly, within a single year. Time being tight, it was decided to invite proposals from artists, rather than holding an open call. HAA staff created a list of approximately 30 artists, and, in consultation with the clients, whittled them down to a shortlist of seven before presenting it, along with names of art professionals for the selection committee, to the Civic Art Committee, which advises and oversees HAA. The HAA’s selection panel was artist Paul Kittelson; conservator Jill Whitten; Christine Medina, gallery manager at Rice University Art Gallery; Marie Hoke, the project’s architect; and a representative of the GRB.

The selection panel chose two artists, Christian Ekhart and Ed Wilson, to prepare more detailed proposals, and finally chose Wilson’s at the end of October. HAA began negotiating a contract with Wilson, but broke off negotiations and withdrew the commission last Thursday, November 20 via a phone call to Wilson from Matthew Lennon, HAA’s Director of Civic Art + Design, who has resigned his post. He has not responded to Glasstire’s phone calls asking for comment.

It’s unclear as yet where or why the process broke down, or who’s responsible for the about-face, but rumors abound. “I don’t know who’s responsible for whatever’s going on down there [at HAA], but it’s stinky, and it’s affecting me,” said Wilson.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: HAA’s Statement vs Lennon’s Resignation Letter

UPDATE: Details of the Civic Art Committee’s big do-over revealed here.


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matthew lennon November 23, 2014 - 09:55

Don’t know who you’re calling but it’s not me. you’re probably calling my HAA phones. Not there.

Simply put: I reigned because of the actions taken against Ed, the lack of respect for local professionals and the civic art team.

Ben Tecumseh DeSoto November 24, 2014 - 11:06

Mr. Lennon, you left? Wow.

K.Olson November 24, 2014 - 16:14

I really hope this comment is followed up on somewhere. The reporting in the Chronicle and here leave a lot of questions. If this is indeed Mr. Lennon. It is hard to make any informed opinion as there is just so much missing here concerning a public expenditure. This lack of information is the most troubling thing for me.

Liza Littlefield November 23, 2014 - 16:51

This action by HAA is totally unconscionable. Artists in Houston are shocked and dismayed at the withdrawal of a contract that was already decided upon. Boo to the withdrawal.

Adam wilson November 24, 2014 - 08:50

I smell crooked politicians…

Matty Lucas November 24, 2014 - 23:44

“The LACK of money is the root of all evil.”

Brian Owens November 24, 2014 - 10:53

There is no question that Ed Wilson is competent, capable and artistic enough to make a success of this project. So why was it suddenly pulled out from under him? I suspect as usual that those with money and power didn’t get what(or who) they wanted and decided to change the rules. Follow the money.

Deborah Grotfeldt November 24, 2014 - 11:22

This is a shame. It’s another indication of just how lame the Houston Arts Alliance has become under the leadership of Glus. He’s the one that should resign and not the director of Civic Art, who obviously hasthe integrity that Glus lacks.

Barnaby Fitzgerald November 24, 2014 - 11:30

Will we ever see the deliberations?

Mike Conner November 24, 2014 - 11:31

“Unconscionable” is the right word.
In her November 23 Chronicle article, Molly Glentzer attributes a statement that Ed Wilson received “inappropriate information” to Jonathan Glus, identified as the HAA’s executive director. Was this “inappropriate information” a statement by the person who, by all appearances, was in the position to know and say: ‘Congratulations, you won the commission. Your proposal was accepted by the panel’s unanimous, blind vote’?
The executive director’s other comments quoted in the Chronicle offer a glimmer of hope. Ed’s “commission is not dead …” and HAA will “… make sure it’s right.”
Let’s hope so and sooner rather than later.

Steve Wellman November 24, 2014 - 11:32

What a huge loss for Ed and the entire city of Houston-not to mention the countless thousands of out of town folks that will be denied the experience of seeing his epic work installed.
I can not begin to express my dismay and disappointment with this entire process…

Kelly Alison November 24, 2014 - 17:30

I could not have said it better, Steve.

Tay November 24, 2014 - 11:56

I think the finance, management, and decision making process is flawed. I believe they needed monies to get the building renovated that they had not previously allotted.
I hope the artist can still continue to produce his work in Houston

Process Not Followed November 24, 2014 - 12:12

This article is inherently flawed – the HAA has a procedure for approving the artist selection and rightly so given the large sums of taxpayer money involved.

It appears Mr Lennon did not follow the approved process and it is not possible for anyone to have approved the contract without going through the City mandated HAA process. A pretty significant mistake for anyone to make, I am glad that it appears he was allowed to resign before the HAA let him go which they likely would have had to do.

Paula Newton November 24, 2014 - 14:42

This is a pretty incendiary comment.
I did not work on this story nor do I have any details about it. And, while I support Glasstire’s policy of allowing anonymous comments (in order to empower artists and other disempowered people working within the crazily unbalanced structure of the art world), I think comments such as yours should be transparent (actual name) considering your support of HAA’s incredible financial dominance in the Houston arts community and your discrediting of a well-respected member of the organization and the community.

curious November 24, 2014 - 15:45

Let’s see the mandated process! Why all this cloak and dagger BS? That’s perhaps the biggest issue of all with HAA (and its current leadership)– NO TRANSPARENCY.

Raj Mankad November 24, 2014 - 12:21

I wish the details of the work itself were clearer. Are there public images of the proposed art work?

LOLI Fernandez (-A Kolber) November 24, 2014 - 12:24

It just might smell like Denmark…( Shakespeare )

Will Cutting November 24, 2014 - 14:17

Process not Followed, you sound like Jonathon Glus trying hard to save his job. With the crazy turnover at HAA, I cannot believe they have not lopped the head of that crappy snake yet.

this not that November 24, 2014 - 15:47

What IS the turnover rate at HAA anyways??? That alone seems worthy of its own story.

Josh Chrisman November 24, 2014 - 14:38

I have applied for grants through HAA a number of times (pre-Diem Jones days), and it was always hard to get phone calls returned. I am calling now trying to request the minutes from the last selection panel meetings and am getting no response…has the Glus run ship sank already?

Doris Murdock November 24, 2014 - 14:40

This just plain BS. I do hope the HAA re-examines the situation and redeems itself by going forward with Ed Wilson’s contract . . . and firing the incompetent idiots at HAA.

funded by HAA November 24, 2014 - 16:09

HAA is so terrible, they make a mess of simple things, much less the complex, and treat everyone around them like garbage while doing it. No one can complain because we don’t want to bite the hand that feeds us. Who knows what happened with this commission but I think the outrage is more about a much longer list of complaints that almost every artist and arts org can point to. The city needs to withdraw their contract and hire another org to run these programs, one that would at least act like they care about our city and its artists.

Robert Boyd November 24, 2014 - 17:52

This story was reported on public radio, which I caught as I was driving home. They got a quote from Mayor Parker, in which she stated in her own words what Glus implied to the Chronicle and what “Process Not Followed” stated overtly (in his oh so bravely anonymous way)–that there was some failure to follow the process. (I wish I could get her exact words, but I can’t find the article on KUHF’s web site.) Lennon is saying that the process was followed. If there was a breakdown in following the process or doing due diligence, I think HAA owes it to the public to state what this was. After all, you don’t have executives resigning in protest every day.

That said, a project of this size should in fact require extra due diligence because of the costs involved. I wonder if above and beyond the approval of the five person committee, there needs to be engineering due diligence as well. From my experience, separate the more something is budgeted for, the more due diligence is required and higher up you have to go to get it approved. What I’m saying is, given that this project was scheduled to eat 10+% of HAA’s annual expenses, the process might have been more involved than what was reported in the Chron or here. I would like to see that process spelled out soup to nuts. What are the requirements and who has to sign off on the fabrication and installation of an $830,000 artwork in a public building?

Bill Davenport November 24, 2014 - 23:21

Either way, Robert, it’s a black eye for HAA. Either they followed procedures and then withdrew the rightfully awarded commission, which would be sleazy, or they made a hash of the process and mistakenly offered a contract for a major work without really meaning it, which would be incompetent.

Robert Boyd November 25, 2014 - 03:56


Sissy Kempner November 24, 2014 - 21:30

Good question. Especially if one looks around Houston at the less than great HAA sculpture projects.

Clarence Highland November 25, 2014 - 06:46

Can we all agree that the George R. Brown Convention Center has been a cursed project from Day One? Built 35 years ago amidst a sea of parking lots on the eastside of downtown, far distant from any type of amenities, the GRB has failed to generate any form of private urban renewal. Every structure built near the GRB has required massive loan guarantees from the city and county. Today, the eastside of downtown remains a vast wasteland; a “community” suitable only for derelicts. Like its predecessor, the Astrodome, the GRB is a monument to failed civic planning.
It is only a matter of time before the bulldozers are summoned to raze an aging, decrepit facility to make way for some other harebrained urban redevelopment scheme. Perhaps Ed Wilson, a fine local sculptor, has been spared the indignity of some demolition engineer asking, “what do we do with the hanging sculpture?”

Will Cutting November 25, 2014 - 09:54

Well said, Clarence.

Local arts administrator November 25, 2014 - 10:03

Does anyone know who is on the Civic Art Committee?

Michael Peranteau November 25, 2014 - 12:35

Public art and the integrity of public art funding is critical to the vitality of Houston’s visual arts community. HAA has been gradually but drastically changing it’s leadership and direction over the past five years. See the Board of Directors and Advisory Council attached. What is missing from these two entities? Where are the knowledgeable artists and arts professionals that could provide invaluable and diverse perspectives? There are so many people that I know and respect listed (many friends and supporters) on these lists but where is the knowledge, especially on the Advisory Council, that would know how to navigate the waters of a city arts funding agency? Why are arts professionals and ARTISTS not listed as members of these entities? People will say it is a conflict of interest but it would not be for artists who had already been funded and could not apply for another three years or the organizational people who had two year contracts. If we benchmarked against other large cities’ arts agencies, we would see that that is their practice. On the Board and the Council there are many collectors, major arts patrons, and respected university people. We need ARTISTS on there. This is very connected to my latest major disappointment with HAA: they have started a serious fundraising effort that is directly competing with the organizations that they fund. If memory serves me, I recall that this was never even a possibility because it is antithetical to the organization’s original mission and values. Their latest special events have gone after the same people and corporations that all of us in arts organizations are approaching for help in sponsorship and support. In my opinion, this is a major issue and conflicts with the original charter of the organization. On top of this, they recently eliminated the Programs and Services Committee (on which I served) once it started to seriously question some of these issues and instead put in place a Business Arts Council, a model that has proven not to work. Recently 19 mid and smaller sized arts organizations met with the CEO to protest the Grants Program and the haphazard and unprofessional way that program was being run. This was followed by the shock of many African American artists at the leadership choices HAA was prepared to make to take it into the future. A lot of this will come as a shock to members of the arts community but transparency has not been HAA’s strong suit. Which brings me back to the issue at hand with HAA’s public art program: a lack of transparency. None of us knew exactly how the public art commission choices were being made and it was next to impossible to find out. While this is directed at HAA, the real question is to the Houston arts community: how do we want HAA to serve the Houston arts community in the future? This is certainly a question for the current cultural planning process. More of the same would be disappointing and inconsistent with Houston’s stature as a nationally recognized arts center. I am really curious, what is the vision of Glasstire readers for the future of HAA? So many possibilities…

so many questions November 25, 2014 - 14:00

The thing that baffles me is that never are these myriad issues tied together to paint the complete picture of dysfunction at HAA. There’s scandal in the grants department, scandal in the civic art department, ridiculous staff turnover, etc etc etc and there’s one thing that has remained consistent: the leadership. Who is holding the leadership accountable?

Yoda Smith November 25, 2014 - 15:08

one artist
one conservator
one gallery manager
one architect/rep. of the GRB

According to Bill’s report: the above 4 person selected 2 artists for the $830.000 project before the final decision.
maybe I need to read it again.

Robert Boyd November 25, 2014 - 15:55

You do. The architect and the representative of the GRB are two different people.

Public Artist At-Large November 25, 2014 - 16:22


Do you recall a little more than 6 years ago an investigative reporter ran a story titled, “The Color of Money”? It was about how HAA was spending tax dollars on some arguably scandalous works of art. As an artist myself I realize that art is very subjective and the beauty truly lies in the eye of the beholder. With that said, I recall one piece in particular that was commissioned to the tune of $600k which is still sitting in a City of Houston storage facility almost 6 years later at the expense of tax payers dollars. More power to the out-of-town artist who was paid but his work has yet to see the light of day and so much for Houston First.

The fearless leader of HAA, who was new to Houston at the time, was sweating bullets as the reporter drilled him on why such projects were being funded when the entire city was in a financial crunch and the lack of transparency behind the entire process. Fast forward 6 years later and it appears that while somethings have changed other’s have stayed the same, HAA leadership or lack thereof.

On a separate but related note, recently while completing a public art project in another city in Texas I was giving a presentation to a community group about the project, process, outcomes etc. At the end of my presentation the local public art administrator shared with the audience that their city was currently managing over 60 public art projects at various stages of development. I was pleasantly surprised as I couldn’t believe that a city a fraction of the size of Houston was doing so much with public art through its Percent for Art Ordinance which Houston also uses to fund the arts. Well, as soon as I got back to Houston I made a call over to HAA to see how many public art projects where in development, underway or at some stage of completion. The answer was two. I couldn’t believe that with a Percent for Art Ordinance on the books and all the construction/renovation of municipal buildings taking place in Houston that only two public art projects were being managed by HAA when this relatively smaller city was managing 60+. It spoke volumes towards the lack of commitment to the arts HAA truly has. It appears that there has become a policy at HAA of no-bid, no RFP/RFQ, but rather short listing a small and select group of artists that are part of the establishment and tend to receive most of the commissioned work coming out of HAA.

Don’t take my word for it, just take a look at their own website to see what opportunities they have for Houston artists:

At the end of the day the buck stops with the man in charge. The only way HAA will change is if the leadership changes, God knows just about every other position at HAA has changed. All indicators point to the top. Houston we have a problem.

Ray Balinskas November 25, 2014 - 20:12

The question here is between integrity and the lack it. Ed Wilson has been an outstanding artist in the Houston art community, respected for his un-compromising and creative work. The Houston art community is disappointed by the fact that his ability has been question by those that have personal interest. We would all be happy when the standards of the HAA meet the level of the artist.

LOLI Fernandez (-A Kolber) November 25, 2014 - 20:34

Public Artist at Large,
i would feel more comfortable if your opinions were not posted under a pseudonym. However, I will comment that what you are pointing at is happening in many other art organizations in town

Public Artist At-Large November 26, 2014 - 09:14

Loli-thank you for your reply, however, I’m not here to make you feel comfortable. My intent is to highlight the gross dysfunction of an organization that is misusing my tax dollars.

Fact: HAA has systemically fumbled several major public art commissions.
Fact: HAA has a high turnover rate of its key executives.
Fact: HAA has zero public art opportunities currently available via their own website.
Fact:Other cities with much smaller populations and municipal budgets are running circles around Houston”s public or civic art program.
Fact:There are no visual artists on the board of directors or advisory board of the largest arts organization in Houston, HAA.

Opinion: The local arts community does not trust in HAA and this doesn’t not bode well for Houston.

dhstout November 26, 2014 - 13:45

What a disaster, but are you really surprised? This Detroit style leadership is a staple of Jonathon Glus who has fumbled many other contracts and relationships against the encouragement of his staff (harris county funding anybody?). Glus openly brags about taking money from the grants department to pay for public art. I look forward to the day the organization can function without sexual harassment allegations, nepotism, and a has a board that does more than watch soccer games during board meetings! By the way, how many city’s initiatives grants can #kingjohn/ HAA give itself? Who’s got the petition asking the city for a new leadership team at HAA?

Yoda Smith November 26, 2014 - 15:26

The system may not be perfect, but we are thankful.
$2000 is nothing in compare to $830,000, however, HAA’s support allowed us to served people who are normally outside of arts community. We can’t claim the excellence in the quality of art; but our humble piece of public art is very relevant to us.
Immigrants and refugees are very thankful for the supports that allow our free expression¬¬–it is a privilege that people in many counties cannot have. The system may not be perfect, but we are thankful.

matthew lennon November 28, 2014 - 11:36

I’m concerned that a lot of what is being said is distracting the artist and local organization community from moving forward as a formidable, intelligent and effective group.

1. Lack of local artist and curators, et al engaged in the governance of HAA.
2. Money being skimmed for vanity projects
3. Harassment in the workplace
4. Marketing/communications which promotes HAA over its constituency (and in the Wilson case HAA has resorted to spin and backpedaling).

While HAA may not have done anything illegal there is a question of ethics here that hinges on the fact that HAA is a transactional organization bound by contracts that are meant to serve the artistic community and the city of Houston. HAA leadership seems to be serving itself and a handful of elites. There’s probably more that needs to be investigated and our journalists should do so.

Less talk and more action is required from the artists and other practitioners. Artists and the small and midsized orgs need to put aside their fear of retaliation and step forward. We need more than a voice we need real representation and advocacy.

We are not alone: “Australia’s cultural life is under threat from arts leaders who are not practicing artists and boards packed with businessmen…” Belvoir Artistic Director Ralph Meyers, Australia

Kimberly Stoilis November 29, 2014 - 10:59

Chiming in a bit late but in full agreement with the issues most eloquently touched upon by Michael Peranteau. As frustrating as this current situation is for those involved, it is ironic that while I am no longer employed by an arts org funded through HOT taxes, I feel a sense of relief that the issues are at least up for discussion. Hopefully this go round they won’t fall on deaf ears – either those of the City of Houston (COH), HAA or Houston First.

1. It is essential that HAA refocus on its mission of funding small to mid size arts organizations in Houston and not compete with them for funding. Same goes for the COH. And there needs to be transparency in the process of how funds are awarded. Instead of stewarding and fostering, they are collectively squeezing funding from and hurting the very organizations they should be serving and that make Houston desirable and livable.
2. What is lacking now, from my point of view is transparency at HAA regarding committees and HOT fund allotment. For years, I’ve worked at organizations that scored near perfect scores on panel reviews and yet, in several instances, their funding was cut. One year in half, with no explanation. This speaks to the current situation in my mind. There seems to be an attitude that we needed to put up or shut up because where else were we to go. Same applies to HAA and the COH not releasing funds to grantees when they are due – we have to adhere to deadlines and policies – them not so much.
3. The issue in Houston is not that the money is not there, its that there are very savvy folks doing everything they can to derail it from the arts and we are not collectively advocating to stop it. All orgs receiving HOT funds – through districts, HAA or the COH special events should undergo the same scrutiny and adhere to the same standards.
4. 2015 has has Houston poised for a crisis similar to what bankrupted Detroit as city and firefighter pensions come to their payment due dates (look it up – another story buried). Add to that the coming Superbowl and arts organizations should be ready for more than belt tightening. I’m worried and hope its not too late to effect change, but have seen funds be diverted in the recent past for short term events and COH programs that are either one-off or have limited reach and they have taken (or competed for) funds that would have rightfully gone to local arts orgs that provide significant, year-round, meaningful programming that resonate deeply within the communities.

In 2013, my organization had a board approved agreement with the Port of Houston for $300K to feature the Port and Panama on its anniversary. Like Ed Wilson, we got a call as the contract was going through legal review that (despite the board approval) the agreement was not being committed to. Another appointed board and all funds eventually ended up be diverted. Why not support the local arts orgs presenting content for over 40 years to any degree that you can, instead of cutting them off?
I end on this point, the Thanksgiving Parade was not a fundable entity by either the COH or HAA while produced by a local nonprofit – Houston Festival Foundation – as a city event, it received funding from HAA ($50K in 2013 I believe) and the COH.
I could go on, but I won’t. I love this city. I am privileged every day I am able to support our nonprofit and arts community and am hopeful that the groups being affected will not let this slide. I am also very appreciative of those members of both the HAA and COH staff who are working hard to balance the scales in our favor against very intimidating circumstances.
I can’t blame any of the city organizations directly for the demise of the Houston Festival Foundation – producer of the Houston International Festival and formerly the Thanksgiving Parade – but they certainly did not help and competed for critical funding when the spirit could have been collaborative and not competitive.

I hope this becomes a learning opportunity and not a nail in the coffin for more individual artists funding, org funding and relevant funding in the trenches that only year-round nonprofits can authentically provide.

nestor November 29, 2014 - 12:22

It feels like a trickle down …..

Michael Galbreth November 30, 2014 - 22:27

According to HAA’s 2013 annual report, the total HAA budget is just under $8,000,000. [ ] HAA disperses over $4,185,000 in grants of which $215,000 goes to individual artists. The rest goes to arts organizations. Also of that total budget, $1,465,000 goes to public art.

If one were to pretend that all of the pubic art money goes directly to pay artists (it doesn’t) and combine that with the individual artist grants, this would amount to just over 20% of the entire budget of HAA that goes directly into the pockets of artists. I do not know what the percentage of artist to non-artist make up the board, or any committee involved with HAA. My guess is that the ratio of artist to non-artist is similar if not worse.

Unless and until this paradigm is changed and this ratio is reversed, Houston is doomed to see more debacles like this. I have said this publicly and privately for years.

In 2005, Mayor White initiated a study to to solve the problems of public art in Houston. The problems about public art in Houston, which were managed by the Cultural Arts Council of Houston (CACHH), were worse then than they are now, believe it or not. A series of meetings took place that fall and included artists and others involved in the arts. I participated in and I still have the official minutes of those meetings. None of the problems that existed for public art, including a specific process, transparency, artist participation, etc., were solved. (This recent event makes this obvious.) None of my suggestions and very few suggestions of any of the participating artists were approved as we were almost always out-voted. Those meetings devolved into a tussle over money among non-profit organizations. Indeed, the result of those meetings was that nothing was done about public art at all. Instead, CACHH morphed into what is now known as HAA. We have more of the same.

No arts organization has ever made a single work of art. Art is done by artists, not arts organizations. If one wishes to support art in Houston, support the artists. Any other way is pretense.

And finally, if one hears the term “stakeholders” in any discussion about public money and art, that’s your signal to politely say thanks and leave the room because things ain’t going nowhere.

LOLI Fernandez (-A Kolber) December 1, 2014 - 08:00

Best line: If one wishes to support art in Houston, support the artists. Any other way is pretense.

Great article Michael.

Jeff H December 1, 2014 - 10:04

So I looked up CACHH and found the directors name when it existed was Debbie McNulty. She is now in the Mayor’s office helping the cultural assistant to the mayor in writing the city’s cultural plan. Blind leading the blind here? More of the same indeed, Michael.

Robert Boyd December 1, 2014 - 11:04

Michael, while it seems more than obvious that HAA has problems, I think it is not totally fair to blame the HAA for the ratio it spends on arts organizations versus how much it spends on individual artists. A lot of the arts organizations it spends money on are performance arts organizations that have artists on payroll (and/or pay artists on a per project basis). Show HAA be paying individual violinists at Ars Lyrica? Or should we assume that some of the $27,500 in “general operating support grants” it paid them went to the orchestra and vocalists–in short, to the artists. A large number of HAA’s grants go to performing arts organizations that involve productions requiring large collective groups (orchestras, dance troupes, theater companies, etc.), which have very different organizational structures than visual arts organizations.

My point is, we have to assume some of the $3.77 million they paid to arts organizations (by my calculations) ultimately ended up in the hands of artists. (How much is a good question, and HAA should be very concerned with this question.) For the sake of argument, let’s say that of the money dispersed to arts organizations, 50% ends up in the hands of artists in the form of salaries, fees, royalties or commissions. If that were the case, then instead of the 5.1% going to artists which you imply above, it would be 55%. The point I’m making is that whatever the actual percentage is (and it would take a LOT of digging through 990s to figure that out), it’s more than 5.1% of the HAA money going into the hands of artists. A lot more. It’s just not coming DIRECTLY from HAA.

And that’s good! As we have just seen, HAA is perhaps not all that great at picking artists. Maybe it’s better that they give money to arts orgs and let them figure out the best way to spend it. Now as we saw with W.A.G.E., there’s still a lot of work to be done in that regard, but that’s a separate issue.

Now we can argue about how much of its total budget HAA should spend directly on artists–that’s a policy discussion that would be interesting to have. But if you argue for a greater % of HAA payments go directly to artists, then you are arguing that more artists run the bureaucratic gauntlet of HAA, which at present appears to be deeply flawed if not broken.

Seth Mittag December 1, 2014 - 12:13

Without doing the research I am willing to bet the number is nowhere near 50%. In fact I bet you a cup of coffee its closer to 15 to 25 percent. Making the total money given to artists around 20 to 25 percent (including the 5% in grants). To settle it we should do a random sample of 10 non profits and compare their 990’s. Over coffee of course. Looser picks up the bill.

Robert Boyd December 1, 2014 - 16:03

I don’t think a random sample would work. If you aren’t going to look at all the 990s, you need to keep the right proportion of performing art and visual art orgs in your sample, because they are inherently different in their structures. No art gallery ever had to pay the salary of an orchestra.

And to be honest, I don’t think 990s are detailed enough. We need them all to open their books. Hear that arts orgs? We want to know how much you pay artists!

Seth Mittag December 1, 2014 - 19:37

Great points Robert ( a seeded random number generator could solve the distribution issues). I still think it would be fun to sit down and crunch numbers… I also feel like we could come up with a relatively good estimate of how much money goes to artist vs. how much goes to overhead,salaries and all the other cost involved in running a non-profit. It would be an interesting ratio. Further it could be used as an index to show which orgs. do a better job supporting artist vs. those that do not.

Robert Boyd December 1, 2014 - 20:05

Maybe I should apply for a grant with HAA to do this research.

Jenni Rebecca Stephenson December 2, 2014 - 08:07

I think you should do this research. Why not? But I think there should be input from all sides instead of treating it like a witch hunt. I think it would be a useful tool furthering everyone’s understanding and pushing for a greater degree of accountability and transparency.

artist December 1, 2014 - 11:19

HAA has been broken for years! Ask any artist in Houston and they will tell you some type of horror story about how dysfunctional it was to work with that group. Somebody quit for the 100th time, late payments for grants, months with out hearing from someone in the office.

But there goes Jonathon Glus smiling in the society page. He should admit that he is a terrible ED and resign. He is responsible for a culture that not only led to this but years of this type of problems.

But people in his position just get promoted or get another job even higher up, causing the same old problems. yikes!!!!

artist December 1, 2014 - 14:07

One, last thought…

The irony is that if Jonathon Glus ran an oil/gas company (the very same type of company that our Houston patrons own or work at) the way he does HAA, he would have been fired long ago!

Screw up a contract at Halliburton and you get fired. Screw up a contract at HAA you get to go to a party.

Bill Davenport December 2, 2014 - 09:08

Interesting slideshow – isn’t that a Christian Eckart in the background? And a Soo Sunny Park hanging from the ceiling in the Bucher’s “private collection space”?

Kimberly Stoilis December 1, 2014 - 11:26

Agreed – Nestor, Micheal, Jenni et al. Long story short. Support the artists. “No arts organization has ever made a single work of art. Art is done by artists, not arts organizations. If one wishes to support art in Houston, support the artists. Any other way is pretense.”

Melinda Patrick December 1, 2014 - 16:00

HAA is and always has been a joke. Houston will continue to be a vast visual art wasteland until the culture changes.
And I am, by the way, a native Houstonian.

Dan Allison December 1, 2014 - 16:12

Cameron Armstrong will be getting some more “ED” buttons made and I will will be passing these out on gallery walk night from my gallery this Saturday December 6th.
We are also making an “ED” button logo jpg to place on websites and Facebook. I am encouraging everyone who cares about this to replace their Facebook self portrait or image with the image of the “ED” button, so that we are all “ED” I hope this goes viral and demonstrates that is not always power and money that rule the day. (go to Facebook and get the button now!) Put the pressure on. LETS GO VIRAL

LOLI Fernandez (-A Kolber) December 1, 2014 - 17:27

This Sunday is Itchy Acres Sunday. Will you have the ED buttons available there?

Dan Allison December 2, 2014 - 08:58

Yes we should have some physical “ED” buttons left after Saturday evening on Colquitt. Remember to get your jpg. “ED” Image button off of my Facebook page or Cameron Armstrong’s Facebook page (there a bunch of other “ED” users now and other pages) and then use it as your Facebook personal image. So replace those mug shots with “ED” buttons on Facebook and let’s start a movement toward transparency and fairness in public art appropriations.

pat wilson December 1, 2014 - 19:55

Don’t know art but I know my brother. Something smells like a two day old sack of corncobs from the out house.

ED Ed Ed!

Jacque Acklen December 2, 2014 - 03:18

It is disheartening to see Ed Wilson, a Houston artist, treated with such disrespect. It is degrading and makes the HAA look less than a professional organization supposedly committed to promoting the local artists of Houston. In my opinion, to reverse a commission to Mr. Wilson after he was voted by blind votes from five people is irresponsible and takes away your creditability.

Ben Tecumseh DeSoto December 2, 2014 - 07:04

Reading the posts and was an artist s me ted for a project at hobby airport years ago and went away too. No explanations

Ben Tecumseh DeSoto December 2, 2014 - 07:30


LOLI Fernandez (-A Kolber) December 2, 2014 - 12:21

Yes and not even a notice that your project was not accepted.

J. Antonio FARFAN December 3, 2014 - 08:40

I agree 100% with Mr. Galbreath.

SusanPlum December 4, 2014 - 12:54

Houston remains a city that does not advocate nor support its artists. How is it that this hasn’t changed since the 70’s, or however far back this goes. What will it take!
Ed, let me apologize to you for the treatment you have received from this quicksand that is entitlement. And, Matthew, I support you, your ethics and integrity in the decision you ultimately made during this travesty and the action taken against one of Texas’s foremost artists.

Please count me in for an ED button!

Jack Amschwand December 4, 2014 - 21:53

As a long time supporter of Texas artists I am appalled at the behavior and recent actions by the HAA board.
I have been reading the various comments offered in this caper and Michael is right on the money stating that all HAA funds are to be disbursed to artists. Anything less is unacceptable.
The cesspool at the HAA must be eliminated. Glus and his exorbitant compensation has to go. Parker needs to get her head out of the sand and take immediate action.
The board must be replaced with competent and clear thinking citizens representing the interests of the artists.
It is a travesty that monies belonging to the artists will now have to be spent to defend a lawsuit expected to be filed by Ed Wilson against HAA and the city. He has every right to do so.

LOLI Fernandez (-A Kolber) December 5, 2014 - 07:48

I agree with Mr. Lennon in that we, artist need to lose the fear of retaliation talk less and take action: ” Less talk and more action is required from the artists and other practitioners. Artists and the small and midsized orgs need to put aside their fear of retaliation and step forward. We need more than a voice we need real representation and advocacy.” Any suggestions

We are not alone: “Australia’s cultural life is under threat from arts leaders who are not practicing artists and boards packed with businessmen…” Belvoir Artistic Director Ralph Meyers, Australia

The problem is that institutions become more about saving and preserving themselves than serving the purpose for which they were created.

Pam Wilson January 19, 2015 - 16:37

Sum it up……Political Propaganda!

Support ED 100%!


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