Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I love Penland

Got into a nice discussion with Sean Scott, Paul Kowalchuk of Studio Potter Archive, Tony Clennell and many others about Penland School and Arts Organizations in general.

YES, I love Penland and what it stands for more than anyone! Why would I be so outraged by their behavior? Because I think they are better than this and I think that they and the board should address their tacit approval of exploiting artist, without regret or remorse. All they have to do is say oops, my bad, we will fix it and not do it again.

So- No, I don't hate Penland. Why do you think I didn't file a law suit in 2007? I was trying to let them do what was right and fix things themselves. Unfortunately, they still have a bit of work to do on that end, but let's give them a chance and see what they come up with. They can still be called to a higher level of action. So I am definitely not trying to destroy Penland. I want them to recognize the problem and correct it.

But it brings up a larger question about all arts organizations and how they treat workers. I have worked on the ground level of many small arts organizations and believe me Penland is not alone. Because of this call to action, I have had dozens of letters saying bravo, this happened to me and it is a real shame. Thanks for speaking out because I couldn't. You know when you give your heart and soul to a group and then find out you were only a being used and exploited for their gain, it is hard and hurts. But the people who are able, need to stand up because these groups can and should do better.

What happens is that when small arts groups do well, they grow. But then they still try to operate out of the same ethos or world view, we are poor and we need free work and could you just help us out. Well, when they are no longer poor and, in fact, have assets in the millions, they have to change and stop crying poor, realize that they need to find money for the artists that they employ. They claim they don't have money for them but we know that they somehow have money for everything else that they value and prioritize. So hopefully, this type of discussion may make groups start to prioritize the artists that they employ.

Let's make this a movement to have all arts organizations review how they treat their workers and try to do better. We all participate and need the good things that they provide, the classes, education, networking, gallery shows, etc. So if there is way to make them better stewards of the art, time and money we provide, then this call to action will have been worth it!

John Britt Pottery


Nelle Fastman Pingree said...

BRAVO, JOHN!!! Thank you for this letter, as well as the ones of protest.

Penland should be proud to have you around as an example of the kind of artist that makes up the institution - talented and with integrity!!


Judy Shreve said...

Yes! Bravo John - thanks for your courage.

nick friedman said...

Very well said, John. One thing we must all remind ourselves when we talk of Penland is that Penland IS NOT the administration or the board of Directors or the 100 top donors or the "Penland Community"....Penland is the wonderful parade of incredible people that have passed through the school from its beginning until the present(I believe Jack Troy even wrote a pom saying such a thing. You can't even begin to come to terms with how wonderful the place is until you consider how vast is that parade of people. For all of us that love the place we depend on the donors, administrators, and board to play their roles in such a way that the parade will continue long after we're gone. When injustice becomes part of the place it is the duty of those in the parade to call foul and make appeals to those in power. If those in positions of power do not respond to those marching in the parade, well I guess it might be time for folks to find a new parade....and that is very sad.

Anonymous said...

John, you are a brave man and I commend you. I hope that something good comes to you for your sincere efforts to right a wrong. Penland has lawyered up and is hiding behind lawyer speak to, as lawyers would put it, reduce the likelihood of being sued - instead of owning up to their responsibilities. I do hope they will come to their senses.

I am giving my name because I cannot figure out the ID asked for below and I do not need anonymity.
Alice DeLisle