Burnside Says Reaction to Fund for the Arts Letter Has Been Surprising

by Gabe Bullard on March 17, 2011

One of the authors of a letter that led to a storm of protests against the Fund for the Arts says she’s surprised by the reaction.

Frazier History Museum Executive Director Madeleine Burnside, Speed Museum Director Charles Venable and Visual Art Association Director Shannon Westerman wrote a letter to Business First pointing out that visual arts organizations receive little to no money from the fund.

“That was the whole point,” says Burnside. “Really, the reaction I’m most surprised about, because, I don’t think if you read the letter, it said anything engative about either the fund or about Allan. So the reaction I’m really surprised about is that Allan took it so personally.”

After the letter was published, fund CEO Allan Cowen allegedly threatened Westerman’s job in a voicemail. That prompted a number of members of the visual arts community to call for Cowen’s dismissal. When the board disciplined the CEO instead, a protest was held outside of the fund’s offices.

Burnside says she doesn’t have an opinion on the protests.

“I personally have only had pleasant and positive dealings with Allan. It was never about him until he took it so personally,” she says.

Burnside says her concern is with how the fund distributes money. She says the organization should distribute it evenly among performing, visual and other types of arts and the fact that the fund more heavily supports performing arts should be widely known

The Frazier does not receive money from the Fund for the Arts. The Visual Art Association does.

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Bob Herndon March 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Not a surprising reaction to anyone who has ever worked in the Arts in Louisvillle. Arrogance and volatility were expected from Allan.

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