For immediate release
24 September 2010
Founding Director Richard Schave Comments on Downtown Art Walk's Cancellation
LOS ANGELES- Today's bizarre press release announcing cancellation of the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, a hugely popular community event, is deeply troubling. Art Walk was placed in a non-profit in mid-2009 precisely to avoid such capricious decisions, which fail to take into consideration the value and significance of this event for the greater community. Promoting positive public space, as Art Walk does, benefits local businesses, fosters community, and deters crime. This shocking announcement comes after nearly two years of wrangling for control of the Art Walk by a disparate group of business leaders, gallery owners and community activists. The community is the poorer for the Art Walk board's failure to remain focused on its mission statement, and the fundamental goals of a non-profit.
The Art Walk non-profit's founding Director Richard Schave says, "All this in-fighting and dissent just boils down to one question: what is this non-profit supposed to do? I think it is to effect positive social change and make the Historic Core a better neighborhood, and that's why I volunteered, full-time for nearly a year, to form and run the Art Walk non-profit. I outlined this mission in all the documents which the board voted on and approved: our mission was to allow highly distinct groups in a small area to collaborate, share their knowledge and resources, and make the neighborhood a better place. Since my forced resignation, the board has failed to foster these communities, to harness resources to protect them, and to make the Art Walk work. Every person on this board is capable of doing what needs to be done--I know, because I picked most of them."
Some background: In fall 2008, gallery owner and Art Walk founder Bert Green began quietly informing select individuals of his intention of shutting down the popular Downtown Art Walk, or moving it to a weekend, daytime time slot. Subsequently, a series of meetings were held to give gallery owners and community stakeholders an opportunity to discuss Green's plans and the future of the event. Attending these meetings were many Downtown gallery owners, artists, business owners, and Russell Brown, representing both DLANC (Downtown LA Neighborhood Council) and his employers at the HDBID (Historic Downtown Business Improvement District). Although most stated that they did not want Art Walk to end, nobody stepped up to take on the enormous challenge of running the event.
When Richard Schave, host of the free Hippodrome Art Walk Shuttle, was asked by Bert Green in early January 2009 to take over the reins of the Art Walk, the only viable path Schave saw was that of a non-profit (a California Public Benefit Corporation), an entity which would hold this important cultural event in trust for the benefit of the whole community. Schave put together a board, prepared all appropriate documentation for the creation of the non-profit (business plan, three-year budget, case statement) and with his wife Kim Cooper created a curatorial program which tackled the major challenge of the event: decentralization from the bottleneck at 4th & Main. This decentralization was at the direct request of LAPD Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph, who stated he was very pleased with the result of moving Art Walk's official rendezvous point and tour departure spot to Clifton's Cafeteria.
In taking on management of the then-four-year-old Downtown Art Walk, through a 6-month transition period and then management of the event from the June through October 2009 Art Walks, Schave discovered that he was starting from scratch. No plans were in place for crowd control, major sponsorship or brand identity. Despite a history of revenue having been collected from all participating galleries and a smattering of downtown businesses, the new non-profit began with no operating funds. $6500 was raised by volunteer staff during the first months.
Within weeks, Bert Green deleted the longstanding community Yahoo group that gallery owners had used to communicate among themselves and with Bert Green as the manager of the Art Walk, and later with the non-profit's board. This deletion occurred with no notice to the new non-profit which had been given administrative privileges of the list and led to believe the list was in Art Walk's official control. Once the Yahoo group was gone, all evidence of the new management's many instances of community outreach to the gallery owners was destroyed, and a campaign launched wherein Bert Green and Russell Brown personally informed gallery owners that they should not cooperate with the new Art Walk management.
In mid-October, Bert Green sent an email to Richard Schave which inadvertently included a chain of prior conversations revealing ongoing negotiations between Russell Brown, Bert Green and representatives of General Motors/Cadillac to bring corporate sponsorship to the Historic Core during Art Walk, but without the knowledge of the non-profit which ran the event, and presumably with the intent of directing this sponsorship income to some other entity. When Schave brought this matter to the attention of the Art Walk board, he was told he was inhibiting the work of a public official and asked to back off. Cadillac did take over a parking lot on Main Street during the November 2009 Art Walk (see link below), by which point, Richard Schave was no longer director of the event.
By early November 2009, the lies and attacks from Green and Brown on the volunteer managers of the Art Walk reached a fever pitch, and on November 9, Richard Schave was asked to step down as Director due to these ongoing, demonstrably false accusations of incompetence. Despite their supposed incompetence, he and wife Kim Cooper were asked to stay on as full-time volunteers to continue managing the event. They declined, and resigned in light of this obfuscation, ill-will and the overall negative impact these rifts had on the community. They stated at the time that they felt they could do more good off the Art Walk board than on it. Subsequently, Kim Cooper filed grievances against Russell Brown for his unethical behavior as President of DLANC, which resulted in a front page headline in the Garment & Citizen newspaper stating "DONE Boss Says System ‘Very Weak’ as Grievance Reveals DLANC Ethics Gap." Russell Brown did not run for re-election.
Richard Schave says "The downtown community deserves better than this. Art Walk belongs to everyone who participates and cares about the life of the city. They are the constituents of the non-profit, and it is inappropriate that their event be suddenly shuttered without community participation or any open discussion of positive ideas to effect the ongoing social change that Art Walk represents, and that our city so desperately needs."
LINKS TO SUPPORTING MATERIALS
Mission Statement voted in by Art Walk board in October 2009, removed from their website after Richard Schave's forced resignation November 2009: http://artwalkcasestatement.notlong.com
Documentation on Russell Brown's attacks on Art Walk volunteers and DLANC grievance hearing: http://stepdownrussbrown.wordpress.com/
Video of Russell Brown's DLANC grievance hearing, including footage of Cadillac SUVs on exhibit during the November 2009 Art Walk (Cadillac footage starts at 7:34): http://vimeo.com/10883053
Art Walk's founding director Richard Schave and founding treasurer/curator Kim Cooper are available for interviews. Since leaving the Art Walk, they have launched LAVA – The Los Angeles Visionaries Association, a community-centered cultural organization which holds a free Salon from noon-2pm on the last Sunday of each month at Clifton's Cafeteria, the center of the Art Walk under their management – info http://www.lavatransforms.org . Contact Kim at amscrayATgmailDOTcom or call (323) 223-2767 for more info.