Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Artomatic, Montgomerycountymatic, moneymatic... problematic

Prologue: After you finish reading the below, copy my question in bold, click here, and then paste the question onto an email to each of the MoCo council members and to their Kommissar, Mr. Ike Legget.

The current version of Artomatic, the DMV's greatest visual arts extravaganza, which opened last Tuesday in Potomac, Maryland, is the smallest iteration of the show since it started almost 20 years ago. Ironically, this may make this version the "easiest" one to visit and digest, as the normal gigantic size of the show is often the main issue that jams art critics' bandwidth when they visit and subsequently discussing the show.

As usual, AOM started with the venerable George Koch, Chair Emeritus of AOM and the ancestral father of this event, introducing some local Montgomery County artists, as well as the local developer (Foulger-Pratt, who owns the building and surrounding development), Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and a couple of local politicos (Council Vice President Roger Berliner, and Council member George Leventhal.

Foulger-Pratt 's CEO, Cameron Pratt, discussed the process via which the company approached AOM leadership about hosting the show, the opposite of the usual process, where AOM searches, and then begs for space. This deserves a kudo to Mr. Pratt's company. He was also quite funny in his remarks, discussing how real estate developers/politicians are not exactly well-loved these days.

Everyone laughed at the pun, and when Councilmember Leventhal's turn came up, he also brought it up, but incorrectly noted that Pratt had mentioned Donald Trump (by name) in his joke (he didn't... he just said "real estate developers/politicians"). This not only added a little bit of the Presidential race into the remarks, but it even highlighted the divisions, as the person behind me whispered to his companion: "I thought Pratt was talking about LuAnn Bennett..."

For any readers not familiar with Ms. Bennet, she's a local DMV real estate developer running for Congress in a race for her husband's former seat. Radio and TV ads constantly hammer home the message of her alleged manipulation of tax laws to enrich herself... cough, cough, so it's easy to see why Pratt's message could have been about Bennett and/or Trump.

Other than the Leventhal jab at Trump, both politicos pretty much delivered the same message, and what was common in their remarks, was the immense praise for the arts and its economic impact on Montgomery County.

They heaped praised on AOM, on the visual arts, on artists, on number two pencils, etc.

However, after a little investigation, the only thing that Montgomery County apparently has not done, is to contribute a penny towards AOM. If my conclusions are incorrect, then my apologies, and someone please correct me, cough, cough.

I discussed this with Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County. I noted that when AOM was held in Prince George's County in 2012, the The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission had orchestrated a program via which multiple Artomatic artists from PG County were selected to have their work acquired for the county's art collection. And together with M-NCPPC, the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council supported a couple of programs for Artomatic 2015.

Would Montgomery County -- one of the richest (11th richest county of 1,343 counties in the US) and most heavily taxed counties in the nation, one whose council members recently approved a whooping 8.7% property tax increase, and Maryland's state and local tax collections per person ranked 3rd highest nationally! -- be doing something similar with county artists at AOM?

In other words, would the county be acquiring any AOM works for their public art collection?

The answer was no, and the reasoning behind it quite solid: The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County's miserable funding has barely enough funds to cover the maintenance and preservation of the nearly 700 works of art presently in its collection - so it can't afford to buy any!

For me, it put all the political talk in the trash bin and left me with the puzzle as to why PG County artists were shown some financial love, but Montgomery County, by far richer and with a much wealthier tax-paying base, cannot or will not, or perhaps hasn't even considered it!

Council members of Montgomery County: Will you set aside $20,000 for acquisition of artwork by Montgomery County artists currently on display at AOM?

Artomatic 2016 is in the Park Potomac development, which is located where Montrose Road crosses I-270, almost right off where the Beltway and 270 connect (going North). Artomatic is at 12435 Park Potomac Avenue and is free and open to the public. With 45,000 square feet of display space on the 5th and 6th floors featuring 380 artists, even at this "small" size, it is the largest open, anything and anyone shows, display of art on the planet. Do not miss it!

My review of Artomatic will be coming later this week!

A rarity: A DMV museum show about a DMV artist!

"DC area museum curators would rather take a cab to Dulles to fly to Berlin, or London, or Madrid to visit the studio of an emerging artist, than take a cab to Alexandria, or Adams Morgan, to visit the studio of an emerging local artist..."

 - F. Lennox Campello, Kojo Nmadi show about a decade ago...
Breaking news! In a radical departure from the norm, a DMV area art museum is doing a museum show about the works of a "local" artist!
This selection of fifteen classic stripe paintings by Gene Davis from the 1960s reveals the ambitious vision and accomplishment of one of Washington, D.C.’s outstanding visual artists.
Gene Davis: Hot Beat is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from the Joanne and Richard Brodie Exhibitions Endowment, Gene Davis Memorial Fund, James F. Dicke Family Endowment, Tania and Tom Evans Curatorial Endowment, and YARES ART, New York, Palm Springs, Santa Fe.

Gene Davis: Hot Beat

3rd floor North, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.)
November 18, 2016 – April 2, 2017