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open letter to the miami performing arts center

Post #684 • December 13, 2005, 7:23 PM • 13 Comments

To: Gail Eaton, Director of Marketing, MPAC

Dear Ms. Eaton:

My name is Franklin Einspruch. I write the blog that you're reading here; for more information, refer to this page and the surrounding navigation.

I had heard about your situation involving Alesh Houdek early on and volunteered to write a letter recommending him to you, in spite of some criticisms of the Miami Performing Arts Center that appeared on his excellent blog, Critical Miami. I am profoundly dismayed to hear about the lack of professionalism at the MPAC that resulted in the rescinding of a decision to hire him based on his writings.

As an artist, writer, art teacher, and active creative professional for eleven years in Miami, I find your choice totally reprehensible. To whatever extent we expect arts organizations to value freedom of expression, on principle, you have failed the community you purport to serve without even opening your doors.

Alesh, at least, thinks the MPAC is a good idea. I don't. I keep thinking that Cesar Pelli came up with the design for your building by bisecting a turtle with an axe. More importantly than blighting the landscape, the MPAC lies at the center of an ongoing debate in the local visual art world regarding the worth of so-called Museum Park scenario, which puts the Miami Art Museum and the Museum of Science into Bicentennial Park. The MPAC proves a libertarian argument that government entities, facing no competition and no real accountability, will spend money inefficiently. According to the Miami Herald, as of June 2004, the MPAC was $67 million over budget and 20 months behind schedule, which means it is now 38 months behind schedule and an unknown quantity of millions more over budget. While many of us want an expanded museum, we keep looking over at you and thinking, Maybe not.

These are legitimate taxpayer concerns and are not going to disappear simply because your press office can strongarm the creative community that you intend to hire from. I don't know what you were hoping to avoid by retracting your offer to Alesh, but my view of you, from a PR standpoint, looks like this: Not only are you the very picture of the worst possible consequences of public arts funding, you also have no room for the self-criticism that makes both art and arts organizations viable. I am going to do what I can to make people associate your organization with government waste and retaliation against your critics.

By the way, you lost one hell of a designer.

Yours,

Franklin Einspruch

Comment

1.

Miami Harold

December 13, 2005, 10:27 PM

Having seen some of MPAC’s communications pieces,
there’s no question that Alesh’s assistance would have upgraded by a significant margin
the institution’s image, appeal, and effectiveness as communicators.
But apparently talent and experience play second fiddle
to thin skinned and ill-founded sensibilities.
That noted, it is distressing to imagine
that MPAC’s future resides in the hands of the sphincter police.
The situation bodes ill for MPAC’s artistic direction as well.

2.

oldpro

December 14, 2005, 2:17 AM

As one who has suffered fairly regularly by criticising the art business in its various manifestations I can certainly sympathize with Alesh, but no one should be surprised by his rejection. It is a sign of the health of an organization be welcome constructive criticism, and like any group of semi-competents guarding an endangered bonanza this outfit is not exactly ready to accept dissent in the ranks.

And I would advise Alesh that long explanations, however clear, articulate and forthright they may be, only make the situation worse. You need to to click your heels, salute and earnestly profess complete conversion to the cause.

Franklin, I would say your chances of employment there have also lessened considerably.

3.

father time

December 14, 2005, 2:54 AM

Strange things are happening with the time stamp on the comments Franklin... either that or OP is more of a futurist than I thought.

4.

father time

December 14, 2005, 2:56 AM

wow - it works on me too... Now how can I get the Wednesday results at Belmont?

5.

Jack

December 14, 2005, 3:03 AM

Sadly, this situation, as you call it, is as predictable as it is pitiful. These PAC people should all be bending over backwards to avoid even the slightest hint of high-handedness, given how deep a black hole their operation has turned out to be for PUBLIC money. I am sincerely sorry that Alesh (or anybody) was put through this extremely shabby little affair.

The PAC people responsible, of course, appear every bit as shabby, to put it politely. I don't want such people involved in any operation run with my money, and they wouldn't be if I had any say in the matter. They were already part of a tainted and highly dubious enterprise; now they look beyond lame. Insecure, insensitive and small-minded--way to go.

6.

oldpro

December 14, 2005, 3:22 AM

I have always think of myself as the voice of the future rather than the past, Father Time. This just proves it.

7.

oldpro

December 14, 2005, 3:23 AM

You see? "I have always think..."

I can't even get my tenses straight.

8.

Jack

December 14, 2005, 4:27 AM

The more I think about this PAC nonsense, the angrier I get, and it has nothing to do with me (I'm not an artist) nor am I close with Alesh. It is such an unacceptable way to operate, especially given the PAC's seriously poor track record (before it's even opened) that I think Alesh should pursue legal action if that is at all warranted. Maybe those "Legal Art" people should be consulted and brought into the matter. I mean, talk about bush league goings-on.

9.

A.T.

December 14, 2005, 6:35 AM

MPAC’s decision regarding Alesh Houdek is dim-witted and sad.

10.

Franklin

December 14, 2005, 7:01 AM

The strange thing that happened to the timestamps is that I reset the site to my current time zone, which is Taiwan (GMT+8). To you it looks strange, but to me it looks normal. Unfortunately, the Wednesday afternoon races at Belmont will be taking place early Thursday morning from here, otherwise I'd have you buy us some wagers.

I wonder about Alesh's legal options, upon which I have no basis to comment. He got his old job back, so I'm not sure what kind of damages he incurred, but they did send him an offer letter and then reneged on it.

As for the chances of my working there - they have indeed diminished dramatically. I currently see this as a good thing. Any arts organization that is going to trip over an easy call like this one is not someone I want to do business with.

11.

mek

December 14, 2005, 11:44 AM

yes but i see their point. it is a conflict of interest. most definitely. he could leak confidential marketing agendas or insider info to the press via critical miami.

chin up alesh, there are plently of graphic design positions around. that's what i do for a living, generally speaking.

12.

Jack

December 14, 2005, 12:33 PM

Mek, what if, as could easily have been the case, Alesh had not been able to get his old job back? He'd have been unemployed, and I doubt these PAC people would have properly compensated him for that. To me, this is like telling someone who's been hired for a federal government job that he can't have the job, after all, because it's been discovered he's criticized government waste in a public forum. I can't even believe what these people did is legal, or at least it seems it shouldn't be. Every taxpayer whose money has been tapped for the PAC has every right to complain any way he damn well pleases, and penalizing him for that cannot be justified.

13.

alesh

December 14, 2005, 1:25 PM

thanks franklin, thanks jack, and thanks everyone else.

jack, i did a tiny bit of research right after this'd happened. i have no idea whether i have and grounds to sue, but the fact is that there's nothing i want from them, so . . .

although, if i hadn't been able to get my old job back (which I'm very happy at, by the way), i would have filed for unemployment, with MPAC listed as my employer. in fact, there was a moment in there (a very brief moment, mind you) where i almost wished that it would work out that way.

it somehow seems completely appropriate for artblog to orient to the timezone of franklin's current location. "I thought about leaving the time zone on Miami, but I realized that it was making me confused and aggravating my jet lag." plus, there is a kind of poetry to making the readers adjust - isn't that what reading a blog is all about? i'm off to prague in a few days, and thinking in terms of a different time zone has become easy for me.

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