The show is over. The police investigation is closed. And Summer Brown says asking her now whether she'll ever do it again is like asking a woman who's just given birth if she wants more children.
The national art exhibit put on at the Eagle Gate Plaza last month by Brown's Salt Lake company, the National Congress of Art and Design, created unusual controversy. Some artists complained to the press and police that they hadn't been treated fairly, and Brown replied that she was doing the best she could but one person couldn't do everything a museum staff might.Prize money was one issue. Artists said Brown had promised to award the cash at the show's opening. Not so, she said. Her intentions were always to give it at the end.
Salt Lake Police Detective Steve Cheever, who investigated the complaints, said he checked with several award winners and, while not everyone was happy, they did get paid. He said the case is closed unless something new comes up.
One artist the Deseret News called, John Thomas Campbell, had received only $100, instead of the $200 noted on the list provided by Brown. She told the paper later she had to reduce some of the awards because she came up about $1,000 short in commissions.
Campbell was angry with Brown. She had had him ship his 11-foot-by-8-foot limestone sculpture from Denton, Texas, to Salt Lake City. "She told me I was one of the major award winners." When the sculpture arrived, the trucker was told it couldn't be brought into the building because of its size, Campbell said.
When the artist came for the opening, he had to arrange to bring the piece back from Ogden, where the trucker had left it, then find another place to exhibit it and rent a forklift to put it in place. Campbell said he was out more than $1,000 and was disgusted.
Brown said Campbell "had a right to be upset." She said she had no idea the building manager was going to refuse to let the piece in. She said she gave Campbell the list of people to call from which he arranged for the piece to be shown at the University of Utah.
Another artist, Sean Sullivan, Taylorsville, said he got his purchase award money, and he thinks the controversy actually drew more people to the exhibit. Bruce Brainard, Provo, said he got his money and Brown "bent over backwards to help me."
Albert Sangiamo, Baltimore, Md., also received the money due him. He didn't attend the show's opening and was surprised to learn of the complaints. He said that although Brown probably took on more than she could handle and there were problems, she should be commended for the attempt, not condemned.
"It seemed to me that it came more from good intentions and idealism than from anything else." He said some artists can be "very, very temperamental."
Brown said she was thrilled with the show's high aesthetic quality and glad she tried a national show at least once, but she won't do it again without involving a business person. She learned that her strength is the art aspect, not the business side of such an undertaking, she said.