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Big board, staff exodus from Pacific Art League

Original post made on Jan 18, 2008

In a massive leadership change, 10 of 14 board members resigned last week at the conflict-torn Pacific Art League in downtown Palo Alto — following resignations in December of all but one of six staff members.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (6)

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Posted by Art Afficianado
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm

And then there were none. Turns out the last holdout from the staff, Executive Director Stephanie Demos, is out on medical leave once again from overwhelming stress of this group. She's no wimp and has been around the block professionally, so it's hard to imagine the level of harassment that has been heaped upon her to send her to the hospital twice in less than two months. Personally, I think it was a brave and noble, but clearly misguided decision for her to return at all. What a bunch of clowns, indeed. Unfortunately under the greasepaint there appears to be quite a hunger for making mischief and bringing down the leadership. Isn't she the second ED toppled by Walter Smith and compnay?


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Posted by ART
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 18, 2008 at 4:19 pm

1. EVERY ONE OF THE RECENT STAFF RESIGNATIONS WAS PROMPTED BY BULLYING FROM CERTAIN MEMBERS. IN ADDITION TO THE JANUARY DEPARTURES THAT ALSO INCLUDES TWO OTHERS IN THE RECENT PAST, REENA SAKARIA AND CATRINA GERMANO.

2. THE PROPOSAL CALLED FOR DEVELOPING THE PROPERTY AS BUSINESS CONDOMINIUMS WITH PAL RETAINING OWNERSHIP OF A FULLY RENOVATED GALLERY, OFFICE AND CLASSROOM DOWNSTAIRS AND WALKING AWAY WITH $3.4MILLION. THIS ISSUE WAS SAFETY, ACCESSIBILITY AND SPACE.

3. ONE MAJOR REASON THE FORMER BOARD FAVORED DEVELOPING (NOT SELLING) THE HOLLOW BRICK STRUCTURE WAS EARTHQUAKE SAFETY. A LETTER FROM THE CITY OF PALO ALTO REQUIRED THE POSTING OF A SIGN INDICATING THAT SUCH STRUCTURES MAY NOT BE SAFE IN THE EVENT OF AN EARTHQUAKE. ONE OF THE NEW BOARD MEMBERS IS INSISTING THE SIGN MUST COME DOWN BECAUSE IT IS 'DISCOURAGING PEOPLE FROM TAKING CLASSES.' ONE OF THE COMMITTEE TO VOTE NO FOLKS, DOTTI CICHON, STOOD UP AT THE ANNUAL MEMBERS MEETING AND SAID "NOBODY'S GOING TO DIE. NO ONE'S GOING TO DIE." I GUESS THE NEW BOARD WON'T HAVE ANY PROBLEMS SLEEPING AT NIGHT WITH SUCH LEADERSHIP.

3. "A main task for the new board is figuring out how to raise funds for such a massive project, incoming board member Walter Smith said." BUT ISN'T THAT EXACTLY THE PROJECT HE EXCORIATED FORMER ED CLAUDIA MORGAN AND FORMER BOARD CHAIR REBECCA TEUTCHEL FOR CHAMPIONING?

3. "Smith said ill will within the group should dissipate." HOW CAN THE ILL WILL DISSIPATE, IF THESE FOLKS CONTINUE TO HARASS THE ED AND ANYONE ELSE WHO DISAGREES WITH THEM? ISN'T SHE IN THE HOSPITAL AGAIN?

4. "The new board will have a "closer dialog" with members than the last and re-institute a former policy of sending a periodic letter out to members, he said." THERE'S BEEN PLENTY OF DIALOG, MEETINGS IN FEBRUARY, OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, DECEMBER AND JANUARY, AN ENEWSLETTER FROM THE ED, LETTERS AND PHONE CALLS. LIKE A SPOILED ADOLESCENT, HE DOESN'T WANT DIALOG, HE JUST WANTS EVERYONE TO THINK LIKE HIM.

5. Nast said one big difference is that the old board engaged in "very aggressive outreach" to the Palo Alto community, such as in arranging a cooperative exhibit with Gamble Garden, but the new board believes in a members-first approach to exhibits. THE FORMER BOARD WAS ALL ABOUT RAISING THE BAR, EXHIBITING MORE SOPHISTICATED ART. MEMBERS WERE ENCOURAGED TO ENTER THEIR WORK TO BE JURIED INTO THE SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS. SUCH OPPORTUNITIES ARE SOUGHT BY ARTISTS WHO WISH TO SEE THEIR WORK PROGRESS AND WHO SEEK A WIDER AUDIENCE. GUESS IT'S BACK TO AMATEUR, VANITY ART AT PACIFIC ART LEAGUE.

6. League members had difficulty relating to the earlier outreach approach, and in the future the gallery will feature mainly art by members, Smith agreed. LEAGUE MEMBERS PARTICIPATED IN THE EARLIER OUTREACH APPROACH. THE VAST MAJORITY OF ART IN THE MAIN GALLERY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR WAS THAT OF MEMBERS. HAS MR. SMITH EVER EXHIBITED ANY OF HIS WORK IN ANY OF THE GALLERIES? HAS HE EVER ATTENDED A FIRST FRIDAY OPENING OR PURCHASED WORK FROM THE GALLERY? DOES HE HAVE ANY DIRECT EXPERIENCE WITH THE GALLERY?




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Posted by Dotti Cichon
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 21, 2008 at 8:43 pm

To ART, a resident of Stanford:
You are not correctly reporting what I said at the meeting. Steve Oliver of www.OliverandCo.net who is a philanthropic contractor who has done over 300 seismic retrofits and built over 1000 buildings in his career came down to look at 668 Ramona. I was merely telling the group what his assessment was based on his inspection of the building and various seismic studies that had been done. The building is not "hollow brick structure" or "unreinforced masonry" and is not "the worst kind of construction" as those who wanted to sell the building were telling members. 668 Ramona is a steel reinforced concrete building with hollow clay tile infill. The only portion of the bulding that is unreinforced masonry is the storage room at the back that was added. In an earthquake, the unreinforced masonry that is hollow clay tile may crumble or tumble, but other than the storage room, it's only infill and has nothing to do with the soundness of the structure. The structure is not going to pancake and is not on the City of Palo Alto's list of dangerous buildings where a seismic retrofit is required immediately.

However, there was a major flaw in the plan to move the members to a 10,000 square foot warehouse and renovate it for $100,000 or $10 per square foot. Most industrial warehouses are tilt-up construction which IS the worst kind of construction in an earthquake. Most warehouses don't house people, so when there is a change of use from industrial use to classrooms, there is a requirement that a seismic retrofit be done BEFORE occupancy is allowed. A seismic retrofit, ADA compliance and renovation of a warehouse would not be significantly different from a seismic retrofit, ADA compliance and renovation of 668 Ramona in terms of cost and time. PAL might have been able to buy a warehouse building but would have never been able to move into it because $10 per square foot that they budgeted isn't even enough to pay for floor covering, nevermind a seismic retrofit which would have been required PRIOR TO OCCUPANCY. Where PAL is now at 668 Ramona, there is no pressure from any authority to have to do a retrofit as a condition of occupancy. That is the big difference. And, plans are proceeding to make 668 Ramona safer and handicapped accessible as soon as possible and it's going to happen soon.

Regarding the proposal, I must also correct you. You stated:

2. THE PROPOSAL CALLED FOR DEVELOPING THE PROPERTY AS BUSINESS CONDOMINIUMS WITH PAL RETAINING OWNERSHIP OF A FULLY RENOVATED GALLERY, OFFICE AND CLASSROOM DOWNSTAIRS AND WALKING AWAY WITH $3.4MILLION. THIS ISSUE WAS SAFETY, ACCESSIBILITY AND SPACE.

If you read the Letter of Intent, PAL was indeed selling 668 Ramona and getting back a condominium interest in 3250 square feet of the existing 4744 square foot first floor which was to be delivered as an empty shell to be finished at PAL's expense. It was not "retaining ownership of a fully renovated gallery, office and classroom" as the members were misled into believing. The deal as PAL relayed it to the members was very different from the deal that they signed in The Letter of Intent. I would be glad to go over the terms of the Letter of Intent with you to help you understand what the real deal signed and sealed in writing was actually going to be for PAL, which as I said, was very different.

If you would like to discuss any of the contract or building issues with me, just leave a message for me with any of the Board members and I will be glad to get in touch with you. I think it's important that all members understand the true situation.


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Posted by ART
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 6, 2008 at 2:51 am

Ms Cichon,

Nothing you have to say has any relevance after the ridiculous statement you made and repeated in front of 60 people at the annual members meeting regarding the building, "Nobody is going to die. Nobody is going to die." One has to wonder how you've managed to take on a leadership role on the makeshift building committee while espousing such an absurdly pathetic standard.


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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 6, 2008 at 1:41 pm

When is Stephanie Demos coming back? Everything is so disorganized at PALPA and I, as a long time member, have great fear that the new Board is only working for their own very narrow agenda. I don't want to see PALPA regress into a whites-only, privileged class club.


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Posted by Ingrid
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 6, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Who are these clowns running the Pacific Art League? It seems like they're only interested in their own narrow point of view and cloning themselves. How can they do any community outreach when they are so inept and destructive themselves? Rumor has it they don't know the first thing about running a nonprofit. Will anyone step up from the membership to speak for the rest of the membership or is this going to become a cute little club of recreational painters and photographers? What happened to the exciting shows and fresh blood?


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