Summer Brown appeared cool and collected during the interview. It belied the turmoil that had swirled around her in recent days.
At the opening reception of "Artreach `88" in the Eagle Gate Tower Plaza Aug. 26, Brown had a near riot on her hands after artists - some who had traveled at their own expense from as far away as the East Coast - learned that they weren't going to receive the $20,000 in cash awards they felt had been promised. She handed them blank certificates of award instead, and a promise that cash awards would given when the show closes on Sept. 29.Brown, director of the sponsoring National Congress of Art & Design, said she couldn't and still can't understand this behavior. She said that the call for entries never stated that cash awards would be handed out at the reception. When she held a show in the Dinwoody Building two years ago, she said, "I never gave out money until the end of the show."
Brown said because the show was judged from slides, the show's juror ought to take a good look at the original works before deciding on the cash and purchase award winners. "Sometimes a slide looks better than the original art work," she explained.
She also thought that if the cash awards were left until the end of the exhibit, artists would be less tempted to remove their work ahead of time.
Many of the more than 60 artists to attended the show's opening night, felt there was another reason - that she just didn't have the money to pay them.
First-prize winner Carol Wald of Detroit was so upset that no cash awards were presented that picked up her five entries and walked out.
The Salt Lake Police were even called in to investigate, but determined no laws had been broken so far.
Brown, meanwhile, said the whole thing is being blown out of proportion.
"Every artist was paid," she said. "They were paid at the end of the show when they picked up their art work," Brown said of the Dinwoody show two years ago in which she said she handed out $2,500 in cash awards.
But some of the artists who participated in the Dinwoody show have a different recollection. One participant said that only one artist got $500 in prize money - and only only because he insisted on it.
Another artist was told by one of the jurors that she had won best in show in watercolor. But when she tried to collect her money at the end of the show, she was reluctantly handed $100 by Brown.
Still another artist submitted some expensive pieces in the show after being assured by Brown that the show had been insured for "a large amount." But when three of his 18-carat gold, sterling silver and precious stones pieces - worth close to $6,000 - were stolen during the exhibit he subsequently discovered she had only taken out fire insurance, and that there was no insurance to cover his loss. He could have taken the matter to court, but decided it would be a waste of time and money.
And because of these and other examples surrounding Brown's earlier exhibit, a number of Utah artists chose not to enter this year's show.
Those who did, however, were asked to submit a minimum of three slides. A non-refundable $10 fee was required for each slide. Only one out of eight works submitted were juried into the show, with the others returned to the artists. Contestants paid all shipping costs - both to the exhibit and back again. This proved especially costly for artists who either had big pieces or lived a great distance from Utah.
Another problem the show faced was that a number of works - paintings of nudes - didn't meet the Eagle Gate's "dress code" and were removed from the walls and stuck in a back room.
Brown said that the building manager pulled eight nudes at the last minute. "I didn't even have time to warn the artists." She said he also pulled an award-winning work "God and Guts," because of the questionable title. When the artist came from Arizona for the show's opening, he found it packed away in storage.
But the artists said she should have specified no nudes when she asked for entries.
Another complaint of the artists is that Brown failed to provide the catalog and video she'd promised.
Brown points out there was nothing on the call for entries indicating the catalog would be out for the reception. She said she's made arrangements with Gore Graphics in California to print these catalogs and expects they'll be ready in three or four weeks.
She said she is having larger transparencies made because quality would have suffered if she used slides for reproduction. As for the video, which is supposed to feature winning artists and their works, Brown said, plans are still to distribute it directly to prominent members of the art community across the United States.
"We really don't have enough orders on the video to warrant making it," Brown said. "But we will do it because we promised it."
The show's juror was the prominent Henry T. Hopkins, current director of the Frederick Weisman Collection in Los Angeles and former director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Brown said he didn't come to the opening reception because of an emergency.
But Hopkins tells a different story. He said he never planned to come to the reception. He came to Utah at the end of May and spent a full day - in excess of 10 hours - jurying and judging the slides. He said he and Brown had not discussed his returning for either the reception or for making make a final decision on the award winners.
Brown hired LeMar Terry of Terry, Chassman & Associates in New York City, to handle the show's lighting and paid him a preliminary fee of $2,500. Three days after his arrival, however, when Terry asked for the second installment, Brown told him that she didn't have the money to pay them. He and his crew packed up their things and left.
Terry's partner, Neil Chassman, said that the $2,500 they had received "means that we have been paid slightly. It means that we have worked for virtually nothing.
"My feeling is that Summer Brown is well-intentioned. But she doesn't have the ability to bring this off properly. She has just bitten off a lot more than she could chew."
A sprinkling of artists across the nation feel the same way.
But as of the show's entrants put it, "A number of artists are so eager for recognition that they become very vulnerable. And other people use them to make money."