What Got Printed

March Issue 2002
by Tom Starland

Do Good Guys Always Finish Last?

It would seem that the typical picture of an art museum director would be - one who sits in their ivory tower with guarded gates. The price of lunch is a mere $50,000 donation and $1 million gets you the privilege of whispering in their ear - that you don't like the way so-and-so's work hangs in the main gallery. They walk and talk with the rich and powerful, wine and dine with the trend makers, and party with no one. They can't afford to let their guard down for even a second.

Of course, the other side of the coin might be - one who hides in their office avoiding board members, artists and the public; hates the prospect of asking people for money; and cringes at the thought of making comments to the press.

Most directors probably fall somewhere in-between. A few would make good subjects for the next Stephen King novel. I won't name names although I would love to.

It is a rare occasion when an art community mourns the loss of one. That's what's happening in Charleston, SC.

Paul C. Figueroa, director of the Gibbes Museum of Art, has resigned his position, effective Feb. 28, 2002. That's what it said in an article in the Post & Courier, dated Feb. 20, 2002. Resigned? Although the article said that both sides - Figueroa and the Gibbes' Board - said the departure was "completely amicable", there is obviously more to the story. You could almost read it between the lines. But you know how most newspapers are. They can't wait to print "breaking" news - so they publish incomplete articles.

We'll probably never know the whole story. Figueroa worked at the Museum for 26 years, 14 as director - and he just resigns. Well, whatever the story - the deed is done. Charleston's visual art community has lost a friend at the Gibbes. And, I dare say the Gibbes has lost a few friends the Board didn't even know they had.

Over the years, during many a discussion about the frustrations a gallery director or artist has had with their local art museum director, I have had the pleasure of describing Charleston's art museum director. He knows the local artists, he visits local galleries, he comes to receptions, he participates in local visual arts activities, he has worked with business and tourism leaders to promote the entire art community, he has developed ties with local visual arts organizations and he'll talk to you on the street, as well as return your calls on the phone. Don't get me wrong, not everyone is a fan. Perhaps most of what I have described is why he is no longer the director. But he will be missed by me and many others.

Charleston is not the friendliest place to work in the art community and the loss of one of the good guys will be felt. I hope someone in Charleston takes the opportunity to add just such a person to their organization.

Figueroa should know that what he did as director of the Gibbes was and is appreciated by many, many people in the art community. For those who didn't or don't - we'll see what they get from the Gibbes Board or a new director who could be more like the directors described at the beginning of this commentary.

And, as far as the Gibbes Board goes, we'll all be waiting for them to reach that "new level of fund-raising" they are looking for and all it will bring to the public and art community.

Like they always say - you never know what you had until it's lost! Now someone's going to find out.

Got Legal Problems?

We're adding a new feature to our paper. Edward Fenno, who is an intellectual property and media attorney with the law firm of Moore & Van Allen, with offices in both Carolinas, will be offering some tips on copyright laws (see page 21). We hope they will be easy to read and understand, as I feel many artists and gallery owners need to know more about the laws which govern the arts. If you have a "general" question like the one presented in this first installment, give us a ring at 843/825-3408, and we'll present it to him. If you have a detailed question, you need to contract his services. This paper may be "Absolutely Free", but Fenno's advice isn't.

How were you with Crayons?

We have another installment of A Few Words From Down Under by Judith McGrath (check our new Judith McGrath Words From Down Under section). I'm always amazed at how the subjects of her writings seem to be so applicable to what goes on here in the Carolinas. I guess it is a small world after all. Of course, I guess they're the real Southerners. There they are, suffering through their Summer and their Winter athletes are bringing home the gold. Their first Olympic gold!

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