I recently went on a tear about the Anchorage Museum refusing to publish the images of the work submitted but rejected by the selected juror. The question was quite rightly put to me, “Why should the Museum make those images available publicly?” Below are my initial thoughts on the matter.
In a place like Alaska art can light up he dark days of winter and and reflect the exhilaration of our summers and it does artist and art viewer immense emotional good to share that experience, and as many have argued (including the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Arts are good for the economy.
But sharing one’s work is just not that easy in Alaska. Dozens and dozens of Alaska artists are desperate to have the public see their work and have no outlet for showing it. Even those who are lucky enough to have a gallery agree to carry their work re limited in their reach.
And that is not the worst part. The worst part is that despite the existence of ASCA, there is no place where Alaskan artists can publicly exhibit their work to a public that is hungry to see what Alaskans can do. This is especially the case if an artist does not produce “Native” art or “Alaskana”.
Yet in soliciting submissions for Alaskan in EFF and All-Alaska yearly, the Anchorage Museum receives hundreds of images of work being produced by Alaskans every year. Work for which the artists are only asking acknowledgement.
Every year I ask the Museum about making those images public, and every year the Museum comes up with another lame reason to refuse my request. Every artist understands the caprice inherent in a juried show (especially where there is only one juror) but when such shows are at such a premium because they are so few, it is simply inexcusable that the submitted work is not made available to the public for viewing.
This year the excuse is particularly lame; the Museum doesn’t have the staff to accomplish this. I immediately piped up that I wold be happy to take that on but was essentially ignored. Moreover, I am sure that others would be just as glad to volunteer to take on the burden that the Museum believes is so heavy. I think it might take all of a day (and that only because it is my guess that the Museum has yet to enter the 21st Century vis-a-vis their handling of the images, lol.)
No, I am not advocating that the Museum manange the shows in any way differently than they have been, save that they make the images of the work that was rejected available for public review online. Whatever the argument for this kind of juried show, I am not disputing the Museums efforts to go forward with what it wants to do, whether or not it has anything to do with art, the public or anything else. I am simply suggesting that if the Museum is going to encourage hundreds of Alaskan to submit their art, then the public should be entitled to see what is not selected. Whether that reflects somehow on what the Museum does or doesn’t do or impacts what the Museum might do in future is some other issue for some other person.
The Museum should not be promoting the skewed tastes of this or that juror; it should be celebrating the breadth and depth of Alaska’s creativity and productivity. If juried show accomplishes that, so much the better, but many artists have already given up submitting work to such exhibitions in that there is no rhyme nor reason in selection, as has been acknowledged with respect to juried shows across the nation.
It would be nice if Alaska for once was the exception in the arts, and promoted its artists, as opposed to discouraging them.