Recent staff changes at San Antonio Museum of Art, namely the elimination of the position of Assistant Curator of Latin American Art, Nancy Fullerton, and the sudden resignation of Contemporary Curator David S. Rubin, came as a complete surprise to arts community. Our recent article focused on the outpouring of praise and support for them, but there have been a number of off-the-record remarks expressing discontent about this situation.
However, two well-respected SAMA members, Tom Greenwell and Trey Todd, have decided to go public with their displeasure.
In an open letter that has been sent to SAMA staff, including Membership Director Lana Meador, as well as John D. Eadie, Chairman of the SAMA Board of Trustees, they have made clear their feelings on the subject:
As a result of recent personnel management decisions at SAMA, we have decided not to renew our membership. This decision has been made with regret, since there are still — at least for the present — three exceptional and long-serving curators who have earned our lasting respect: John Johnston, Jessica Powers, and Marion Oettinger. But we wonder how much longer any of them will be retained.
While we respect the right of SAMA administrators to alter the collections and staff as they see fit, the methods employed in the recent dismissals of Nancy Fullerton and David Rubin make us question whether the best interests of the Museum and the arts community have been served. Both David and Nancy contributed significantly to the Museum’s prestige for a number of years, yet their terminations (and let us not mince words here: regardless of “official” terminology they were terminated) were handled in an unjust, vindictive, and mean-spirited manner.
Their leaving could have been effected quietly and respectfully, but it is apparent that whoever made the decision to end their careers at SAMA preferred the satisfaction of triumphal gloating to maintaining the cohesive support of the community and the remaining Museum staff. An observer can only wonder if these abrupt dismissals were engineered to sow insecurity amongst Museum personnel and thus to suppress any dialogue or constructive criticism of policies or direction.
One might further wonder if personnel managers espousing such short-term repressive measures are capable of attracting first-rate curatorial staff to the Museum once news of these changes is received in the art museum circuit.
All in all, it’s a poor showing for what has hitherto been our favorite cultural institution in the seven years since moving here from Houston. We can only hope that other members who feel SAMA deserves more sensible leadership will make their opinions known.
With Sincere Regret
William “Trey” Todd, III
Thomas H. Greenwell
ArtBlog San Antonio has reached out to SAMA for any comment they may have beyond the original press release that was provided to us, however no one was available for comment at the time of publication. We will update this blog if any decision is made on the part of SAMA to directly respond to this letter.