The Struggle for Survival Part I (1979-1989)

     Dan Wasil, Director of the San Diego Arts Resource Center wrote this letter to the Artists Guild on June 7, 1986:
     "I have received the prospectus for your exhibition. I note that a condition of participation is an entry or handling fee. The BVAU (Boston Visual Artists Union), National Artists Equity, National Association of Artists Organizations, and the National Endowment for the Arts strongly oppose such fees. The major benefit to your institution and to the public you serve is the high quality art selected for your exhibition.
     After the artist had spent time and money creating the work and preparing slides, you ask him/her to pay a non-refundable entry fee… Juried exhibitions that charge entry fees are largely funded by rejected artists who derive no benefit whatever. Providing adequate funding to cover exhibition costs is the function of your institution and your board. By loaning their work, accepted artists provide a considerable service to your institution.
     I am sure you wish to improve the stature of artists in our society. Exhibitions do take money to mount. However, it is inappropriate for artists (accepted or rejected) to be a source of these funds. By making money a condition for possible participation in your exhibition, you exploit their need to reach a public and diminish their professional stature. The public has shown it is willing to pay for artistic performances and services. It is your institution's responsibility to garner public support for the work you wish to exhibit. Pursuing other forms of funding, gives recognition to artists and the seriousness of their commitment to their art."

     In 1986 the San Diego Art Institute was in danger of losing its gallery in the "House of Charm" in Balboa Park. They had to present their case before the City and asked Thierry Chatelain, Guild President, for help. He responded with this letter dated July 20, 1986:
     "On Behalf of the San Diego Artist's Guild and myself, I am writing this letter to support your efforts.
     The artists of San Diego and the public at large are enjoying an unprecedented cultural growth in this city. The recently accepted Arts Plan, the formation of C.O.V.A., and the dedication provided by the long existing arts organizations such as the Art Institute are vital to the coming of age of the visual arts in San Diego.
     The San Diego Artist's Guild, of which I am the current president, has had a long standing co-operation with the Art Institute and feel it is a vital part of the cultural offerings of Balboa Park and San Diego.
     The Art Institute provided me with my first opportunity to show my work to the public in 1973, and they have helped countless other young and emerging artists in San Diego ever since their creation 33 years ago.
     I whole heartedly support them in their efforts to keep these qualities alive in their existing location and the future plans for a visual arts complex."

     In the 1986 exhibition catalog, Steven L. Brezzo wrote the following:
     "Welcome to the 1986 San Diego Artist Guild Open Juried Exhibition. Once again, we are delighted to present an array of selected works by some of our city's most outstanding visual artists. This year, in a juried competition open to all area artists, selections were made by Mr. William Peterson, Editor of Artspace magazine, one of the region's most distinguished art publications.
     We extend congratulations to all of those included in the exhibition and offer special recognition to those chosen as recipients of the annual awards. The Museum of Art presents the Artists Guild exhibition as a reflection of the diversity and talent of San Diego Artists.
     A continuing commitment for over sixty years, we take special pride in this year's presentation and hope you will find it a rewarding, informative, and stimulating exhibition."

     Thierry Chatelain, Guild President, wrote this in the 1986 exhibition catalog:
     "The San Diego Artists Guild is pleased to welcome you to our 1986 annual exhibition. Since 1926, the Artists Guild has represented the finest and most innovative of San Diego's visual artists. We have been very fortunate in having the strong support of the San Diego Museum of Art. Under the leadership of Mr. Steven Brezzo, the Museum has not only provided us with two $1000 cash awards, but also the space and staff to create an outstanding installation.
     As with last year's show, this year's exhibition was open to all San Diego and Imperial County artists. The response was tremendous with over six hundred slide entries and sixty-three accepted works. In the future we hope to alternate the open competitions and Artists Guild member-only shows.
     We commend our juror, Mr. William Peterson, on his selection for this year's show. The task of choosing a balanced presentation of paintings, sculpture, and photography is always a challenge. This exhibition is a fine example of the Artists Guild participation in the further development of a community of artists who fit solidly into the mainstream of contemporary art.
     As a reflection of all those who took part in the competition, we hope you will enjoy the many diverse examples of the current trends in the San Diego art scene."

     The following is an excerpt from William Peterson, juror, in the 1986 exhibition catalog:
     "A show of this kind serves several important functions within the community: (1) It offers the artists a chance to show with their peers in a museum context. (2) It offers the public an opportunity to take notice of the work being done by artists from their own community. Again, it is important that this takes place in a museum context where the work can be seen in comparison with the best work of the past which the community has collected. It is not just that the work of the past might help us judge the new work, but that the art of our own time may help us to see things about that of the past. (3) It offers an introduction to the many forms which contemporary art can take, so that the community can be exposed to the many possibilities that artists have found for expressing a conscientious concern for just what it is to be alive just here and just now.
     This is a significant undertaking for any community and the Artists Guild and the San Diego Museum of Art are to be commended for their cooperation in bringing it about."

     Mark-Elliot Lugo wrote this review of the Guild show for the October 9, 1986 San Diego Evening Tribune:
Artists Guild Profits From Opening Up Competition
     "ALTHOUGH QUALITY can fluctuate dramatically from year to year, the annual San Diego Artists Guild, exhibitions, cosponsored by the guild and the San Diego Museum of Art, are eagerly awaited as the premier competitive showcase of local talent….
     Participating in the 60-year-old guild exhibition traditionally has been limited to guild members, but this year (for only the second time) non-guild artists residing in San Diego and Imperial counties were eligible. Infusing new life into guild exhibitions by expanding the pool of eligible artists had been so successful that, in the future, open guild annuals will alternate with members-only-shows. Much of the exhibitions strength -- and it's the best in years -- lies in the diversity and colorfulness of the 63 works displayed. By today's standards, it contains nothing terribly outrageous or innovative but, some trendiness aside, the participants' seriousness is evident. A handsome but cramped installation, though makes for a claustrophobic viewing experience that causes some of the subtler and more esoteric piece by artists such as Ellen Phillips, Judy Clifton and John Behnke to be lost in the shuffle."

     The following is the July 1987 Newsletter's President's message by Tom Frankovich:
     "I wish to comment on the relationship of the Artists Guild with the San Diego Museum of Art. We ARE the Museum. We were there at its inception. Since its early years the Artists Guild has been an integral, relevant and most necessary organization. The Guild membership has created and exhibited important, relevant works of art. In doing so, we have made a major contribution to the SDMA and the community at large. After all, the primary purpose of an art museum is to exhibit works of art by artists. Contemporary artists are of primary importance and produce art that reflects the level society has attained in creative awareness. The more enlightened a museum's administrators, the more support they give their local artists. Therefore, to enable this museum's administrators to exercise enlightened, wholesome discretion we will need to inform their discretion by education. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, It's true that as professional artists we have the responsibility to raise the artistic consciousness of this museum's administrators, local powers-that-be, and the society. We must make our cultural environment truly relevant to all involved. This of course, is a major undertaking. I promise you that we on the Board will do our part, but, to truly serve all involved we need your input. Our future directions will be based on your feedback. Write to me with suggestions of ways the Artists Guild can benefit San Diego artists. For instance:
     Do you want more exhibitions (at the SDMA or elsewhere)? How about non-competitive or self-juried shows?
     Do you want more educational programs (lectures, demonstrations, etc.)?
     What about more artists' social events? Informal? Formal?
     Any ideas for special programs, such as guest speakers of international renown?
Should the SDMA set aside a space in the Museum for ongoing small exhibitions by Guild members of special merit?
     Newsletter input! Any ideas? Public and private art scene information of interest to members - political or otherwise. Any comments?
     Should we sponsor a major non-Guild exhibition for the SDMA?
     I hope you will take a few moments to send me your comments. We do read AND NEED them."

     On July 13, 1987, Jim Gibbs wrote this letter to Tom Frankovich:
     "I hope that you get some positive response to the questionnaire that was included in the last newsletter.
     When I was president of the organization in the early 1950's the attitude of the museum director and that of the Board of Trustees was much more supportive of the Artists Guild and its role in the activities of the museum.
     Unfortunately, this has changed. I do not feel that there is much interest on the part of the museum in acknowledging the fact that, were it not for the founders of the Artists Guild (Art Guild) the museum's inception might have been delayed a bit. In other words, the original 'Art Guild' was composed of members who were able to persuade some very influential people that San Diego needed a gallery of fine art.
     As I've indicated in response to some of the questions in your enclosure, in order for the organization to have real influence it is necessary to secure corporate underwriting for exhibitions and lecture series.
     Since San Diego is not homebase for most major business firms it is necessary to get a number of smaller firms to agree to cooperate on such ventures…. A coalition of art supply firms would seem to be a logical group to appeal to."

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