So I get a press release from the BIG deal Columbia, SC, marketing agency that ArtFields© hired this year. What a mistake – it’s full of misstatements about the amount of works on display and using words like Honorable Mention for the Merit Awards. It’s like they copied a press release from a few years ago. It also mentions that attendance was up this year – a statement that came from Hannah Davis, director of ArtFields© and director of the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, SC. I know they keep track of everyone who comes through the door at the gallery so they would have a good idea if more people came through the door this year compared to last year and the year before that. I wanted to know if it was 5% more, 10% more, or whatever it was. So I e-mailed Davis to get that figure so I could talk about it in my commentary in our June 2016 issue of Carolina Arts.
All month long I’m worry about whether I’m meeting my self-imposed deadlines so the publication will get done, so when I didn’t get an e-mail answer I called the gallery. Of course they don’t have an exhibit right now so I left a message when no one answered. After no response to that message I called the ArtFields© office in Lake City. The person who answered the phone said Davis wasn’t in – was there anything they could do for me? I told them about my e-mail, that I had left a message at the gallery and needed these figures real soon. They said they would see about getting them to me. Before I hung up I asked if Davis would be back in today and that’s when this person told me that Davis was no longer with ArtFields©.
After the explosion in my brain was over I said you’re kidding me. They said no – she resigned. And, that was the end of our conversation.
For the next ten minutes I’m sitting in a state of Deja Vu thinking it was last year all over again when Ray McBride, the previous director told me he was leaving ArtFields© on the last day of the festival. He said he had another opportunity, but I knew he was bailing on ArtFields© for some reason. McBride was a good organizer and manager but he didn’t know the visual arts community.
I just couldn’t believe Davis would resign – I was at ArtFields© four days this year and all we talked about was the future of ArtFields© and hopefully changes that would be made. At no time did Davis mention she had another job offer, that she was sick of ArtFields©, or she was leaving the area because her husband got a job in another city. This just didn’t sound right.
It took a day to find someone I knew who had a phone number for Davis and I called. She told me she was asked to resign. That’s a lot different then leaving something on your own. I asked the logical question – why? Davis told me the answer she got was that ArtFields© was going in a different direction. My mind explodes for the second time asking what direction was that? She had no idea.
Making Davis the director of ArtFields© was one of the smartest ideas the leaders in Lake City had done in four years and in just a little over a couple of months after that smart move, they made the biggest mistake in ArtFields© short history by forcing her to resign. Whatever direction they are going in they will be doing it without me and I was one of their biggest cheerleaders. Oh they can buy other cheerleaders, but will they tell you the truth or will they just stay on script? Saying what you’re paid to say.
I haven’t heard anything back from ArtFields© about those increases in attendance numbers, and I’m not sure I ever will. Other than Hannah Davis and Ray McBride – I haven’t gotten any speedy responses from others at ArtFields©. I’m not sure they would have told me where Davis was unless I asked if she would be in later that day.
For four years I’ve looked the other way when it came to ArtFields© and its secrets about attendance and the number of votes their award winners received – hoping that this event would turn into something good for the Carolina visual art community. I’ve had my complaints, but always offered suggestions for improvements. We (Carolina Arts) donated advertising so they could keep their name out there all year long instead of just a few months out of the year. I’ve traveled to Lake City more than anywhere else in the last four years trying to keep a spotlight on this community that said it wanted to be an arts destination. But as things sit right now – I’m done. The wrong people are calling the shots in Lake City and I don’t think they’ll ever get it right. I don’t care how much money Darla Moore has, it looks like ArtFields© will always be just a small town juried show with big cash awards going to a ever smaller group of regional artists.
And, oh yes, there will be more about this to come.
I’d like to hear what other people think about this. As always, all comments are off the record – unless you want to be heard. Call 843/693-1306 or e-mail to (email@example.com).
P.S. If someone is looking to fill some position in the visual arts with a highly qualified person – Hannah Davis is available right now. I wouldn’t wait too long to make her an offer. Is anybody listening in Florence, SC?