Cultural Leadership Vacuum

It’s starting to feel like ‘Cultural Council week’ at the Republic, with their third article related to this organization. Like the previous articles, this one on the Scottsdale Public Art program is also a bit lacking in detail.

Did you know that “Arts and Culture” is the third of the “four dominant themes” of Scottsdale’s master policy document, the General Plan? The “Values and Vision” section at the beginning of that document says, in part,

Scottsdale’s cultural assets are an integral part of the community and a basis for further development.

The most visual and apparent part of “Scottsdale’s cultural assets” are components of the Scottsdale Public Art program ‘managed’ by the Scottsdale Cultural Council. Public Art is one of the three divisions of SCC, which is a private business formed to contract with the City of Scottsdale for management of taxpayer-owned cultural assets. The other two divisions are the Scottsdale Center for Performing Art (SCPA) and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA).

One big distinction between the divisions is that Public Art is funded by City Council-earmarked development fees. It’s difficult to charge admission to public art, though there is discussion of adding to that funding via contributions. More on that momentarily…

Award Winning Program

The Republic’s most recent article focuses on Scottsdale Public Art’s new master plan:

The 28-page plan serves as a blueprint for the award-winning program’s future.

I take a little issue with that statement. The program was “award-winning” long before the “two years of heated discussion” the Republic cites as the catalyst for the new plan. If anything is going to serve as a ‘blueprint’ for success, you’d think it would codify what led to the success rather than recommending something else.

Ellen Andres-Schneider, a Scottsdale Cultural Council member who chaired the master-planning task force, said the final plan is the result of consensus reached within and outside Public Art and led to the building of “better relationships.”

I have absolutely no idea what that statement means, especially in light of this one:

The master-planning process stalled in 2011 after some in-fighting among the Public Art leadership, including director Valerie Vadala Homer who resigned in September, and Cultural Council President Bill Banchs.

Valerie, who built the “award-winning” Public Art program with twenty years of hard work, was forced out because her boss (CEO Bill Banchs) was intimidated by her intelligence and work ethic. That’s the bottom line. How does eliminating one of the core factors in the success of the program constitute, ‘building better relationships?’

Mike Miller, Cultural Council chairman, said that while the council board does not have the power to change the avenues through which Public Art is funded, “there is a lot of things we can do by ourselves.”

I’ll ignore Miller’s ironically uncultured grammatical error. I’ve certainly committed a few of those. However, it shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice that as Linda Milhaven’s replacement as chair, Miller has presided over the last three years of declining revenue (both contributed and earned revenue) and ALL of the conflict between Cultural Council administration (Banchs) and Public Art (Valerie).

Yes, there is a lot you (the Cultural Council) could do by yourselves. Why haven’t you done it, Mike?

The Republic article continues:

The master plan states that Public Art will continue to commission iconic, stand-alone statues and art structure but also will organize events and interactive works that support the city’s tourism and quality-of-life missions.

How is that different from Public Art’s current mission?

Fundraising

The rest of the ‘master plan’ consists of both common sense items (in which case they should have been part of the operation anyway) and esoteric trivialities.

The one exception:

Exploring fundraising. Public Art currently has no personnel dedicated to fundraising.

How many development (fundraising) personnel has Cultural Council prez Bill Banchs hired to do HIS job recently. I heard six!

Why wasn’t some of that effort dedicated to Public Art? Because Banchs doesn’t give a canal fish fart about Public Art, in spite of his quarter-million dollar salary. And, apparently, neither does the Chamber of Commerce-infiltrated Board of Trustees.

Which reminds me of the Maurois quote I posted yesterday.

Is Banchs a leader? Is Mike Miller? Are any of the Trustees? Jim Lane and the City Council? The Scottsdale Cultural Council is like a taxpayer-funded, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier without a captain OR a rudder. It’s a behemoth which never needs fueling on its journey to nowhere, as long as it gets free rent and its $4 million annual cash subsidy.

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