Sunday, December 26, 2010

Welcome to the Dallas Art History blog by Sam Blain

Originally, I had planned to first explain how I came to be involved in the Dallas and Texas art scenes as an art historian. I've since decided to place that section at the very end of this blog, following my response to Kelly Klaasmeyer's Glasstire posting, which she titled "Hey you kids, get off my sand dune!"

Well, I feel Ms. Klaasmeyer seems to have wrecked her boat in hurricane "Bonnie" (the DMA's exhibition "Coastlines: Images of Land and Sea"), somewhere short of Chapman Kelley's "Sand Dune" (1960) and way far off from her having any background in Texas art history.

Sand Dune (1960) 40" x 40" oil on canvas - collection of the Dallas Museum of Art 

Chapman Kelley "is" to the Dallas art scene of the last half of the twentieth century and beyond...the same as Olin Herman Travis was to the Texas art scene in first half of the twentieth century...and, Jerry Bywaters was to Texas art history...a giant. I'll go on to describe some of the contributions of Olin Herman Travis (1888-1975) and Williamson Gerald "Jerry" Bywaters (1908-1989) to the twentieth century Dallas art scene in the second part of this blog which will explain why I have chosen to place Chapman Kelley in the ranks of what I'll call "The Big Three" (Travis, Bywaters and Kelley), following my response to Ms. Klaasmeyer's Glasstire posting. His Atelier Chapman Kelley was the hub of the Dallas art world. Dallas' leading art patrons brought Chapman to Dallas to establish a professional art scene, after he finished his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts...and, he did it.

Chapman Kelley receives a Certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He earned The William Emlen Cresson Memorial Travel Scholarship for 1954 and 1955.
Jerry Bywaters brought him into the DMFA's Museum School to teach scholarship classes...and, he did it; and, he tried numerous times to get Chapman to agree to join the art faculty at Southern Methodist University, to no avail. Many of his former students have made their own substantial marks on the Texas art scene, the national- as well as the international-art scenes. Many of the artworks in Dallas' premier private art collections (as well as the DMA), "major" works by Arp, Braque, Calder, Cassatt, Cezanne, Diebenkorn, Degas, Gilot, Gottlieb, Hassam, Havard, Kline, Elaine De Kooning, Mondrian, Monet, Moore, Motherwell, Noland, O'Keeffe, Oldenburg, Olitski, Pissarro, Rodin, Rothko, Signac, Sisley, Stella, Warhol...and many many others, came to Dallas via Chapman Kelley and his gallery - Atelier Chapman Kelley, established in 1959. These were the "right" works by the "right" artists, in every case...not the "wrong" works by the "right" artists. He gave many recognized leaders in contemporary Texas art their start...Noel Mahaffey, Tom Palmore, James Surls, Bob Wade, James Havard, Alberto Collie, Jeanne Mason Koch and Arthur Koch, Frank Jones, Willie Wayne Young...just to name a "very" few. Eugene McDermott considered Chapman to be the curator of the McDermott family's collection, as have many other prominent Texas collectors. The records and the press prove it. In the last twenty years or so, a number of individuals have promoted themselves and others to greater levels of importance on the Dallas scene during the 1950s through the 1970s than they are deserving. I fully intend to cover this in a future blog installment, just to set a few things straight, once and for all. It's time to correct the revisionism!

I'm totally baffled why anyone would be taking pot shots at Chapman, after all of the contributions he has made to Dallas' art world. He was the one man who one can authoritatively say, single-handedly brought the contemporary American art scene to Dallas and her major collectors. While his Atelier Chapman Kelley was open in Dallas, there was no need for Dallas' collectors to travel to the galleries of New York to view or acquire the new American works which were changing the international art scene. Chapman was bringing them all to Dallas.

When Dallas collectors first started collecting major works by major contemporary artists and leaders of the modern art well as the major impressionists and post-impressionists...during the 1960s, Chapman was the artist-dealer they flocked to. He made suggestions to them as to how they might best develop their collections so they would be of major importance in the future...which turns out to be today. Why is he given so very little credit?

On the occasion of the opening of Chapman Kelley's first show in New York the Janet Nessler Gallery in 1963, the leaders of Dallas' art world flew to the opening. Look at the list of Dallas and Texas arts patrons who made the trip...Stanley Marcus, Mrs. Marshall Cloyd, Mrs. William R. Hawn, Mrs. A. L. Exline, Mrs. Robert L. Moore, Mrs. E. S. Huber, Mrs. Russell Reed, Mrs. J. Berne Hawn, Mrs. Brandon Carroll, Bob Collum, Mrs. William R. Moore, Mrs. Royal Miller (the former Miss Josephine Long, later Mrs. George Biddle, the sister of Mrs. Clint Murchison, Sr.), Miss Pat Kelley - the artist's sister, Mr. and Mrs. John Field, Mr and Mrs. Dick Marcus, Mrs. Betty Lingo and daughter Kathleen, Mrs. Virginia Long Murchison (Mrs. Clint Murchison, Sr.), Mrs. Angus McLeod, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Goren, Harley Brin, Mrs. Rose Driver, Bob and Linda Hayes, Dr. and Mrs. Bill Dean, Hugh S. Grady, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Lidji, Mrs. Wilson Schoellkopf, Sr., Mrs. Harry Roberts, Mr. and Mrs. Perry Nichols, Mrs. Robert H. Stewart, III, Wilson Schoellkopf, Jr., Miss Mary Dixon, Mrs. Hugh Thompson, Mrs. Geer Baldwin, Mr. and Mrs. Carr Collins, Jr., Mrs. Ray Coffin, Jr., Mrs. Rip Nichols, Miss Bonnie Wyatt Bolding (later Mrs. John Swearingen of Chicago), Mr. and Mrs. John Hawn of Corpus Christi, Miss Linda Miller of Snyder and Dallas Morning News Art Critic Mr. Rual Askew.  If I've left anyone off this list, please let me know. That list alone, shows how supportive the leading arts patrons of Dallas were for Chapman Kelley. That was Chapman's "first" N.Y. show! That was back when Dallas had a very healthy and supportive art scene.

Some day, I suspect, just as in the case of Olin Herman Travis and Jerry Bywaters, someone will be writing his or her doctoral dissertation on Chapman Kelley. For the life of me, I cannot figure why anyone would be slamming Chapman Kelley. It could only be due to ignorance of Dallas' art history! I also have great trouble understanding why artists, art collectors, art educators and art dealers are not flocking around Chapman Kelley to find out how he did things right.

Today, we're dealing with an entirely different animal all together...this new Dallas art scene. In the last few years, new up-start collectors have found it possible to buy their way into the Dallas Art Museum and the Dallas art scene. Has anyone noticed how some collectors have used their armies of publicists and their new-found financial positions to place themselves at the center of things...and, how the DMA and the press cater to them? Understand, please, these "irrevocable gifts" comprising the "Fast Forward" collection are actually an art-happening-in-progress. We are to believe this "Fast Forward" collection is a work-in-progress. The DMA has anointed the "Rachofsky-Rose-Hoffman Connection" judge, jury and executioner, with regard to the "Fast Forward" collection. We are to understand the Rachofsky-Rose-Hoffman team will be leaving their fine collections to the DMA when they're dead and buried. The DMA has been leading us to believe the completed "Fast Forward" collection will be a tremendous gift to the citizens of Dallas (DMA) whenever it "happens". We don't have a clue when that will be. In the meanwhile, the DMA will be able to off-handedly play the deaccession game. That's a very dangerous game to be playing at this point in time, for any institution.

Why didn't the DMA tell the Rachofsky-Rose-Hoffman team to just come back when they'd completed their collecting game? Well, since the team also serves on the museum board, that might have posed somewhat of a problem for the director. Oh, wait a minute...that director is no longer with the DMA, is he? It would be nice to hear what he has to say about all of this mess. Can anyone find get his take on all of this? Well, maybe that doesn't matter? We have a new director, Ms. Pitman. She inherited that can of worms. Well, apparently, she's just going to go with the flow...or, drain...of the integrity of the DMA so many of my long-passed DMFA/DMA board member friends, patrons and artists spent their lifetimes establishing for the institution. She has her own game to play...and, a book in it (if it ever is released?), to boot. Her game is to bring as many people into the DMA, try to get them buy DMA memberships at various levels, try to convince them to pay admission (which should be free, anyway, since it's tax-dollar supported) to get into the museum...and, at the same time...convince artists they have absolutely no rights whatsoever, that her word is the final word, that she is "above" all artists and actually of no authority at all over her museum's board of directors. Possibly, a house-cleaning is necessary. Quite possibly, the museum board should be elected by the citizens of Dallas. Something needs to be done to clean things up, anyway.

Ms. Klaasmeyer seems to have no understanding as to what juried Texas annuals I was referring to. She referred to them as the Texas State Fair shows. She was only half-right. The juried Texas annuals I referred to oftentimes occurred during the Texas State Fairs, in order to present the finest work by Texas artists to the attention of the public at the most opportune time. They were at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, not the ones she must be so familiar with which were held in the various exhibition halls along with the knitted items, jellies and preserves. Since she is not familiar with the professional juried Texas annuals, I've provided a list of the jurors for each of those annuals from 1949 (the 11th Texas annual) to 1963 (the 25th Texas annual). Yes, Ms. Klassmeyer was right about these taking place while Jerry Bywaters served as the director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. I don't believe this list has ever been made available before. Certainly, not since the power-shift from professional-based to speculator-based decision making took place at the DMFA, when Jerry Bywaters left as director (1943-1964) and Merrill C. Rueppel was brought in.

Here's the list of jurors...

1949 (11th) - Alonzo Lansford (Director, Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans), William Harold Smith (Chairman, School of Art, Univ. of Oklahoma) and Louis Weinberg (Asst. Professor of Art, Univ. of Tulsa).

1950 (12th) - Stewart Leonard (Asst. Dir., City Art Museum, St. Louis) and Julius Struppeck (Instructor in Sculpture, Newcomb College, New Orleans)

1951 (13th) - Robert M. Church (Dir., Philbrook Art Center, Tulsa), Conrad Albrizio (Assoc. Professor of Painting, Louisiana State Univ.) and Robert D. Straus (Honorary Curator of Oriental Art, Museum of Fine Arts of Houston).

1952 (14th) - H. Harvard Arnason (Dir., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis & Chairman of the Art Dept., Univ. of Minn.), John I. H. Baur (Curator of Painting & Sculpture, Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.C.) and Dorothy C. Miller (Curator of Collections at Museum of Modern Art, N.Y.C.).

Jury at Work 1952 Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition catalogue, photographer unknown, image accessed from the Internet, on Dec.25, 2010

1953 (15th) - Dorothy Adlow (Art Critic, "Christian Science Monitor", Boston), Perry T. Rathbone (Dir.,City Art Museum, St. Louis) and Richard Haines (Artist and Teacher, Los Angeles).

1954 (16th) - Aline B. Saarinen (Special Art Critic for the "New York Times").

1955 (17th) - Lloyd Goodrich (Assoc. Dir., Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.C.).

1956 (18th) - Francis Henry Taylor (Dir., Worcester Art Museum, Emeritus Dir., Metropolitan Museum of Art).

1957 (19th) - Charles Nagel (Dir., City Art Museum, St. Louis) and Ward Lockwood (former staff member of the Art Dept. at the Univ. of Calif. who had just become artist-in-residence and visiting professor at the Univ. of Kansas).

1958 (20th) - Emily Genauer (Art Critic, "New York Herald Tribune").

1959 (21st) - Laurence Schmeckebier (Professor of Fine Arts and Dir., Syracuse University School of Art).

1960 (22nd) - Eugene Kingman (Dir., Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha) and Edward W. Dwight (Dir., Milwaukee Art Center).

1961 (23rd) - Fred Conway (Professor of Art, Washington University, St. Louis), Bartlett H. Hayes, Jr. (Dir., Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.) and Henry J. Seldis (Art Critic, "The Los Angeles Times").

1962 (24th) - John Gordon (Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.C.).

1963 (25th) - Dr. Allen S. Weller (Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois, Urbana).

You can see, these were not amateurs chosen for the juries of selection, these were art professionals who are in many cases "legends" today. Each year, it would take days for the jurors to get through the hundreds of entries. By the time each annual's juror or jurors finished the selection process, everyone was satisfied we had the finest representative works to exhibit for that particular year. News of each of the annuals' "Purchase Prize" winners and awards recipients was carried by nearly every major newspaper and art magazine across the country. It was a win-win situation for the artists, the Texas communities and rural areas they represented, the participating museums and the American art scene as a whole. Those were the last days Texas artists had the opportunity of actually being credentialed as "professional artists" by a professional jury system, rather than by the gallery- and collector/investor/speculator-based promotional system we have running amok, today...for the most part. Those juried annuals established professional art careers for many Texas artists.

Ms. Klaasmeyer, you really should not be knocking those Texas annuals! If anything, Ms. Klaasmeyer, you should be shouting at the top of your lungs about how they should be brought back. Everyone would benefit...well, probably everyone except the collector/investor/speculator-based "promoters" whose egos would certainly be bruised in the process. Wouldn't that just be terrible, to once again allow Texas artists the opportunity to be credentialed as professional artists by true art professionals? I think not!

Yes, Ms. Klaasmeyer, all of this came to a screeching halt during the period of time Mr. Merrill C. Rueppel served as director of the DMFA. One really needs to examine the circumstances which led to his ever coming to Dallas in the first place. There was a split-up amongst members of the DMFA. Some thought there should be a much stronger emphasis placed on contemporary art. Some didn't think Jerry Bywaters was doing enough in that regard. These board members split from the DMFA and started their own museum, the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art. The DMCA after a few years found they could no longer function on their own. Principals involved in the DMCA failed to come through with necessary financial support. A shotgun marriage of sorts took place and the DMCA merged with the DMFA. The principals of the former DMCA established themselves onto the board of the DMFA. Many of them considered Jerry Bywaters to be a little too folksy for the newly acquired tastes they had bought. They brought in Merrill C. Rueppel to replace Jerry. After all, some of the board members had found art to be a highly profitable venture. Jerry would never have allowed members of the DMFA board to deal art and serve on the board at the same time. Merrill Rueppel would. Those members of the former DMCA even created a Foundation for the Arts to co-exist within the framework of that shotgun DMFA-DMCA marriage. Years later, it all came to a head when Mrs. O'Hara was talked into changing her will by a Foundation for the Arts board member Fred Mayer. She had previously left several million dollars to the DMFA in her will, according to her personal attorney. Fred approached her and told her she should not leave her money to the DMFA - who he called a bunch of political appointees of the Dallas City Council. Nothing could have been any farther from the truth. Fred told Mrs. O'Hara it would be wise for her to leave the money to a group of businessmen called the Foundation for the Arts, rather than the DMFA. She changed her will and died; and, one heck of a fight broke out.

When Chapman called me to let me know his oil "Sand Dune" (1960) was to be included in the DMA's "Coastlines" exhibition, I could tell he felt very honored. Months later, when the show opened and he was able to view the show, he was overjoyed at the organizer's placement of his painting in the show. He felt as though it had been placed in the finest position possible for viewing. However, he was aghast at the volume of the sound production which accompanied the show.

I decided to ask several friends to take-in the exhibition and get back with me with their personal impressions. Without exception, they all found the sound was very disturbing. Several spoke of the difficulty of trying to carry on a conversation with anyone in close proximity and the necessity of having to shout in order to be understood. Now, that's just wrong. Some even brought up the possibility of the sound decibel level possibly (if not probably) having a negative impact on the condition of the exhibited works, such as jarring the paint from the canvas surfaces. Did anyone consider the possibility of the decibel level of the sound production causing damage to the paintings? I guess not. Since it's general practice for a museum to have a conservator's report prepared on each artwork at the time the work is installed in a show, followed by another report when the show is taken down...was any damage reported? I would certainly hope not! Would the DMA even admit if damages "were" found? Maybe not.

Chapman and I discussed long-and-hard the situation he and his creation, "Sand Dune" (1960) were placed in by Ms. Pitman, the organizer of the exhibition. I felt, since she appropriated his painting to the exhibition without first obtaining his approval for its placement into her own personal work of art (i.e. the "Coastlines" exhibition), it was a violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (V.A.R.A.). Now, if Chapman had pursued it that way, the DMA's director Ms. Pitman and the DMA itself would be tied up in one heck of a mess, for years to come. The DMA should be grateful it didn't go that way.

Chapman decided to write a letter on June 1st 2010 to director Pitman, opening with..."Please remove my painting of 1960, 'Sand Dune' from your exhibition 'Coastlines: Images of Land and Sea.'" Now, that was a very simple request. If she had any respect for any artist at all, she would have politely apologized to Chapman and removed the painting from the show. She might have even made an attempt to speak directly with Chapman in an attempt to defuse the situation. As far as we can tell, she made no attempt - whatsoever, to reach Chapman. Instead, Ms. Pitman (and, apparently, the DMA's board members and legal counsel) chose to take the "to Hell with the artist" approach.

Chapman further wrote..."If I had intended for it to include such added-on effects, I would have made it an installation piece or a 'happening' with audio and visual effects of my own choosing. Or perhaps have it submitted to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus." After years and years of dealing with the DMFA and DMA, one learns it's best to have a little bit of a sense of humor. I'm more than a little surprised director Pitman didn't have the floor covered with beach sand and turned on the museum's fire sprinkler system, just to create that perfect coastal "mist" feel for the museum's patrons. She might as well have, as an accompaniment to how she so thoughtfully made it "enhanced by an evocative sound installation relating and responding directly to the works on display" (as the DMA's press materials state).

I thought it pretty fitting Chapman concluded his letter to Ms. Pitman with... "Since you and your staff do not feel that my work can stand alone on its own merits, for that, and for many other reasons, I can no longer feel honored being in this museum's collection. Please return 'Sand Dune' to me. I will refund the purchase price." Since the purchase prize amount included tax dollars paid by the citizens of Dallas, no one expected Ms. Pitman to focus her response on the subject of selling the painting back to Chapman. Unfortunately, she honed in on that statement alone, neglecting to ever address Chapman's request for her to remove the painting from her exhibition.

Recently, a letter was received from Edward Joseph Wapner II representing a group of graduate students in the University of Washington's Museology program who are "in the process of co-authoring research in the vastly important issue of artists' rights in the United States and how they relate to Institutional Responsibility in a post-VARA climate." He describes the incident between Chapman Kelley and the DMA as "an outstanding example of institutional experimentation and artists' rights coming into conflict." This group at the University of Washington has been doing their homework; and, have respectfully asked Chapman for "any insights" he might be able to share regarding his exchange with the DMA or answers to a number of points of investigation drawing on his, as Mr. Wapner puts it, "considerable experience as an advocate of artists' rights." I'd bet a dollar to a doughnut the current generation of Dallas artists are not even familiar with his landmark VARA case, even though Sérgio Muñoz Sarmiento (founder of Clancco: Art & Law), who is considered by most art law specialists in this country and abroad to be the leading proponent in the artists' rights movement today has done such a fine job of covering Chapman's case. The Dallas press has failed everyone involved in the arts by not publishing a single word about that case, now known as the case of the decade. They've remained mute! It will be very interesting to see how far all of this goes.

I was quite happy to have relocated to Missouri in 2003 and with settling down to write the history of this region of the state where my family has lived for 200 years...some 180 feature articles published to-date. Some of the articles have dealt with the local roots of a number of the early Dallas and Texas artists. Unfortunately, for the last couple years or so, I've had to field quite a number of inquiries from across the country and abroad dealing with the current state of affairs of the Dallas art/museum scene. Many want to know if all the current problems faced by the DMA are a carry-over from the past or something new. Unfortunately, it appears to be a combination of the two. Many feel the DMA's board has been hijacked. There have even been questions regarding the election process of the DMA's board members. Those same questions were being asked back in the 1970s. I'm not personally familiar with many of the DMA's current board members. Many of the old Dallas families who were associated with the DMFA/DMA are no longer active supporters...and, that is disturbing. As I understand it, not all of the current board members are as happy as the DMA would like everyone to think. I really don't know how the institution and the respectable members of the DMA board have succumbed to the vanities of the three couples who made the irrevocable gift to the DMA in the "Fast Forward" fiasco; and, have been allowed since to sell works I understand to be the property of the DMA...since it was an irrevocable gift.

Many have questioned how the DMA can remain a 501(c)(3) when some members of the DMA board are allowed to reap substantial financial gain while serving on that board. All I can say is, I have been assured, if the non-profit status of the DMA is not taken away, it will be a big issue in the next election campaign of the Texas Attorney General. If the current A.G. doesn't clean up the DMA, his opponent will have quite an arsenal at his or her disposal. That's to say, if the feds don't step in with a R.I.C.O. case, first. I would advise every DMA board member to check with his or her own personal attorney to see what their own personal fiduciary responsibility is with regard to Rachofsky's sale of the Koons sculpture ($25.8M) and the Hoffman "secret" sale of the Rothko ($31.4M - price realized from the sale by the man who bought the painting from Hoffman). No one can honestly say the appreciation in value of the Koons sculpture was not in-part due to its inclusion in the 5-pound published exhibition catalogue which accompanied the "Fast Forward" show. Perhaps, a very thorough forensic audit is necessary. If Lindsay Pollock had not broken the story of Hoffman's secret sale of the Rothko, we might not have even suspected the "Fast Forward" gifters and the museum were as deep into the mess as they were. What did the DMA director know about it all? Is the DMA director complicit? Will the Association of Art Museum Directors tolerate such actions by its members? Chances are, the history of the DMA during the last twenty or so years will end up being written by a bunch of attorneys. The way things seem to be going, someone will probably be producing a made-for-TV movie about the entire mess.

Ms. Klaasmeyer's attempt to slam artists' rights activist John Viramontes showed total ignorance of the artists' rights movement which has certainly grown in the last twenty years. John has been involved in covering and reporting every single artists rights case since the landmark Chicago case of Chapman Kelley v Chicago Park District, which is on-going.

Here's a partial list of cases he has covered since the Council for Artists' Rights was started after a Chicago Tribune article by Hal Dardick.

2005: The Kristina Castro (then-student of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) case involving the Glenview (Ill.) Park District's refusal to show her work. John worked closely with playwright Dr. Rey de la Cruz on this and made public statements to a crowd of supporters at a Chicago gallery featuring Filipino artwork.

2005: The Eric Blome case. Blome had created a sculpture of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the city of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. A controversy erupted over the sculpture during a political season and the piece was removed from its base with a hacksaw. John facilitated a visit by Blome and his multi-racial family to Chapman Kelley's studio/residence in Chicago and wrote letters to the editor of the Rocky Mount newspaper which influenced the reinstallation of the Blome sculpture.

2007: The Chicago "1%" case involving the public art policy of the city of Chicago. For many years, the city of Chicago solicited input from the community for public art projects within the city limits and a "1%" program was in effect which set aside 1% of the construction costs to fund public art in new construction. Mayor Daley or his city council operatives took away that community input component, thereby putting the decision making authority into the hands of a few Daley-insiders. (See attached image of the cover of the June 12, 2007 issue of Chicago Sun Times' Showcase section featuring the photograph of Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick and John Viramontes at the protest under the Picasso sculpture.

Chicago Sun Times, June 12, 2007 - photo credit Tom Cruze-Sun Times

2008: In 1989, Dustin Schuler installed "The Spindle" sculpture in a shopping mall plaza in suburban Berwyn, Ill. In the mid-2000s the city decided it should be demolished. John facilitated a long distance telephone conversation between Schuler (then living on the west coast) and Chapman Kelley to discuss Schuler's rights under VARA. Then, when the DMA rejected a routine loan request for "Sand Dune" (1960) made by the Longview Museum of Fine Art (Longview, Tex.), John facilitated a meeting with the Longview News Journal staff and Chapman Kelley to discuss the DMA's "unexplained" refusal to loan the work.

2009: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston v Christoph Büchel case. John maintained correspondence with one of the attorneys handling Büchel's appeal with regard to the handling of Chapman Kelley v Chicago Park District. Then, when muralist Gabriel Villa's work, on private property, was painted over at the request of a Chicago alderman, John was interviewed on Chicago public radio and Villa started consulting with the Chicago non-profit Lawyers for the Creative Arts regarding his legal options. Then, when two of internationally recognized sculptor Richard Hunt's pieces turned up missing in the run up of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, John was right on top of it.

2010: When Texas Southern University whitewashed two on-campus murals by Harvey Johnson (Johnson collaborated with artist John T. Biggers on two or more T.S.U. murals), John was on top of it. Then, when the DMA's Claes Oldenburg-Coosje van Bruggen "Stake Hitch" issue came up, John contacted the administrator of the "Reinstall Oldenburg's 'Stake Hitch'" Facebook page and suggested how the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 might apply. He since contacted the artist; and, we can only guess where this will lead. It's not near to being over. Then, when sculptor David Ascalon's memorial sculpture was altered without the artist's permission...well, John was on top of things there as well.

So, Ms. Klaasmeyer, slamming my good friend John Viramontes really wasn't such a good idea, either! He's done a very fine job of covering artists' rights issues for us all. Artists are indebted to him for his work. I, for one, am very grateful for all the work he has done.

Now, Ms. Klaasmeyer, why on earth did you make the statement..."I wonder how many artists working today, especially African American and Latino artists, would consider Texas circa 1930 and 1940 an 'ideal' time?" Was this some type of an effort on your part to be politically correct? Well, you messed up on that one, too! Black and hispanic artists in Dallas are smarter than that, Kelly. Beginning with the very first Allied Arts of Dallas juried show in 1928...and, through to the end...never once were the sponsors or jurors accused of being biased. There was no box to check-off on, to identify any artist's ethnic or racial identity in relation to any of the juried shows I've discussed. It was an even playing field! Many black and hispanic artists participated in these shows and received awards. Their names, listed in the exhibition catalogues are not followed by "colored" or "hispanic"!

Over the years, I've come to know quite a number of the surviving black and hispanic artists and their families pretty well. I wasn't about to have anyone raking me over the coals for omitting black or hispanic artists from my research. Artists are artists! Race and ethnicity are irrelevant when it comes to art. There were "many" black and hispanic artists who made substantial contributions on the Dallas art scene during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s ...O. W. Johnson, William Bryant, Henry Howard, Ethel Davis, Thurmond Townsend, Rezolia Thrash, James Thibodeaux, Octavio Medellin and James Cisneros Frazier, to name but a very few. Octavio Medellin would have snapped your head off for that one, Kelly. On second, he was a gentleman who would have probably just laughed it off as a statement made by someone who was terribly misguided and thought she'd score a few political correctness points. My, these are sad times! Ms. Klaasmeyer, are you aware the finest exhibition in the history of Texas devoted exclusively to black artists' work was held in Dallas at the Texas Centennial Exposition?

Ms. Klaasmeyer, instead of attacking Chapman Kelley, John Viramontes and myself with your Glasstire contribution, you should really be asking some very serious questions of the DMA, the Foundation for the Arts and the local press. Here are some suggestions...

(1) Why is the Foundation for the Arts even allowed to exist as part of a publicly-funded institution (DMA)...considering, for this reason alone...Foundation for the Arts board member Fred Mayer's having conned Mrs. O'Hara on her deathbed into changing her will, leaving her millions of dollars to his foundation, rather than the DMFA (her original intention)?

(2) Why on God's green earth did the DMA (formerly DMFA) choose to "recently" honor Fred Mayer by naming the museum's library after him, after he swindled the DMFA out of the O'Hara Bequest? I guess that made him a "made" member of the Foundation's board, didn't it?

(3) Why are tax dollars used for the conservation, insurance, freight and handling expenses, storage, security, etc., etc...of artworks in the Foundation for the Arts' collection?

(4) Why doesn't someone man-up and propose (or order) the shutting down of the Foundation for the Arts and transferring all the ownership rights to pieces in the Foundation for the Arts' collection to the DMA's permanent collection? It's time for a divorce...irreconcilable differences...and, the DMA should get sole custody of the foundation's artworks/children. After all, the taxpayers have picked-up the tab of the Foundation for the Arts' expenses for far too many years.

(5) When is director Pitman going to acknowledge artists do have rights under federal law (VARA)?

(6) What reasoning was behind the DMA submitting a bid to restore the Stuart Kraft sculpture "Pegasus"...then, underbidding Kraft to secure the job only to later approach the artist (Kraft) to do the work they bid to do, for a lesser amount; and, just how can the non-profit DMA compete against someone in the private sector? The DMA doesn't even have a conservation office, does it?

(7) In a recent DMA Annual Report, artworks were shown as having been deaccessioned by the DMA during the year having a stated value of a staggering $900,000.00. The DMA failed to list the deaccessioned works in their Annual Report, only the $900K figure. Why? Did any of those works end up in the hands of any of the board members of the DMA or the Foundation for the Arts, DMA consultants or private dealers? Was the purpose for those deaccessions related to the museum's desire to upgrade the DMA or Foundation for the Arts holdings, by acquiring finer examples of work by the same artists they'd deaccessioned? Were open bids for the sales of the deaccessioned works advertised publicly?

(8) What are the DMA's plans with regard to the re-installation of "Stake Hitch"; and, was its removal intended to be an insult to the Murchison family?

(9) When it's common knowledge the value of an artwork increases as a result of its being included in any museum exhibition and accompanying published this case, any DMA-organized or DMA-hosted exhibition...what artworks have been loaned by board members of either the DMA or the Foundation for the Arts?

(10) What ever happened to the two floral pieces by Henri Fantin-Latour which were donated to the DMFA by board member James Clark while Merrill C. Rueppel was director, for a hefty tax deduction. The paintings were on the market for years, due to the fact no one thought they were authentic. The Boston Globe's staff covered the story pretty well just prior to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts' firing of Rueppel as their director. Were they insured by the DMFA/DMA as being works by Fantin-Latour after they were received? If so, who authenticated them? Has the DMA deaccessioned those two paintings...or, are they still hidden-away in the museum's vault?

(11) Why did the City of Dallas accept being told by the DMA it was none of their business, when they questioned the museum about the finances related to the DMA-hosted "King Tut" flop?

(12) Does the DMA have any intention of ever compiling and publishing a catalogue of its past and present Texas Collection? What artworks have been deaccessioned from the Texas Collection? Did any of those end up in the hands of any past or present DMA or Foundation for the Arts board members, DMA consultants or private dealers?

(13) When artworks are left to the Foundation for the Arts, how long does that foundation have to hold onto them before they can sell them off?

(14) Will DMA director Pitman, the Rachofskys, the Roses and Mrs. Hoffman "swear" no more artworks have been sold from the "Fast Forward" collection other than the Rachofskys' "Balloon Flower (Magenta)" sculpture by Jeff Koons and the Mark Rothko painting which Marguerite Hoffman secretly sold to a Mexican financier-collector from right off the museum's wall during the "Fast Forward" show, for an undisclosed amount? Why did the DMA agree to accept the "Fast Forward" collections in the first place, when finer collections exist in the Dallas area? Why did the DMA, the Rachofskys, Roses and Hoffmans go to such great expense to publish a five-pound catalogue? Was any of that expense placed on the shoulders of the tax-payers? Certainly, it must have been, if the "irrevocable gifters" or their heirs intend to receive any sort of tax advantage when they're laughing at Dallas from their graves. If the "Fast Forward" catalogue was published solely to raise the value of the "irrevocable gifts", the DMA appears to be complicit in establishing an exaggerated valuation. Isn't that art market manipulation? Some have gone so far as to call it "racketeering"...on the part of the DMA, the Rachofskys, Roses and Mrs. Hoffman...and, anyone who might buy any of those works. It appears to be is a clear-cut example of what is absolutely "not" supposed to be allowed by a non-profit...for any of its board members to profit financially in any way by their service on a non-profit's board of directors.

(15) Who brainstormed the idea to give everyone at the DMA a vanity title of one sort or another? It certainly looks very cheap on the part of the DMA. Was it director Pitman's idea? Did someone actually make a motion at a DMA or Foundation for the Arts board meeting to start handing out all those vanity titles?

I have always enjoyed reading the postings on Glasstire, before Ms. Klaasmeyer's contribution. Anyway, I'll continue to read what they put out there. They're good folks.

Dallas' problems are all out in the open for the world to see, now that we have the Internet. Let's clean up the mess and try to regain some of the dignity we've lost. It may take a bit longer for us to earn back the integrity. It's probably going to take people from outside Dallas to help with it all. I welcome any help we can get. The Klaasmeyer post was a step in the wrong direction.


NOW, "How I got to where I am in all of this..." -

After several years of studying the art, artists and happenings of the "Early Texas Art" scene, principally through clipping files of the old downtown Dallas Public Library's Dallas/Local/Texas History and Fine Arts Divisions, the Dallas Historical Society's archival library, the old Dallas Museum of Fine Art's library and archival holdings and reels upon reels of microfilm, I decided to try to determine who was the most influential artist during the first three decades of the twentieth century.

OLIN HERMAN TRAVIS (1888-1975), I determined was that individual for a number of reasons: he was Dallas' first native-born professional artist; he was associated-with and/or received private art instruction from all of Dallas' first-wave of artist/educators (Frank Reaugh, Prof. Hans Kunz-Meyer, Max von Hagedorn and Robert Jerome Hill); he was of the first generation of Dallas art students to travel to major American art centers to further their education - in his case, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1909 to 1913, where he became an associate instructor in 1914; he was active in every early-day Dallas art organization - including his being a Dallas Art Association board member ; he founded the Dallas Art Institute in 1926 and served as its director until 1941, when the DMFA closed its doors and opened its own DMFA Museum School; he was greatly respected by each and every one of his students who studied under him at the Dallas Art Institute or privately; and, many many more reasons which should all be covered in a future post.

Madeline Williamson had opened Williamson Gallery at 6336 Gaston Avenue in the Lakewood Shopping Center in East Dallas in the early 1970s. She brought Olin Travis in as one her gallery's artists. This afforded me the opportunity to personally study many of Travis' most famous paintings from his own personal collection. I know I probably bored Mrs. Williamson with all my talking about Travis and his work...but, she never let on. Still, at this point in time, I'd never met Travis personally. One day, I received a call from Mrs. Williamson advising me of Travis' being on his "deathbed" in a Dallas hospital. She told me Travis wanted to meet the young fellow (myself) who had been doing all the research on him. Mrs. Williamson had made arrangements for Travis' longtime friend Herc Ficklen (Dallas Morning News Editorial Cartoonist) to pick me up and deliver me to Travis' bedside in a couple hours. I had just enough time to run to a copy shop and make copies of some of the most interesting articles I'd copied over the years, including his birth announcement from the 1888 Dallas newspaper. Herc delivered me to Travis' bedside; and, my first vision of Travis upon entering his hospital room, was...a head with tousled gray hair resting on a pillow, covered up to his neck by a very sterile white hospital blanket, which obscured his frame and left the impression there was no body at all, just his head and his toes sticking up under the blanket at the foot of the bed. Herc and Mrs. Williamson introduced me to Travis, we shook hands and I handed him the manila envelope containing all the copies I had printed. Travis laboriously raised himself, opened the envelope and chuckled when he saw his birth announcement. He said he'd never seen it before. I think he studied every page I'd copied for him. We didn't stay very long. We left the hospital and I thought about how grateful I was to have been invited by Travis to finally meet with him in-person...even though it was probably the last opportunity I'd have to see him alive. I was wrong. We were all wrong. Travis was released from the hospital to go home the next day. I believe it was the day after he was released, Travis called me on the phone and invited me over to his house. I dropped everything and headed over to the Travis' residence at 8343 Santa Clara Drive in the White Rock Lake area. Travis and his wife, Frank Reaugh protege Josephine (Oliver) Travis met me at the door and welcomed me in. That would be the first of my many visits to the Travis' home. On each and every one of those visits I was given a history lesson on the Dallas art scene, the American art scene or world art. Each one was like a master's class. Sometimes, Travis or Josephine would call me to help move a painting to a different hanging location and we'd settle down to another history lesson. I absolutely ate it up. In time, Travis had prepared a list for me of collectors across the country who owned what he considered to be his most important works which I followed-through tracking-down to the current owner or owners, letting Travis know where they ended up. The list was like a "Who's Who" of the Dallas art world, especially. Some took months to track down. Many had been passed down a couple of generations from the original owner. Travis arranged many introductions for me to meet the surviving early day movers and shakers of Dallas' art scene, or their survivors. Between the time I first met Travis on his "deathbed" and roughly 6:30 p.m. on December 4th, 1975, when I received the telephone call from Madeline Williamson advising me of Travis' passing...we'd managed to prove to Travis his many contributions to the Texas and American art scenes were greatly appreciated. During that same period of time, I assisted in the preparation and planning of: a Travis one-man show at Laura Carpenter's Dupree Gallery in Irving, Texas...her father, Mr. Ben Carpenter, loaned us his car and personal driver to pick-up Travis at his home to bring him to the opening (upon arrival we drove right up to the marquee where Travis proclaimed it was the first time he'd seen his name up in lights since the opening of his 1930 show at the New York Art Center which became New York City's Museum of Modern Art); a Travis one-man show at the Waco Creative Art Center and my first public speaking engagement, a gallery talk on Olin Travis, thanks to Paul Rogers Harris [Note to Paul: I sure was nervous!]; and, the last Travis "one-man" show at the Art Gallery at North Texas State University (now University of North Texas) in Denton.

JERRY BYWATERS (1908-1989), former director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1943-64), was given his first teaching opportunity by Olin Travis at the Dallas Art Institute (1932-37) and he, in-turn, gave me my first teaching experience as his graduate assistant in teaching the course "Art History of the Southwest" (offered as both a graduate or undergraduate credit course) at Southern Methodist University in the 1970s. Jerry had been appointed regional director of "The Texas Project" by the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art; and, made me one of his field representatives (Dr. Francine Carraro, now director of The Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas, and Marla Redelsperger were his field representatives before I came on board) while I was at N.T.S.U. Also during this time, he gave me my first experience at helping to organize a museum-style exhibition, "Jerry Bywaters: A Retrospective Exhibition" (Feb. 22 - March 28, 1976) at the University Galleries of Southern Methodist University's Owens Fine Arts Center. Then, Jerry made me an offer I couldn't refuse. He pulled me out of N.T.S.U., admitted me into S.M.U.'s graduate art history school, made me his personal graduate assistant, made me an assistant to Mrs. Helen Brooks Lawrence (widow of Dallas' premier early day art dealer in the late 1920s through World War II, Harry Zachary Lawrence, founder of Harry Z. Lawrence Art Galleries; sister of pioneer American abstract expressionist James David "Jim" Brooks [who credited Travis for his becoming a professional artist himself, just as his old studio-mate Jackson Pollock credited his teacher, Thomas Hart Benton] ; and, sister-in-law of artist Perry Nichols) so I could learn the ropes in fine arts library cataloguing...and, took me under his wing and tried to teach me everything he could from where Travis left off. Jerry was a remarkable art scholar and a wonderful friend. Today, he is recognized as the "Father of Texas Art History". As Jerry was winding-down his teaching career and his health was starting to fail, I felt it best to go independent. Harry S. Parker II, the second director following Jerry at the DMFA, asked Jerry and I to write a history of the first 75 years of the Dallas Art Association and the DMFA. Today, much more could be written on that period....and, we will.

During this same period of time, I was approached by members of Artists Equity and several of Dallas' established art dealers to serve as art historian and document all that was transpiring on the local art scene in relation to a group they had been instrumental in forming, the Friends of the Dallas Museum of Art. I kept pretty good notes on all of this. In addition to the note-taking, I was able to tape-record many of the meetings of the Friends and hearings which were held between DMFA director Harry S. Parker III, Mrs. Margaret McDermott, Foundation for the Arts board member Fred Mayer and the Dallas City Council. One reason for the delay in getting this first blog post up was I had hoped to find a way for the audio recordings of some of those meetings to be linked to this blog. In time, this will all be added-in on this Dallas Art History blog site. I believe it was Artists Equity who proposed I meet with Harry Parker when he arrived in Dallas from the Metropolitan Museum to familiarize him with the history of the Dallas art scene and the DMFA.

There are a number of other exhibitions I've had the pleasure of working on:

The DMFA's 1975 exhibition "From the Ground Up: The Architectural History of Dallas", at the request of Mrs. Anne Courtin (Chair, Steering Committee) and Mrs. Ellen Boozer. This most likely led to my serving on the Goals for Dallas' Design of the City 1977 Task Force, under David R. Braden (Chair) and Wendell Patterson (Coordinator); and, from 1978 through 1983 on the Goals for Dallas' Design of the City Goals Achievement Committee, serving under Pete Baldwin (Chair), Adlene Harrison (Vice Chair) and William Bennett Cullum (Liaison), sponsored by the American Institute of Architects.

Assisted in the preparation and planning of the exhibition of Chapman Kelley's paintings, "Wildflower Works" (April 18 - May 26, 1977) at Atelier Chapman Kelley, Dallas. Authored the "Foreword" of the published catalogue. This was the first exhibition and catalogue to set the stage for Chapman Kelley's "Wildflower Works" concept.

Assisted in the preparation and planning of the Dallas Historical Society's 1983 exhibition "Fair Park Moderne: Texas Centennial Art" at the Hall of State in Fair Park, at the request of the Dallas Historical Society's director, John Crain...most likely, through Jerry Bywaters and Ted Dealey (publisher of The Dallas Morning News, who nominated me for membership in the Society). Most of the surviving artists who created the murals and sculptures for the Texas Centennial Exposition and their families made it in for the opening.

Assisted Mrs. Natalie H. Lee (Curator of the Dallas Museum of Art's "90th Birthday Exhibition") in 1993; and, presented the only known copy of the "Catalogue of the First Annual Exhibition of the Dallas Art Association" (Dallas: privately printed, 1903) to the DMA as a gift "in memory of my friends Olin Herman Travis and Jerry Bywaters".

Served as research associate to Dr. Patricia Trenton, Ph.D. which involved the selecting of artwork [we replaced only one painting from the established list of artworks to be included in the show, after I located a work we determined to be more representative of Coreen Mary Spellman (1905-1978), which ended up being placed in the permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Art], archival research, artist interviews and documentation...related to the Texas artists, on the "Independent Spirits Project". This project resulted in the major traveling exhibition "Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945" and the published catalogue by the same title (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1995). The exhibition opened at The Autry Museum of Western Art, Burbank, Calif., went on to The Museum of New Mexico., on to The Cody Museum and closed at The Gilcrease Institute Museum in Tulsa, Okla. Becky Duval Reese and Patricia D. Hendricks did a fantastic job on their essay dealing with Texas' women painters.

Assisted DMFA Curator of American Art, Dr. Eleanor Jones Harvey (now Chief Curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.) in the preparation and planning of the exhibition "In Context: Painting in Dallas, 1889-1945" (September 18 - October 24, 1999) at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Dallas. Served on the MAC's Roundtable in conjunction with this exhibition as a panelist. Having Dr. Eleanor Jones Harvey at the Dallas museum was "a breath of fresh air", for all of us who were interested in the future of the early Texas art scene.

Assisted in the preparation and planning of the exhibition "A Symphony of Shade and Light: Frank Reaugh and his Students" (September 15 - October 21, 2001) at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Dallas, curated by Michael R. Grauer (Curator of Art, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas. Served on the panel discussion which accompanied the exhibition. Loaned three works by Reaugh-student John Douglass to this exhibition, including "The Road Out" which was his first oil painting to be exhibited by the DMFA in 1940, after his many years of association with the institution.

Assisted my longtime friend and Texas art collector A. C. Cook in building his collection, early-on; and, introduced him to many of the surviving early Texas artists (Josephine Oliver Travis, William Curtis Elliott, Perry Nichols, Florence McClung, Deforrest Judd and many others). There were several traveling exhibitions of his collection, oftentimes referred to as the Hockshop Collection, from 1997 through 1998. Works I secured for his collection [including some of my favorite pieces: Olin Travis' paintings "Whither", "Tom" and "Mammon" - his proposed mural for the Dallas Post Office]; Florence McClung's "Jackson's Gin"and Elliott's "Construction Workers"] were included in all the traveling exhibitions. Florence McClung's "Jackson's Gin" was among the works he loaned from his collection to the "Independent Spirits; Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945" exhibition. A.C.'s plans were to see his collection go to a major Texas art museum. Unfortunately, we lost A.C. to cancer this year. He would have loved this blog idea!

Assisted in the preparation and planning of all of the exhibitions of Olin Travis' work since his death in 1975. The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum (Canyon, Texas) 1995 exhibition, "Olin Travis: Texas Master", organized by my friend, PPHM art curator Michael R. Grauer was by far the finest outside of Dallas. The David Dike Fine Art 1994 exhibition, "Olin Herman Travis" was the finest Travis retrospective in Dallas since the DMFA's 1953 Travis show. The McKinney Avenue Contemporary's more recent major exhibition, "Olin Travis: People, Places and Visions" exhibition in 2009, which was not a retrospective, was curated by my friend (Travis' grand daughter) Dr. Susan L. Travis, Ph.D., who I helped with her Ph.D. dissertation on Travis.

Assisted with the exhibition "Martha Simkins Rediscovered", curated/organized by Robert A. Horn (New York), circulating through Thompson Gallery, Furman University, Greenville, S.C. (September 16 - October 26, 2002), Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Ga. (January 16, 2002 - April 20, 2003), Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, Marietta, Ga. (May 17 - August 3, 2003) and the Irving Arts Center, Irving, Tex. (September 24 - November 16, 2003). A published catalogue accompanied the exhibition.

Provided historical research materials to Rebecca E. Lawson and Kevin Vogel in preparation for the published catalogue which accompanied the exhibition "Earth & Sky: The Pastels of Josephine Oliver-Travis (1908-1991)", Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden, Dallas (April 23 -May 5, 2007) and The Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler (May 19 - August 19, 2007). I must add, the husband and wife team of Kevin and Cheryl Vogel running Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden have done a remarkable job of filling-in where the DMA has failed to do so, in presenting museum-quality exhibitions of works by Texas artists. Cheryl Vogel, I am very proud to say, was one of the students in the "Art History of the Southwest" class Jerry Bywaters and I taught at S.M.U.

Serving on Texas A&M Chancellor Barry B. Thompson's "Consortium for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art" was a true pleasure. I waited years and years to see early Texas art taken seriously. It is now! The consortium has since become CASETA - a wonderful organization. Another group I'm proud to have been a member of is Texas Art Collectors Organization (T.A.C.O.), which has sponsored many fine exhibitions of early Texas art. T.A.C.O. is still going strong!

I would like to see the Dallas Museum of Art become a leader among Texas' art museums; but, feel they're missing out on many opportunities. One major failure of the DMA is its refusal to even acknowledge the existence of its Texas Art Collection. This collection is the premier collection of Texas art from the depression era through the early 1960s, largely as a result of the purchase prize pieces which came from the annual juried shows...beginning with the 1928 Allied Arts competition and on through all the Texas Painting and Sculpture Annuals. I hear from people all the time who are disappointed by not finding the works of the Texas artists being proudly shown by the DMA like other major museums across the country proudly display works by their local both earlier and contemporary artists. The DMA appears to believe exhibiting such a collection would give them the appearance of being too provincial. Obviously, I feel otherwise. On the DMA's online home page, they fail to even mention their Texas collection. The DMA's current online catalogue of its collections is missing a good number of artworks I know to have been in the DMFA's permanent collections. I can only hope they just haven't gotten around to listing them yet.

No wonder at all, why many of Dallas' long-established, well-respected families are no longer associated with the DMA in any way, shape or form. They have to be embarrassed by everything which has been going on these days.

Sam Blain

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John Viramontes of The Council for Artists' Rights replies:

     Sam, I just finished reading your first blog posting.  You’re showing us quite a bit of history that until now has obviously been largely undocumented; there’s something for everyone. The story surrounding the O’Hara bequest is especially fascinating.  Thank goodness for this great nation of ours; it still holds dear and defends freedom of speech!

     I recently listened to an intriguing hour-long audio recording of a public discussion regarding the bequest made in the 1970s by Virginia Lazenby O'Hara of Dallas, Texas. She was the daughter of Robert Lazenby, one of the inventors of the Dr. Pepper formula and wife of John Bernard O’Hara, former chairman of the board, Dr. Pepper Company.  John is widely credited with growing it into a national company.  Virginia Lazenby O'Hara’s contested bequest consisted of approximately $4.5 million worth of Dr. Pepper common stock. 

     The historic audio recording was created by grassroots Dallas taxpayers—in the public’s interest—in the period following the death of Virginia Lazenby O'Hara.  It is my understanding that to date, a thorough documenting of the controversial O’Hara bequest has been suppressed.    

     In the wake of O’Hara’s death, First National Bank came to be involved in transferring the Dr. Pepper stock.  However, they balked at doing so after seeing two entities named as recipients.  At the time, details of the ambiguously worded will caused quite the stir across the spectrum of the Dallas art world because it had dual recipients and for wedding the publicly owned DMFA to a private foundation, namely, the Foundation for the Arts, and stock valued at $4.5 million.  It was not uncommon for officers to be concurrent members of both organizations, an arrangement perceived as being a conflict of interest.  First National Bank officers said a court order was necessary to clarify the bequest.    

     As the DMFA has been accountable to the Dallas city council since the museum’s inception in 1903, three local groups demanded that the city council begin holding hearings in the public’s interest and to assert that the DMFA should be the sole recipient of the Dr. Pepper stock. The groups consisted of the local chapter of the National Artists Equity, the Dallas Art Gallery Association and the Friends of the DMFA (at the time Friends had over 100 members).  The city council complied with the groups’ request and conducted hearings; attorney Tim Kelly represented Dallas’ citizenry.        

     The audio recording’s primary narrator throughout is Dallas taxpayer and former IBM sales executive Charles Miles.  He frames the conflict of interest issue and supports it with the sworn testimony of various individuals.  In doing so, he attacks the credibility of DMFA former chairman and philanthropist Margaret McDermott.  Her remarks are heard in the recording followed by statements made by FFA and DMFA officer and then-director Harry Parker.  Dallas attorney Tim Kelly and an unnamed Dallas city councilman are heard on the recording.

    At 5:21 into the recording Charles Miles comments on a prior recording of public speaker Margaret McDermott’s statements made at a Committee of Arts and Beautification meeting held at the Dallas City Council where the O’Hara bequest was being discussed.  Miles is heard prefacing McDermott’s statement, “…it’s worth noting at this point one of the prime emphases of Mrs. McDermott’s talk was that Mrs. O’Hara who had left the generous bequest would not have left this bequest under any circumstances (emphasis added) to the public institution being the DMFA but rather entirely favored (emphasis added) the private institution Foundation for the Arts…”   This recap by Miles intimates that McDermott had been less than candid with her comments.  In effect he is saying that she chose to make statements about O’Hara’s intentions despite some subsequent and contradicting testimony made by O’Hara’s personal attorney about the actions of McDermott museum colleague Fredrick “Fred” Mayer (at the time he was an active member of the DMFA, former board member and president of the DMFA and long serving director and trustee of the FFA).  In subsequent sworn statements made by O’Hara’s attorney, the DMFA was originally named as a major recipient in many earlier versions of the bequest; the inclusion of the private entity, the FFA, had always been absent.  Testimony indicates that Mayer convinced O’Hara to later add the FFA to her bequest after he told her the DMFA board was run by “political appointees of the Dallas City Council” (negative connotation implied) and because the FFA possessed coveted business acumen and was “run by competent businessmen…real sound businessmen.”  To counter this Mayer testimony, at 45:19 Tim Kelly testified that official records show that the Dallas city council actually did not appoint museum board members.  And to challenge Mayer’s conversations with O’Hara, at 46:05 Kelly says “…so the question must be raised here whether or not this was an obfuscation (emphasis added) to influence Mrs. O’Hara that the Foundation and the Museum were really one and the same…” something they legally were not.

     In essence Miles’ prefacing comment implies (at the time McDermott, Parker and Mayer were museum colleagues) that one would have to be incredibly naïve to accept that McDermott, Parker and Mayer had not discussed with one another the notion of convincing O’Hara to change from DMFA to FFA her mammoth donation of $4.5 million of Dr. Pepper common stock. 

     Later, at 58:00 we hear attorney Kelly attempting to draw in the Dallas city council to defend the public’s interest.  He advised the city council that they were supporting a conflict of interest.  Since the DMFA’s founding, it had been answerable to taxpayers via the Dallas city council.  So when the city council refused to get involved in the bequest issue, it essentially abdicated its fiduciary responsibility to the Dallas taxpaying public.  The DMFA itself, through its legal team, had every opportunity to defend the public interest.  Instead, it refused to act, leaving the museum itself, by default, equally guilty of the same transgression, that of fiduciary irresponsibility.

     Reports on a spinoff of the O’Hara bequest—a class action lawsuit—cannot be found in the various published histories of the Dallas art world.  The latter half of the recording discusses it.  Indignant supporters in the Dallas arts community felt that a conflict of interest had been created by the poorly worded O’Hara bequest and that the public’s interest was being grossly ignored.  They hired attorney Tim Kelly and filed the lawsuit in order to establish Dallas taxpayers’ legal standing.  In all, 26 plaintiffs became part of the dispute.

     Tim Kelly can be heard discussing the Texas Attorney General’s stake in the issue.  He was told by the Texas A.G. that the matter was uncontested, despite the force and legitimacy of the class action lawsuit.  So the Texas A.G. was also irresponsible in fighting for the taxpayers’ interest.

     Many arts professionals consider the historic moment was that which allowed a small private group to effectively hijack and gain control of a museum owned by the city thereby tragically removing its administration from public view and accountability.

     As a result of all this a significant number of arts professionals reported that their jobs were threatened.  A blacklist targeting them is more active than ever.

    Sam, what is the historical significance of all this?  Since then, has the public's confidence in the Dallas Museum of Art been restored?  What effect did the O'Hara bequest episode have on the future of the Dallas art world?  

Note:  One can listen to the entire audio recording free of charge by clicking on this link public hearing or alternatively, you can fill out a form and listen to it from FileFactory: here.  The name of the file there is “hearing.” 

Thanks, Sam.  John Viramontes - Council for Artists’ Rights