wrote this letter to Irina Gronborg, Guild President, on January
letter is a rather delayed response to your request for opinions
and information relating to the Art Guild's future.
I cannot imagine any future for the San Diego Museum of Art that
does not include the Art Guild. Two reasons are:
- The San Diego Art Guild preceded the organization of the Fine
Arts Society of San Diego by 10 years. Some of the members of the
Society were members of the Guild who felt the need for a permanent
collection of art to be placed on permanent display for the city.
San Diego needed it and didn't have it. We are an integral part
of the museum's history.
Current - The San Diego Museum of Art is not just an institution
devoted to preserving and exhibiting various forms of art; it also
educates about art and nurtures the production of art. This last
aspect of its program includes the Art Guild.
I have been told that in other
cities art museums have not been as supportive of local artist groups
as here. Or is it that other museums have stopped having such a
committee as our Art Guild? At any rate, we might be rather unique.
This is no reason to feel threatened or be fearful of a continued
relationship with the museum.
We have a very definite role
to play in the life of the museum and the art production of the
city. We represent current productivity. We are the doers of art,
those who produce that which the museum is dedicated to preserving,
exhibiting and educating about. We might not be such a singular
creative force that there is enough of us creating in the same thought
pattern as to produce a 'San Diego School,' but that doesn't matter.
We have those among us who have obtained some sort of national reputation,
and that is to the city's credit and their own. We can be pleased.
future rests in strengthening our own role as a part of the nurturing
program. Not only should the museum see as an important segment
in its program the nurture of local artists, but it should feel
that without this segment, its program is incomplete. San Diego
Museum of Art is partially tax supported. It is not a privately
endowed institution. Therefore, it has a responsibility to the citizens
of San Diego, including the tax-paying artist, just as it has to
those taxpayers who are not artists.
Henry Gardiner's directorship, I think the museum has done a fine
job of recognizing this responsibility and providing such nurture.
The providing one-two-three artists exhibitions to winners of the
Art Guild's annual all-media exhibitions is evidence of this. (One
of the first events that Henry attended upon coming to San Diego
was a dinner meeting of the guild which concluded my time as president,
where we strongly promoted this form of prize rather than cash awards.
I'm really gratified to see that it has continued and that our fears
that some really dud-type artists would be given shows had not occurred
to any frightening degree.)
the Guild needs to do its job of nurturing much better. I think
the bringing in of such artists, as Charles White Jr. and now Peter
Plagens, is a good idea. We need to see ourselves as a support group
for the Contemporary Arts Committee and in various ways we so support
that committee as some members overlap loyalties, etc.
the changing of the name from gallery to museum, the society had
assumed for itself a growing responsibility as an institution to
be more comprehensive in its scope. That's good.
years ago, I prepared a paper to define the unique functions of
the Art Guild - it, like the Roman God Janus has two heads, facing
in two directions, having two functions, two sets of membership
is its role as a committee of the society. A committee, by definition
is organized by a larger association or society to perform a specific
job for the society. We promote the work of the living, creating
local artists, and an understanding and appreciation for their work.
This is our special field of concern, just as the Asiatic Arts Committee
does its thing for Asian art, etc. We face toward goals of the Museum
and support them in whatever way we are expected to. Membership
requirements is the payment of dues. The other is its role as a
guild. A guild, by definition, is a group of artists or artisans
banded together to promote itself and provide for the well being
and acceptance of its membership. In this we face ourselves, our
needs for acceptance of our creative endeavors. Membership requirement
qualifying as an artist.
neither direction is mutually exclusive, for as we succeed as a
committee, so we will succeed as a guild and as we succeed as a
guild, so we will succeed as a committee.
the Art Guild exists within the framework of the life of the museum,
we are able to add a dimension to the cultural community that does
not happen in cities where such a group does not exist within the
program of other museums. We need to explore what the facets of
that dimension can be. Therein lies our future."
Plagens, juror for the all-media show, gave a lecture in the Museum
at 7:00 on February 1, 1979.
was recorded in the March 1979 Newsletter that the slide file in
the Sales and Rental Gallery was discontinued.
Guild worked closely with Artists Equity and several members were
part of the local chapter. In the minutes of the April 17 Board
meeting: "Irina Gronborg reported that affiliation with Artists
Equity met with approval of Museum administration. Affiliation was
then approved by the board."
April 17, 1979 Irina Gronborg wrote to James R. Mills, President
Pro Tempore of the California State Senate about the Guild's support
of the California Arts Council budget. She received a courteous
reply from Mr. Mills, who said, "As a former museum curator
and educator I understand the role played by the Arts in society."
The Guild was active along with Artists Equity in several legal
attempts to aid artists throughout the region.
1979 the Guild and Artists Equity were involved in the passage of
several Bills being brought before the State of California's governing
bodies, the Senate and Assembly. They were "The California
Art Preservation Act, SB 668, which would enable artists
to bring legal action to prevent a work of art from being intentionally
injured or destroyed or to collect damages when the art has already
been harmed. SB 669, which would enable professional artists
to deduct for state income tax purposes the fair market value of
artworks donated to charitable organizations. Previously the artists
were only allowed to deduct the cost of materials used to produce
the art, whereas the rest of the taxpayers could deduct the fair
market value of the art. SB 670, which would bring California
inheritance tax law into conformity with the 1976 Federal estate
tax statute by allowing the family of an artist to defer payment
of state inheritance taxes and pay the tax over an extended period
of time, allowing for sufficient time to liquidate the art works
before having to pay the tax.
Guild received this request in the spring of 1979 from a group of
artist must elect to fight for freedom or for slavery."
- Paul Robeson
are a small group of people involved in the process of compiling
a resource directory of progressive art and culture in San Diego,
and would like to know if you are interested in contributing information
about yourself for this purpose.
directory will include all areas of cultural work - visual art,
poetry, mime, music, dance, criticism, writing, arts organizing,
etc. - and will serve three main functions:
It will help progressive artists and cultural workers to identify
with each other by providing each of us with contacts with people
who are conscious of both artistic and political development.
It will help community groups to connect with artists and cultural
workers when desired for events, programs, etc.
It will hopefully stimulate discussion about the relationship between
politics and the arts in San Diego, both on a theoretical and a
are distributing these questionnaires by mail, through personal
contacts, notices in the media and word of mouth. If the idea of
this directory appeals to you, please tell others who might be interested
There will be no selection process for entries. By agreeing to the
following statement, each contributor is therefore opening her/himself
to critical review by the community.
in the directory is limited to those who agree with the following:
'Most art and culture in our society serve to reinforce its dominant
values, such as elitism, sexism, racism, individualism, competition,
and classism. A progressive cultural worker is one who recognizes
that neutrality in art is a dangerous myth, and that by refusing
to deal with the political context in which art exists places that
cultural worker in the position of supporting the status quo.
response to this situation she/he is committed to directing a substantial
portion of her/his artistic work towards the elimination of exploitation
and oppression in peoples lives. She/he recognizes that, far from
compromising the arts, a combination of artistic expression and
critical outlook can result in far more creative thought and expression
than 'art for art's sake.' Thus, a progressive cultural worker is
one who is community-based and actively engaged in working for political
change at the same time that she/he strives towards higher artistic
and political consciousness." (Note: the Guild did not follow
up on this request and was not included in the directory.)
May 15, recorded in the Guild minutes, the name change to Artist(s)
Guild from Art Guild appeared. (Note: The name Artists Guild was
the idea of Irina Gronborg.) Recorded in the June 19 minutes, the
name change to Artists (plural) Guild from Art Guild appeared. Also
recorded was a discussion on which artist would be invited to give
was reported that Henry Gardiner had stopped the check to Artists
Equity for affiliation. Irina felt that affiliation would make the
artists groups stronger and that it was a consciousness raising,
and that she had approval before submitting it to the board for
Gardiner was ousted from the Museum on June 22, 1979. After that
the Director no longer attended Guild Board meetings, an appointed
Museum liaison was in attendance.
Henry Gardiner -
July 1979 Guild Bulletin reported: "Those of us who have known
HENRY GARDINER personally have enjoyed his charm and wit and all
of us have benefited from his excellent taste in art and are grateful
for the high standards he held for the Museum. We are sure his talents
will continue to be useful whatever he does in the years ahead."
was recorded in the July 17, 1979 minutes that: "The check
to Artist Equity went through." And Judy Chicago was selected
to speak at a Guild sponsored lecture.
Brezzo attended the Board meetings, as liaison, after Dennis Komac
got a new job in August 1979.