Visual Art News - Criticism: April 2008 Archives
Todd Smith shocked everyone last week when he resigned as executive director of the Gibbes Museum of Art (in Charleston, S.C.).
The sudden and unexpected decision became effective Tuesday. Until June 30, Smith will serve as director of special projects while an interim replacement is found and a new director search is launched. An official press release said what we already knew: Smith was resigning. It didn't elaborate much further except to list his accomplishments.
Since March 2006, Smith led an effort to rebrand the museum's identity, he shepherded its re-accreditation with the American Association of Museums (a long, complicated process), and he brought back fiscal discipline.
Smith was hired to usher the Gibbes into the thick of the 21st century. That meant overseeing a new brand, an assertive outreach program, a renewed network of development, imaginative and culturally relevant exhibitions, and a collection refreshed by new work.
That also meant building a new facility to replace or augment the current Gibbes Museum. Building, Smith told me in an interview last January, was a major reason he took the job. The board was eager to expand and grow. He was ready to build. It was a good match all around. Now he's leaving. Why?
The official line did little to stop speculation (including my own) that Smith was pushed out. My hunch was that he'd locked horns with the wrong board member over how, when, and how much it would take to build a new museum. I wasn't alone. Others were skeptical, too.
The Post and Courier surmised in a March 25 report that Smith was fired, either because he presented too much contemporary art or because he didn't present enough (the article seems to contradict itself in guessing that the reasons were both). Other rumors spread that Smith wasn't doing the job he was hired to do.
These are barely plausible theories. By all accounts, Smith and the board agreed, for the most part, on the role of contemporary art. As for job performance, most measures indicate at least modest gains -- membership grew by 7.5 percent and large donations by 6 percent during his brief tenure. What bothered me was that Smith was the second executive director in six years to step down. It was starting to look like an institutionally unhealthy pattern.
But after several conversations with board members, museum staffers, and former employees (most of whom were granted anonymity because they did not want to be identified commenting on his imminent departure), it appears there is little more behind Smith's resignation than a change of heart.
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Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog