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Houston Breakthrough, January 1980
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Houston Breakthrough, January 1980 - Page 5. January 1980. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. December 10, 2019. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/2148/show/2121.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(January 1980). Houston Breakthrough, January 1980 - Page 5. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/2148/show/2121

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, January 1980 - Page 5, January 1980, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed December 10, 2019, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/2148/show/2121.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, January 1980
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date January 1980
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
  • Newsletters
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
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Title Page 5
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File Name femin_201109_556ae.jpg
Transcript LOCAL COLOR Artists dispute election at arts council meeting By Diane Brown About 30 artists walked out of a Cultural Arts Council meeting December 6, angered over what some called the "highhanded and arrogant" handling of the board's election. The Cultural Arts Council of Houston (CACH) is the entity set up in 1977 to disburse public funds for the arts. The money is generated by the city's new one percent hotel/motel tax and will amount to $1.8 million for 1980. The problem arose when three art groups, Artists Equity Association, Houston Area Artists, and the Women's Caucus for Art, called into question the organization's method of nominating new board members. (The CACH board is made up of 15 members; each year, five members are elected to serve three-year terms.) The artists say the board is dominated by blue bloods, most of whom have no real involvement in the grass roots art community in Houston. The board was originally appointed by the Cultural Committee of the Chamber of Commerce. Back in September, the CACH board of directors sent out notices asking for nominations for the five board positions up for election. Many artist/members of CACH jumped at the chance to unseat some of the incumbents, and hoped to gain representation of working artists on the board. They met and submitted the names of artist Gertrude Barnstone and Twiss Butler, a feminist activist who worked to get the city to adopt the tax for art back in 1977. (Two other names were also submitted by individual CACH members.) But when absentee ballots were mailed to members November 14, none of the four names appeared on the slate. The board's nominating committee chose instead to renominate four incumbents (one, artist Trudy Sween, resigned) and they added a new candidate, Martha Armstrong. Angered by what they saw as the board's flouting its public charter, the artist groups issued a joint statement prior to the December 6 meeting. "The artists organizations collectively nominated several people in the manner prescribed by the arts council," the statement read. "These names were not included in the slate selected by the nominating committee of the CACH . . . The artists groups feel that this represents an undemocratic procedure and that an organization whose existence depends on public money should be accountable to the public it serves." After some behind-the-scenes negotiations failed to bring about a compromise, the artists nominated their candidates from the floor at the meeting, as provided for in CACH by-laws. But the weight of the absentee ballots carried the election and the board's slate was elected by a narrow margin. During the intense debate that followed, Lewis Hoffacker, CACH board member and chair of the nominating committee, reportedly told the group, that the election procedure may not be fair but it was legal. A motion to throw out the absentee ballots was denied. The artists walked out in frustration when Hoffacker announced that the election matter was ended and proceeded to introduce the guest speaker for the evening. Root System "The artists in this community acted within the prescribed methods to gain two positions on the CACH board, not to dominate that board, but to have substantial input. The CACH represents an important part of the future of culture in Houston. This is an issue for which artists are not irrelevant," said Lynn Randolph, president of the Women's Caucus for Art, expressing a viewpoint held by many of the dissenting artists. people's hope and hostility: hope for an increase if you're receiving funding, hostility if you're not." Of the election night controversy he says, "I'm not very interested in talking about the legalistic aspects. I think that's bullshit, actually. I think the people who are expressing concern about the method of electing board members are really expressing unhappiness about their share of the money." tions. The same thing happened a year ago. "Our candidates lost by only about a dozen votes last year," recalls Randolph. The artists were promised that the procedures for nominating would be revised, but one year later, the loopholes remain, leaving many people feeling disenfranchised. The second point on which the artists take issue with Blaine is his equating artist "I feel really crummy about what happened. It was a nightmare in my mind." —John Blaine Sculptor James Surls, a board member of the Contemporary Arts Museum and one of the artists to leave the election meeting early, sees a division between CACH board members and the artist/ members—"I think the board is scared of the artists," yet he calls the election debate "a very healthy experience." Randolph agrees. "If they hadn't counted the absentee ballots," she said, "we would have won. As it was, we felt we had a victory, because we pointed up the problems on the board." The issue of artist representation on the board is now a matter of public debate. "These (board seats) are literally social positions. "They (board members) honestly love the arts, but they think that giving all the money to the ballet is going to solve the problems. The way to help art honestly eludes them," Surls believes. The CACH budget is split this way: 75 percent goes to large cultural organizations like the Alley Theatre, the ballet, opera, symphony and museums; 15 percent is designated for grants to the smaller cultural organizations ; and 10 percent goes to special projects. Surls feels the problem is that the money doesn't go to making the system flourish. "So little filters down to the primary root system that no growth is possible. It is filtered out and siphoned off into other places." John Blaine, executive director of the arts council sees CACH as "a focus for Blaine does admit the board "made a very significant error" in using absentee ballots at all. 'The board and all the members agree, and we've made a commitment to revise the by-laws. But to throw those ballots out would have disenfranchised the people who cast their ballots in good faith." Blaine calls the charge by some artists that the board is operating as a dictatorship "absolutely, sinfully, ridiculous. I think the artists are expressing either deep frustration or deep naivite over something relatively minor. Gertrude Barnstone with community volunteer Martha Armstrong, a difference that seems to put the entire controversy into focus. "John Blaine's comment actually tells us very little about the substantial differences [between] Martha Armstrong and Gertrude Barnstone. But it does tell us, however, a great deal about John Blaine and why he's been ineffective in assessing and creatively responding to this situation," says Randolph. In her view Armstrong was not supported by the majority of artists because "The board seats are literally social positions. The board members honestly love the arts, but they think that giving all the money to the ballet is going to solve the problems. The way to help art honestly eludes them." — James Surls "There's not a nickel's worth of difference between Martha Armstrong and Gertrude Barnstone. We're talking about an elite accusing an elite of being an elite." The artists take issue with Blaine. First, they argue, why not include more than five names on the ballot? As it is, the board lays itself open to the criticism that it stacks the deck: five slots, five nomina- she is not a working artist in the true sense, nor does she have a "proven record" like that of Barnstone. "In the present system which dominates the exhibition and sales of artwork, the artist sits at the bottom of an inverted pyramid," says Randolph. "On top are the dealers, curators, museum directors, critics and collectors. Many artists are HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH DBCEMB^R/JAttUARYi f 980