Wednesday, December 11, 2013

UPDATE: New York Times' Roberta Smith, you were right. Case: Dallas Museum of Art's integrity drowned by money

     The Council of Artists' Rights recently sent out an email UPDATE to inform and educate the taxpaying public about U.S. public museum issues.  Here's  the email:

UPDATE: New York Times' Roberta Smith, you were right. Case: Dallas Museum of Art's integrity drowned by money

December 2, 2013 

Dear ally of artists' rights:     

     Since launching our eblast ten days ago, we have subsequently learned that an independent third party has exposed to the world the fatal flaw in the charitable donations structure that was passed into law in 2006. That loophole in the law allowed some prominent Dallas families to sell off promised artwork that ostensibly was part of the permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. 

     Those donor families in 2005 had gifted their $400 million art collections to the DMA as a so-called "irrevocable bequest." And the following year the DMA featured 300 of those works in their museum exhibition, "Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum of Art." It published a lavish catalog praising the generosity of the donors.  But not long after the exhibition ended, two pieces were forever pulled from the museum's future and sold for a combined $57.2 million. Those transactions allowed private art market speculators to reap a financial windfall at the expense of U.S. taxpayers via a public museum and its secretive private partner, the Foundation for the Arts.  Recently the FFA was tied to the museum in a DMA press release when some looted antiquities were returned to Italy.    

     Writing for Columbia Journal of Law and Arts in May of 2013, Harvard educated Alicia C. Beyer detailed the legal--but ethically untenable--charitable donation structure that was part of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Beyer has since moved on to become a U.S. federal tax law expert in the private sector.    

      On pages 481 and 482 of Beyer's analysis, Gone but Not Forgotten: The End of Fractional Giving and the Search for Alternatives, she wrote, "Nevertheless, museums have made some major acquisitions, demonstrating the potential of this donation structure despite its shortcomings. For example, the Dallas Art Museum recently acquired the $2.5 million Gehard Richter painting Stadtbild Mü jointly with two major donors. This work was a significant addition to the museum's already exceptional Richter collection, as the painting is a prime example of the influence of World War II on Richter's work."  

     Stadtbild Mü, like the Jeff Koons Balloon Flower (Magenta) 1995 - 2005, and the Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1961, were part of the $400 million alleged "irrevocable bequest." All three works were included in the DMA's hefty five-pound catalog.  The Koons and Rothko work got pulled from the DMA's future and sold on the private art market for $25.8 million and $31.4 million, respectively. Obviously, millions of dollars in profit went to the art collectors; because the sales were private, the names of other profiteers in that network remain in the shadows. 

     What remains to be seen is whether or not Stadtbild Mü, too, gets yanked from the DMA and sold by a whole different group of art market speculators. Again, there is no guarantee this sale, and many others to follow, will not happen; these are merely temporary promised gifts accruing much financial prestige via the DMA.     

     Beyer goes on to say, "But, unlike fractional gifts, which give the museum a property interest at the time of the initial gift, promised gifts are just a promise.  Thus, there is always a danger that the donor will renege on promised gifts.  Indeed the enforceability of a donor's promise is often an open question.  While section 90 of the Restatement on Contracts provides that a charitable pledge is binding, even in the absence of consideration or reliance, many states do not follow the Restatement, leading to variability in the enforceability of those promises. Furthermore, museums generally do not want to need to sue donors or their estates to enforce promises (emphasis added)." 

     So, is the tax-paying public being served by its public museum, the Dallas Museum of Art and the private Foundation for the Arts, while the museum's intransparency allows shrewd art investors to pull valuable artwork--and sell it--from the museum's "irrevocable gift" inventory?


U.S. Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley            via U.S. Postal Service
135 Hart Senate Office Building                        7013 1710 0000 4144 0117  
Washington, DC 20510                                      Certified Mail
Tel. (202) 224-3744
Fax: (202) 224 6020

Sunday, November 24, 2013

New York Times' Roberta Smith, you were right. Case: Dallas Museum of Art's integrity drowning in money.

New York Times' Roberta Smith was right. Case: Dallas Museum of Art's integrity drowning in money.

     The Council of Artists' Rights recently sent out an eblast to inform and educate the taxpaying public about U.S. public museum issues.  Here's  the email:

November 20, 2013

Dear ally of artists' rights:

      One can imagine Dallas arts critic Peter Simek's jaw dropping open as he read a portion of a Dallas Museum of Art press release about that museum's recent return of looted antiquities belonging to Italy.
     What gave Simek great pause was the DMA's acknowledgment of its joined-at-the-hip dealing with the secretive and powerful Foundation for the Arts (FFA).  Reporting for D Magazine's FrontRow, in his October 31, 2013 article, "After Returning Looted Antiquities, Dallas
Museum of Art Scores Long Term Loan of Etruscan Treasures," he revealed his uneasiness with the arrangement, "...this sentence jumped out at me in the press release: 'The transfer was completed in collaboration with the Foundation for the Arts and Munger Fund, which held ownership of three of the works for the benefit of the Museum.' He continued, "...But this little detail does highlight the
complications that arise when you have a private foundation acting on behalf of a public museum." So now we learn that the 50-year old FFA, an entity whose original purpose was handling contemporary art, is also involved in stolen antiquities. Altogether, the machinations of this
circumspect and private group is to control the publicly-owned Dallas Museum of Art...shame, shame!

     The FFA. was founded in 1963 at the time of the merger between the Dallas Museum of Fine Art and the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art. Its announced goal was to hold the DMCA's small art collection independently and only until the "wedded" museums were proved successful as one unit. In the event the DMFA/DMCA merger did not work out, the FFA was to be dissolved. And everyone expected the DMCA's separate art collection to be donated to the DMFA within a short period of time. The leadership of the Friends of the DMFA, Charles Miles (then-sales executive with IBM) and Dr. Vernon Porter (then-scientific researcher with Texas Instruments) were startled to learn that in
the 1970s, the FFA began soliciting monetary donations via the DMFA's annual report!

     Simek's long term wariness of the FFA is justified. In the 1970s, When Virgina Lazenby O'Hara mistakenly named two separate legal entities, the DMFA and the FFA as recipients of some $4.5 million Dr. Pepper stock, a lawyer of the Friends of the DMFA advised that the DMFA's fiduciary responsibility was to seek sole public ownership by the DMFA instead of jointly with the private FFA. Unfortunately for the public's interest, warnings by the local Artists Equity and the Friends of the DMFA were not heeded. Actually, the DMFA denied having any interest in the stock gift, the largest one until that time for any Dallas arts organization. An audiotape of the dishonest means of duping the Dallas city council investigation and the public's interest can be accessed here. The tape was created and archived by Dallas artists' rights activists. Now fast forward a half century to the present: witnesses--those who were there--from across the country are willing and able to step forward to testify at a moment's notice about FFA shenanigans.

     In 2002, Christine Biederman wrote about the then-current DMA's exhibition, "European Masterworks: The Foundation for the Arts Collection at the DMA." The incisive article appeared in the Dallas Observer, titled, "Butt Nekkid," subtitled, "The DMA presents a fig leaf of an exhibition that hides little and reveals much, none of it good." In it, Biederman boldly described the FFA as a "legal fiction."

     In 2006 a DMA exhibition featured works culled from a 2005 "irrevocable bequest"--valued at $400 million--by three prominent Dallas families. The exhibition was barely over when the donors Rachofskys pulled their "gifted" piece, a Jeff Koons sculpture, "Balloon Flower (Magenta) 1995-2000," out of the museum's future and put it up for auction. It sold for an eye-popping $25.8 million. The artwork had been purchased in 2001 by the Rachofskys for $1.2 million. The FFA was no doubt aware of that DMA acquisition, but how much of their clout influenced the museum's decision to allow such an "irrevocable bequest" to transpire in the first place? According to page four of the
exhibition's catalogue, "Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum of Art"--published by the museum in conjunction with the show--regarding the Rachofsky's bequest to the museum, "Unless otherwise noted, all works illustrated in this catalogue are either partial or promised gifts to the Dallas Museum of Art or are currently in the permanent collection." "Balloon Flower" was reproduced twice in the catalog. And on page 21, in former DMA director Jack Lane's own words, "The grand utterly transforming moment came in 2005 when the...Rachofskys...joined to commit to the Museum by irrevocable bequest their entire collections..." (emphasis added).

Balloon Flower (Magenta) 1995 - 2005 Jeff Koons

    On May 18, 2010, Michael Granberry of the Dallas Morning News surfaced the disconnect between theory and reality in his article, "Dallas art collector's suit says Rothko resale violated secrecy." What triggered Granberry's interest was a 2007 secret sale of a Mark Rothko work and
resulting scandalous U.S. District Court lawsuit. The Rothko work, too, had been a part of the $400 million "irrevocable bequest" and featured in the DMA's "Fast Forward" exhibition. The Rothko piece fetched $31.4 million at auction.

     On May 23, 2010, Granberry, in his article, "What does an 'irrevocable gift' mean to DMA?" jumped all over the sale of "Balloon Flower, (Magenta 1995 - 2005)" with a pointed interview about it with then-DMA director Bonnie Pitman.  To say the least, the sale was a financial windfall for two art collectors, the Rachofskys.

     On May 25, 2010 Simek did some good analysis in his FrontRow piece,"In Wake of Rothko Sale, Questions Loom Over 2005 Donations' Impact on Museum's Future." Referring to the Neo-Pop Art movement of the 1990s and with Rachofsky pulling of Koons "Balloon Flower, (Magenta)" out of the museum's future, Simek said, "The DMA is now out a significant work by a major artist."  Simek raised the legitimate point about the DMA's possible future appetite for a Koons sculpture and what one might cost at that point.  (Actually, a week ago a Koons "Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for $58.4 million.  New York Times' Roberta Smith was spot on in her article of November 13, 2013, "Art is Hard to See Through the Clutter of Dollar Signs.") Simek ended his article with, "Again, like Granberry, I am raising questions here. Answers will require more time and space." There has been no follow up by Simek, so it is safe to conclude that his final sentence is code that screams: my
bosses won't allow me to reveal the whole truth about this and the FFA.

Untitled, Mark Rothko

     In late 2010, the introductory chapter of art historian Sam Blain's Dallas Art History blog raised questions about the FAA's involvement with the DMA.  That blog's scope is deeper and broader in looking at the ongoing issues at the museum.   Among other questions posed to the DMA, the blog weighed in about the O'Hara bequest, Blain asked, "Why is the Foundation for the Arts even allowed to exist as part of a publicly-funded institution (DMA)...considering, for this reason lone...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

      Once the Council of Artists' Rights (CFAR) became aware of the museum's search to replace outgoing DMA director Bonnie Pitman, on May 11, 2011, we sent an eblast, "Part" - U.S. Art Museums Must Follow This Leader," which also targeted contacts at the DMA and its search committee.  The note strongly recommended for them to add then-Indianapolis Museum of art director Maxwell Anderson as a search committee member.  We never imagined the best scenario in which Anderson would accept the DMA directorship. On hindsight, that was an uncanny "call to action" that CFAR made to the DMA's headhunters!

     And Immediately after Anderson assumed the directorship at the DMA in 2012, a small group of local visual artists requested a "meeting of support" with him.  That meeting reached fruition in January of 2013. The overarching purpose of it was to express their solid backing of Anderson. The FFA was among the topics discussed.  Anderson received a handout copy about the meeting's structure which consisted of A Clear View: The Case for DMA Transparency and its Future, a Presentation Synopsis, and Participant Biographies.

     As recently as February 6, 2013, Simek brought up the issue of transparency at the DMA in an interview with Anderson that appeared in D Magazine called, "Interview: Maxwell Anderson on Turkey, Art Exchange, the Arts District, and the Market (Part 3)." Citing examples of ethically questionable behavior by the DMA, such as how it allowed a Rothko painting, an "irrevocable gift," to secretly leave the museum and which later fetched $31.4 million at auction. Simek challenged Anderson.  Anderson's reply was that he is comfortable with the concept, which he characterizes as "a new model." But what exactly is the "new model?"  Museum staff and savvy contributors know that only a very tiny fraction of offered artwork will ever become part of a museum's permanent collection. And what of the federal income tax deduction angle and the implications for the well-heeled donors of the several hundred million dollar bequest? Are the museum and the tax-paying public being taken advantage of by three prominent Dallas families?  And what of the families with lesser means, who cannot reap tax deductions of the magnitude of those who are better off financially?  Is the general public being forced to make up paying the difference of such wealthier
donors who take mammoth federal income tax deductions?  Is the DMA giving select patrons a license to steal?

     Anderson's "new model" posture does not dovetail well with his previous declarations about how art museums should be run as when he detailed the guidelines in his wonderful paper, the well worth reading "A Clear View: The Case for Museum Transparency."

     A strong negatively-tinged perception of the DMA is born out of repeated missteps by it; that the FFA was aware and knowingly participated in the "looted antiquities" transactions.  Successive generations of DMA museum trustees have allowed such a blemished culture to flourish for 50 years. And it is such a culture that is on track to thrive into the foreseeable future.

     So, in a nutshell, does the FFA call the museum policy shots behind closed doors, or is it the DMA director?  Should the DMA board of trustees immediately sever its ties to the FFA? It is these and other questions which begin to percolate whenever another DMA "questionable behavior" item makes headlines.

      It is well known that U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has in the past championed investigations into the operations of 501(c)(3)nonprofit organizations like the DMA. In a recent press release Grassley delineated some of his goals, "That to-do list includes my efforts to ensure the nation's tax laws strengthen Americans' longstanding tradition of charitable giving and protect taxpayers from subsidizing wrongdoers who misuse nonprofits for their own good."

     What will Sen. Grassley do with all this evidence and testimony about a private foundation's 50-year run of power and influence over a public museum?

Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley                     via U.S. Postal Service
135 Hart Senate Office Building                        7008 1140 0000 7276 0265
Washington, DC 20510                                      Certified Mail
Tel. (202) 224-3744
Fax: (202) 224 6020

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Chapman Kelley's Memoirs - Chapter 14

     In 1983 my extensive land and aerial survey of Chicago revealed a large area at the south end of Chicago’s lakefront Grant Park that appeared to show some promise for a noncommissioned Chicago Wildflower Works site.  I was disheartened to learn that area was heavily used during the warm months by the general public and police for softball games. The next site was the final choice, Daley Bicentennial Plaza, at the north end of the park.

The noncommissioned Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 - 2004, looking north, Randolph Street in the distance.
      I drew up several possible plans for the site.  The Chicago Park District and I settled on a diptych of ellipses, like many of my paintings.  However, instead of being side by side, they were end to end, each ellipse being 150’ x 310’. The CPD issued a permanent permit for CWW on December 23, 1983.  In 1983 and 1984, range scientist Dr. Thomas Jefferson Allen and I spent much time studying nearby Illinois prairies which helped us to select the dicotyledons or flowering plants for CWW.  Eventually we learned that Ron Iverson was in the Illinois native plant business.  I was convinced that he was the go-to guy for what I needed.  He furnished us with soil plugs each containing six to twelve seedlings.  According to my blueprint instructions, a professional crew planted 350,000 plugs (it took five full greenhouses to grow them) of Iverson perennials during the fall 1984 – spring 1985 season.  The blueprint also specified soil treatment.  However, when the seedlings became recognizable, some proved not to be native species. Fortunately, the “bad” plants quickly diminished from CWW.  The alternative of using soil plugs instead of wildflower seeds cost me a few hundred thousand dollars more.  Actually, cost was never an issue because artist Christo had inspired me after I learned that he self-funded his massive artwork.  I had known him and Jeanne-Claude since the early 1970s.  And right after Christo installed his Colorado “Valley Curtain” I was invited to spend an evening with both artists.  During the 1980s the iconic duo traveled to cities in the U.S. By coincidence I crossed paths with them in several cities.  In 1984 I worked at adjoining tables and created CWW lithographs at the Jack Lemmon Print Shop in Chicago.  My admiration for Christo’s originality and talent only grew.  He personally invited me to Paris, France to see his work, The Pont-Neuf Wrapped.  Because I was committed to stay and work on CWW, I declined the invitation.

The Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 - 2004, looking south, Buckingham Fountain is in the distance.
      So by using seeds to create the Dallas Museum of Natural History Wildflower Works, I consider it to have been a great success that yielded a potpourri of colors.  I could see future applications using seeds or seedling soil plugs or a combination.  (In my complaint against the CPD to protect my artist’s rights, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals basically said that I was not the creator or author of CWW; that the wildflower seeds themselves created CWW instead of me!  Those seeds were certainly secretive little buggers, weren’t they?)

    The many tenants of the surrounding commercial and residential buildings had great views of the Plaza.  The nearby 400 E. Randolph Street building was home to some of our most ardent volunteers and supporters.  The CWW was in effect their “front yard.”   Working alongside the much appreciated help of over 100 volunteers, we maintained the CWW across more than 20 years.  During that time the CWW cost the Chicago Park District virtually nothing.  As a matter of fact, using the conservative amount of $5.00 per square foot, the CWW saved the CPD somewhere in the neighborhood of $6,600,000.00 across two decades!  The amount does not include 15 years of tap water savings due to the CWW requiring only rainwater.  In 2000 I requested the CPD to permanently disconnect the water supply to stop water leakage.  The request was immediately honored.

The noncommissioned Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 - 2004, white blooms

    As part of a public relations thrust the CPD organized a luncheon at the Daley Bicentennial Plaza field house.  My watercolor painting of the park--a panoramic capturing many of the surrounding downtown Chicago buildings—and a professionally prepared scale model with CWW in place, were central to the event.  Dignitaries attending the luncheon included Bonnie Swearingen.  Her husband, bank executive and oil tycoon, John could glance out of his office window to take in a superb view of CWW.   Bonnie and John were instrumental in convincing me to move from Dallas, TX to Chicago to install CWW.  Fatefully, also in attendance were members of the Friends of the Park, who were archenemies of the CPD and its then-superintendent Ed Kelly (no relation to me).  I was impressed with the CPD’s openness in inviting them.

     I began a tour of slide presentations and lectures to better inform the public and generate support for the CWW, including the following:
1984 – American Society of Landscape Architects, Illinois Chapter (they sent a commendation to the Chicago Park District)
March 7-8, 1985 - School of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana

The Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 - 2004, lake view

April 2, 1985 - Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
April 3, 1985 – School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
April 24, 1985 – Buckingham Plaza, Chicago
May 14, 1985 – Harbor Point, Condo Association Board and members, Chicago
June 4, 1985 – 400 E. Randolph Street Building, Chicago
August 8, 1985 – Midwest Institute of Park Executives
September 24, 1985 – School of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois, visiting from Champaign-Urbana
October 24, 1985 - Seventh International Conference on Urban Design, co-sponsored by The Institute for Urban Design in cooperation with the City of Chicago Department of Planning
1986 - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, “Blooming Celebrations.” major fundraiser
1985 - New England Wildflower Society
1988 - School of Art and Architecture, Yale University

     There were many other slide shows presented to various civic and garden clubs.  The word began to spread about CWW.  For example, on June 20, 1985, the New York Times published its “Flowers as Art in a Chicago Park.”  Coincidentally, the same day the Christian Science Monitor published a front page article about CWW.

     I was invited to make a special trip to show my slide presentation at a Friends of the Park board meeting at the Sears Tower (since renamed Willis Tower).  FOP director Erma Tranter allowed me only five minutes for my presentation; the rest of the meeting was devoted to discussing how to bring the CPD and Ed Kelly to court to have him deposed. 

The noncommissioned Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 - 2004, overview

     After the meeting, attorney Alexander Polikoff (lead attorney in the landmark U.S. civil rights case Gautreaux et al. v. Chicago Housing Authority) asked me to allow his wife Barbara to interview me for a Chicago Magazine article.  Barbara’s write up appeared in the July 1985 issue titled, Chapman Kelley’s Wild Idea. It was a very complementary piece, with full color illustration of CWW across two pages.   However, the remaining article was a blatant attack on CPD superintendent Ed Kelly and the CPD; it was a most unfortunate political beginning.  FOP and the “lakefront liberals” had successfully kept Richard M. Daley from becoming mayor of Chicago.  Instead they supported mayors Jane Byrne and later, Harold Washington.  The Polikoff family was very nice to me.  During my extended hospital stay over the December holidays, they visited me and brought homemade cake.  I met the entire family.   They had me meet a group that was eager to see Chicago host another World’s Fair.
     Co-founders of the FOP were Jim and Joanne Alter, (Joanne, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Sanitary District and formerly with the Water Reclamation District), and Lois Weisberg (served six years as head of Mayor Harold Washington’s Office of Special Events), and Walter Netsch, who possessed an egomaniacal personality and was on the staff of a major architectural firm in Chicago.  Netsch, being somewhat of an art collector, had made himself look ridiculous by organizing an exhibition of his own paintings, something that is virtually unheard of in the profession.  Lois Weisberg wished to create and distribute posters and banners throughout Chicago promoting CWW.  She let it be known that Ed Kelly and the CPD approved her effort.  However, we later learned that Weisberg had not received approval from either one.  This signaled the beginning of the struggle for the FOP to gain control of CWW.  It was not unlike the power grab of what had happened to me in Austin, TX and Dallas, TX.  People in all three cities sought to exploit my concept by calling it their own idea.

     The CPD refused to cooperate with Weisberg.  Instead, they demonstrated a streak of bold independence by using two banners designed by me that were flown high and mighty in tandem with American flags at Daley Bicentennial Plaza.   

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chapman Kelley's Memoirs - Chapter 13


     After my Chicago Wildflower Works had begun its glorious blossoming in the mid-1980s, garnering great attention and commendations, some new gallerists in Dallas asked me to return there to give a photo slide show and talk of it. Their businesses were located on Fairmount St., as was my atelier. My wife Joan forewarned me that a very good male friend of ours would have a message for me at that event. Other than Joseph Hirshhorn, this friend was the most knowledgeable contemporary art collector I have known.
     The friend did come forward with a message; it was that Dallas arts patron Margaret McDermott had told him that she had so missed the long talks that she and I used to have. He was to ask me to give Margaret a phone call the next time I was in town. My reply to him was that it was my friends who were “pushing up daisies” and that Margaret had “made her bed and would have to lay in it.” I well knew that this phone call invitation by Margaret could mean only one thing: it would be a tacit agreement to keep my mouth shut about her behavior. In return for my silence I would be handsomely compensated by Margaret to again become the best known and richest painter in Dallas—and probably anywhere else.

     My reference to deceased friends was to those specifically who had killed themselves. One very good friend who committed suicide was considered by gallerist Ralph Kahn to be the best contemporary fine art collector in Dallas. The other suicide was a very promising young painter whose father was a board member of the Dallas Museum of Fine Art. Both deaths were largely attributed to the behavior of museum staff and board. In the last phone call from the art collector who took his life, he apologized to me for ending his public support of my work and those of other artists. He said that he feared retaliation from his wide network of Dallas business and social connections if he continued with our professional relationship. A different person, a very rich man whose family’s contemporary art collection is probably still the best in Dallas, told me that it was fortunate that his source of income came from outside of Dallas or that he too would not have been able to support my work.

     In 1977, just after my Dallas/Ft. Worth Wildflower Works had begun blossoming and after a very successful exhibit at my atelier, I found myself in the fortunate position to save two other dear friends from committing suicide. These two friends shared a commonality with the prior two suicides: the Dallas Museum of Fine Art and its behavior. My counseling effort was all that the latter two friends needed to carry on. I sought no compensation during the time that I helped them. As a matter of fact, so intense was that period of my life that I made no paintings or drawings for an entire year.
     My Wildflower Works offers a practical and aesthetically pleasing solution to humankind’s greatest problem: the growing scarcity of a drinkable water supply. However, some people in Dallas, Austin, and Chicago continue to hide, keep silent or spread negativity about the decades-long success of Wildflower Works. For example, then-director Jack Robinson of the Dallas Parks and Recreation District reneged on his promise to me to file an application to the Hoblitzelle Foundation to fund an exhibition designed by me that would benefit the Dallas Museum of Natural History and the National Wildflower Research Center (NWRC). Robinson went on to order the destruction of the Wildflower Works in Dallas despite an agreement to respect it.

When I sought to inform the NWRC about Robinson’s negative behavior (Robinson was an NWRC member at the time), executive committee officer Nash Castro refused to discuss it. The subsequent and unexpected firing of NWRC range scientist Dr. Thomas Allen signaled that organization’s radical change. The destruction of the WW, no follow up discussion of it and the Allen firing pointed to the change of NWRC’s original mission from a research-based entity to a clearinghouse of others’ research. This was all very odd because former first lady Lady Bird Johnson wrote a personal letter to me stating “…you are the real pioneer…”of the Wildflower Works, the model for NWRC.

     In the early blossoming of the Chicago Wildflower Works we were led to expect the Smithsonian Magazine to publish an article on it.

Instead, I received a phone call from an out-of-state photographer asking me to meet him in Chicago. We met at the CWW site where he asked me if I personally knew of Lady Bird Johnson, her lawyer and accountant. I told him yes that I had met all three. He went on to say that while on assignment in Houston he met up with Lady Bird who invited him to Austin. He said that she entertained him royally and filled him with stories of the great plans for the NWRC. Wasn’t it ironic that the nearly identical description of the future of NWRC—floral beauty not requiring any tap water—was what he and I were staring at, the CWW? What puzzled him about his meeting with Lady Bird was that she made no mention of me, zero.   I countered the photographer’s information gap of my work by furnishing him with evidence of the Wildflower Works predating the NWRC by at least seven years and my involvement with the intimate planning of the NWRC!

Laurence Rockefeller, Lady Bird Johnson and Chapman Kelley at planning meeting for the National Wildflower Research Center.  Photo courtesy C. Kelley

So he arranged for National Geographic Magazine to send a photographer and interviewer (twice) to Chicago to flesh out the CWW. For that photo shoot, the Chicago Park District furnished cherry picker-style equipment to enable some high-angle images, one image is below, to be taken for the following year’s National Geographic spring article.

Lady Bird was keenly aware of the very successful CWW which range scientest Dr. Thomas J. Allen and I had produced solely at my expense.

Personal letter from Lady Bird Johnson to C. Kelley " are indeed a 'can do' man."

In the spring of 1986 National Geographic postponed their CWW article until 1987 so that it would not appear to be a “me too” piece like the Smithsonian’s planned write-up of the NWRC piece (which was not on CWW as planned). By the next spring the National Geographic article on CWW had instead morphed into one on the NWRC! We have since learned that for many years Lady Bird Johnson was a trustee with National Geographic. As a result of Lady Bird’s cozy relationship with National Geographic is it any wonder that the article on CWW never materialized? Spouses of politicians do reap rewards outside of office.

     In 1988, after the Chicago Park District agreed to an out of court settlement in a 1st Amendment lawsuit in which I was the sole plaintiff forced to protect my Chicago Wildflower Works as "free speech," a freelance writer was engaged to do a story for Chicago Magazine about my work. When Chicago socialite Hope McCormick and oil tycoon wife Bonnie Swearingen learned of the “hatchet job” the article was launching, they refused to be interviewed for it. It was their way of casting a vote against the magazine’s hypocrisy: the magazine had previously published much positivity about the CWW. And when the magazine reporter got in contact with Dallas arts patron Margaret McDermott, she replied that she may have purchased something from me. That had to be the understatement of the century! Had she forgotten that I was largely the sole curator of her personal art collection or that she had purchased an early still life of mine from Atelier Chapman Kelley? Margaret failed to tell the reporter that she had bought and donated one of my “poplar series” works to the El Centro College and a large wildflower painting for the office of the Dallas Medical Center School’s top administrator. She also donated the work of other Texas artists that she purchased from my atelier for other Dallas city colleges. Furthermore, she purchased from my atelier original works by Arp, Henry Moore and Rodin. On top of that I had presented Margaret’s husband Gene with a framed painting of my work of his favorite cottonwood tree at their “farm” country home. The painting was moved to his room as he succumbed to illness. Some stranger…that Margaret. It’s strange as to why she would continue to fund the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center especially after it dropped “Research” from its title. Conducting plant research and publishing the results was the original purpose of the Center. One has to wonder if Lady Bird knew in advance that the site would eventually become only a personal monument erected at taxpayer’s expense; donors could list NWRC/LBJWC tax-exempt contributions as charitable deductions on their federal income tax returns.

     It’s worth repeating that WW was overwhelmingly accepted by the general public as a stunning floral display. It yielded continuous blossoming across three seasons. During the winter what remained was sculptural beauty. WW thrived on rainwater, used no tap water, insecticides or fertilizer. From an environmental and ecological perspective it conserved precious tap water which city and suburban front laws, airports and other areas guzzle without end. Extrapolating this important water conservation aspect to local, state, national and international uses, one can immediately appreciate and understand the benefit to humanity.

     Upcoming Memoir chapters will reveal efforts by others—that have taken place since my permanent return to Texas in 2006—to keep influential Dallas groups from knowing of the proven success of the Wildflower Works. I have learned that the Dallas arts blacklist is active and influential, just like decades ago, only more intense. Unfortunately for me, it has adversely affected my life as an art professional.

     Since the beginning people have attempted to usurp my Wildflower Works concept; and in the dead of winter 2011, three appellate court justices in Chicago actually cobbled together a legal barrier to my authorship of it! More on that astonishing decision later.