From: Rachel Avena Brown

Wikis > Letters to the CAC Board of Directors > From: Rachel Avena Brown

Here is correspondence between myself and the CAC.  They are a little out of order but I’m sure after reading it with the dates it will be clear what happened when.

From: Robyn Dunn Schwarz
Sent: Monday, April 2, 2012 10:07pm
Subject: RE: Consider myself lucky

Dear Rachel, Thank you for your letter. I have read closely about half of the letters received and several havementioned a field trip which you organized, and apparently something bad happened, but no one elaborates. Can you please describe what occurred? Thanks very much and please know I will share your letter with the entire board tomorrow night at our meeting. Best regards, Robyn, CAC BOard President

Sent:  Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 10:53 am
To:  Robyn Dunn Schwarz
Subject: RE: Consider myself lucky


I would love to share more and below are emails that I have copied the first was sent to Jay after I had a unpleasant experience planning a field trip.
For a bit of back story about all of this, the letters you are reading now, are new but not the first correspondence we have had with the CAC administration, we only recently received your email address and have started writing again.  Everyone has already written Jay prior to this past weekend, I’m not sure if those letters and correspondence have been forwarded to you, but I have seen a number of the responses that Jay personally made to our original letters and for the most part he has not addressed many of the issues.  One specifically is his response to Morgana Kings original letter.  I can forward that to you as well because we all have been including each other on every bit of correspondence that as occurred in order to increase communication, please let me know if anything else is unclear and I will try my best to explain.

Over the weekend Merit and Lindsay Ross did try to be more accommodating in regards to the field trip and art experience that was planned for my students, but because my students are unpredictable and can be a rowdy bunch I did not want to go ahead with what was ultimately suggested: which was to have the students enter in the back door on the 19, have them view what was left of the show and then travel to an off site location to create a work of art on canvas that would be presented in the children’s hallway.  With movie crews to watch out for, and still uncertainty of the actual details, I had to say it is alright we will in fact just go some place else and quit our participation in the art work that was to be exhibited at the CAC.  We are now going to NOMA and the Sculpture Garden on that day.

On a side note, during the small time my work has been at the CAC there has been nothing but drama, I hope that if anything else this is clear.  The first sign of it was the difficulty we had installing our works, with the CAC’s schedule.  The next for me was after a week and a half of the show being up I was called during work hours by Angela Berry to inform me that I had to sign a contract immediately because a file crew, (Common Law, a USA network television show) was caught filming my piece, and Angela and Amy stopped them and convinced them that they cannot film work and use it in their television series without paying the artist for it, through an argument Amy and Angela won and James and I did receive a stipend.  Again with no visual arts team looking out for our work in this manner, who knows what will occur over there?

Again thank you for forwarding everything over to the board and we look forward to hearing more from you all,

Rachel Avena Brown

Hello Jay,

Please read the copied conversation below that I had with Shelley last week.  It doesn’t seem as though your mission, or the mission in practice is about the contemporary art world, when in the final stages of planning a fieldtrip with my art students, and the first time Shelley contacted me directly, she did not say: let’s look at another time for your students to come, she did not say let’s re-think the student art show, she wrote: go some place else.

I thank you for contacting me directly on behalf of the D-Cern piece, it just seems a little late, because your department and institution have probably already agreed with the film crew to go ahead and build in front of my piece.

Maybe it is because I am lucky enough to run a gallery space, in which I treat artists works the way that I would want my own to be treated.  So maybe I am a little spoiled.

I know the construction crew will be building a wall to “protect it”, the problem is who will be there to watch that they don’t build the wall right in front of it.  Is saw dust going to be flying around?  Will there be sharp objects, dirt, sheet rock dust?  I cannot guarantee that it will be safe where it is, also I am very upset that no one has contacted me directly to ask if this is alright, how I would like to handle it, etc.  So I guess that I will save them the trouble of wall builidng and take it down.

I know you have to detach from your work once it is made, and you can never guarantee that it will totally be taken care of like you would take care of it yourself, I am not detached enough from it at this time, so I am willing to get it out of there to preserve it.  When I made it, I closed myself in a room with doors in my house for months, in order to avoid pet hair and dust getting stuck to it, I am not willing to get it back dirty.  With a visual arts department in place I may have been okay and trusted the work will be safe, but since there is no one there after today who will be looking out for the interests of the artsts, I have to make a decision that is in the best interest of the work and all involved.

I look forward to meeting with you in the future and discussing more on the topic of exhibiting artists works and best practices.

Rachel Avena Brown

Hello Shelley,

Thank you for your help and suggestions, I am aware of the other field trip options in the area, I am from New Orleans.  That wasn’t the point.  This field trip was a conceptual one created by Amy Mackie, one that would end with a student art show at the CAC, DJ’d by the high school DJ class, etc.
When I was planning it, which was only a few weeks ago, no one said certain dates were out.  This is so problematic.  Did you all not know even a month in advance that you would be closed?  I would never be able to work like that, so last minute and what not.  Shouldn’t everyone know in the building if they will not be able to go to work next month, even for a day, but it sounds like the building will be closed for a week.  Is it not clear months in advance when the CAC will be closed during hours?  Why is this?
I am a part of an artist collective in town.  The gallery runs out of our own pockets.  So with no money, and no funding, we have art exhibitions and an opening every month, we have out of town art exhibitions we curate and send our work to, we also have alternative programming, a summer/fall lecture series, and special events, with all of this being said we know a year in advance what will be in our gallery and when.  Currently we know what will happen until October 2012, when our lease cycle refreshes and are right now planning the year through 2013.
It is disappointing, to say the least, when an Art Institution we thought we were modeling ourselves after is not following this same protocol.
What is the ultimate mission of the building if it is to not share the contemporary arts with the city.
Thank you again for telling me to go some place else, that is very helpful to my school district and all of the professionals that have been trying to plan this art show for the youth of New Orleans.

Rachel Avena Brown

—–Original Message—–
From: “Shelley Middleberg” <>
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 3:48pm
Cc: “‘Glenn Gruber’” <>, “‘Grissel Giuliano’” <>, “‘Angela Berry’” <>
Subject: April 19

Hi Rachel,

Thank you for your cooperation with the conflicts on April 19. I’m sure we
can come up with the best solution for all. Now having said are
some suggestions:

Field trip to the Ogden

Guided tour of  2-3  galleries on Julia St

Use of Schramel Ballet Studio with Hip Hop instructor

Visit to New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (I don’t know if this is an

Any additional expenses will be covered by the CAC. Please let me know your
thoughts and suggestions.

Best regards,

Shelley Middleberg
Director of Sales & Hospitality Management
Contemporary Arts Center
900 Camp Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(o) 504-528-3805 (f)504-528-3828
The ART of Now

Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2012 16:15:55 -0400
 Subject: Consider myself lucky

 Dear small portion of the New Orleans art community,

 I am in agreement with all of the artists who have spoken before me and would sign all of their letters if I could.  The issues that have been presented need to be addressed immediately.

 I am from New Orleans, and like Kyle Bravo do not pay money often to see art openings, so this has kept me out of the CAC for many years, except on school field trips.

 My family moved here when I was 10, I attended NOCCA in high school, and went away to The School of the Art Institute and The College of Santa Fe for College and New York University for Graduate School.  It wasn’t until I moved out of New Orleans that I began to really attend art openings.  I was embarrased by the New Orleans art scene of that time.  It was obvious that it did not have the leverage or life that other communities put into the visual arts, except for a very small community of people doing things for little to no money with out any recognition.

 The art scene here has changed, but I don’t even know if the administration at the CAC, are familiar with the happenings of the larger scale art movement that is occuring.  I was hoping that the Spaces exhibition would cause the CAC Board, the CAC administration, and their friends and colleagues to begin to take notice to the amazing things that are occuring right here in New Orleans now.  I was hoping the exhibition would help a wider audience understand the calliber of art that we are bringing in on a regular basis.  If you want to increase local attention to your venue you have to show them something they haven’t already seen.  Something that will inspire them and encourage their own art endeavors.  As it stands now I view the Nola Now exhibitions as well as the Spaces exhibitions as shows for tourists to our city.  I have seen all of this work.  I have also seen it presented better.  It is true that since Katrina the exhibitions at the CAC have been more interesting, but great, I am not so sure I can say that about the majority of them.  As thought provoking as what I normally see at the Houston Contemporary Art Museum, or Site Santa Fe, etc. I really don’t think so.

When faced with the decision to take my art work in the Spaces exhibition down or not, I just cried.  I went to the CAC on Saturday around 2:30, and then again on Sunday around 12:00.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and damn the people for putting us in this position.  Who is to blame?  I really don’t care at this time, escept to say that everyone should be ashamed for putting artists against each other, and causing a situation that is reactionary and negative.  While I was there I thought a lot about my friends from NOCCA and artists I know in this city that would LOVE the opportunity to show at the CAC, I’m not sure know so much if they knew of the drama, but still they would not pass it up.  I don’t want them to view this as a bratty spoiled artist movement, I want them to understand we were forced to make this decision and no one is having fun.  This all sucks, and I wish we would have said no to having our work up in this disgusting environment, in the first place.  I would love to personnaly walk anyone through one of the exhibitions at The Front one month, any month, and show you what an art exhibition can look like with NO MONEY being made.  I also would love to invite any of you to our monthly meetings at The Front and show you how a democratic, open and creative dialog sounds and looks like.  The first step is communication and honesty.  Please press people write about what is happening, if anything to help the artists involved be heard.  I would hate for our own galelries to be judged because of what has occured in the Institution.

Thank you for inviting me to show in your space.  I am grateful, but all I agreed to was an art show, a field trip and alternative art programming I did not sign up for whatever this is,

 Rachel Avena Brown