Thank you for writing this article! I have never seen such low staff morale as I did during my time as a High employee. Shapiro is not only completely out of touch with the Atlanta art community, but totally unable to relate with anyone not brought up within the Ivy League. Even within the notoriously pretentious art community he is considered stuffy.
Board-wise, he has surrounded himself with a cadre of well financed yes men (and women), who are either too afraid to be shunned from their social circles by speaking up, or who lack any sort of art historical knowledge or real interest in the arts to begin.
In terms of staff, the younger staff is treated as expendable, with the average High tenure lasting about two years. You could staff an entire first rate museum with the people who have come and gone during Shapiro's Directorship. I don't think it is any coincidence that the museum has lost its three star curators in the past year. One can only hear the words "no" so many times before they stop trying and start looking elsewhere.
I have a full understanding of the High's financial constraints, and why there is the need for "blockbuster" exhibitions to keep the lights on, but does the public? Was the expansion really necessary? Because that's what these blockbusters are paying for. The solution so far has been to rent exhibitions from other major institutions (the Louvre, MoMA, etc.), money that, without the expansion, could have been put towards strengthening the permanent collection. But what happens when the blockbusters fail to bring in cash flow (I'm looking at you, LouvreAtlanta).? There needs to be a serious and in depth look at Shapiro's decisions, staff management, and salary.
The Atlanta art community is flourishing and could truly become a national force, but there is no way this will happen until the High supports our extraordinary local artists and takes advantage of visionary staff members, rather than beating them into submission. There need to be major changes at the High, starting at the top.
Creative Loafing Atlanta
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