A&E

Pacific Art League head calls for end to conflict

Members to vote on Friday on dissenting faction's proposals

Just one week into her tenure as the Pacific Art League's new executive director, Shannon McDonnell will be attending a special meeting of league members that could result in the removal of nearly half of her board of directors. The meeting, called by three dissenting former board members, is the latest act in a near-operatic and years-long conflict at the 94-year-old Palo Alto nonprofit organization.

But McDonnell -- a marketing professional who has worked for the San Francisco Symphony, TheatreWorks and San Francisco Opera -- said this week that she is nonplussed, despite the instability into which she has stepped.

"As long as we're civil and treat each other with professionalism, I think discussion is healthy," she said. "People are passionate about PAL. It's a place where people care very deeply about what's going on, otherwise, they wouldn't fight."

Once members vote on Friday, the issues "need to be put to bed," she said.

Former board members Ron Andrews, Jo Killen and Diana Diamond are challenging the five-month-old board, having garnered support for a special meeting and a vote to change the bylaws. Both sides will give presentations at the special meeting for members on Friday, Aug. 7, at 8 p.m. at 668 Ramona St. A vote count will take place at 9 p.m.

If affirmed, the changes would set board term limits, and could even set them retroactively if members approve a second ballot item. That would sweep out the five remaining long-term board members, who stayed after Andrews, Killen and Diamond resigned last year.

In a rebuttal to members, the current board said they agreed with term limits, but not retroactively.

The vote could also require the board to develop a long-term plan and a vision for what the league will offer members and the community, but rather than the autonomy to pursue a vision they are charged with, the board would have to submit any plan to a vote for approval by the membership.

The vision of the three former board members seems to be at odds with that of the current board. Andrews, for example, has wanted to carve out a co-op gallery within PAL that would be limited to a few established artists, but the board has said that such a co-op would go against PAL's openness to the entire community and might jeopardize its nonprofit status, board member Sondra Murphy said.

Characterizations of a board in upheaval are no longer true, she said. Of the current 13 board members, five have been on the board for over six years, and six were brought on board this year.

"We are creating a culture of cohesiveness across these 'old and new' board members," Murphy said. "The six new board members have a healthy balance of local experience and connections, and are working professionals with strong local community ties."

The current board is also united in extending and expanding PAL's activities into other communities it has not previously served. "We are holding classes in Redwood City, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto," she said. "We are also in discussion with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and other local corporations to provide art classes to their staff and clients."

That's a vision in sync with McDonnell, who has a strong background in social justice.

Recently, she took charge of a Santa Clara University social justice initiative, which brought together professional artists, university faculty and underserved children at an elementary school. The project helped address mental health and other community issues through the arts.

"Part of my mission is to engage with communities of color and other socioeconomic backgrounds, and people who are differently abled and marginalized. Art is a tremendous equalizer and a tremendous communicator," she said.

McDonnell envisions a bright future for PAL that would also involve inviting small- to medium-sized performing arts groups and other groups in the arts to expand programming and attract a younger audience.

"We have the luxury of this space. The only limits are our imaginations, really," she said.

Comments

10 people like this
Posted by Pedant
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Nonplussed does not mean what you think it means.


4 people like this
Posted by 2nd pedant
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Things are changing: From the Oxford Dictionaries online --

Usage

In standard use, nonplussed means ‘surprised and confused’: the hostility of the new neighbor’s refusal left Mrs. Walker nonplussed.

In North American English, a new use has developed in recent years, meaning ‘unperturbed’—more or less the opposite of its traditional meaning: hoping to disguise his confusion, he tried to appear nonplussed. This new use probably arose on the assumption that non- was the normal negative prefix and must therefore have a negative meaning. It is not considered part of standard English.


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Who cares? Artists tend to be egoists. That is what it is, but why should they demand external support? Starving artists make better art. They don't need patrons...they need calluses and suffering.


41 people like this
Posted by Flash
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2015 at 2:06 pm

2nd Non-Pedant: As Oxford notes, the mistaken usage is substandard. I would hope we could expect better from the Weekly.


8 people like this
Posted by @Craig Laughton
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2015 at 2:59 pm

"Who cares? Artists tend to be egoists."

Pot, meet kettle.

"They don't need patrons...they need calluses and suffering."

Funny -- I would imagine back when you were "working," you didn't mind having a regular paycheck...


5 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2015 at 4:12 pm

>Funny -- I would imagine back when you were "working," you didn't mind having a regular paycheck...

>Pot, meet kettle.


I have a healthy ego, no doubt about it. But I never insisted that someone pay me for that fact. I did a lot of hard work, for wages. If artists want to succeed they need to be extremely talented AND understand the deep roots of human emotion...they won't get there without calluses and suffering. Ask van Gogh or Michelangelo. In the meantime, why is there all this whining from the non-suffering, self-defined 'artists' in PA?


6 people like this
Posted by @Craig Laughton
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2015 at 6:38 pm

"I have a healthy ego, no doubt about it. But I never insisted that someone pay me for that fact."

Riiiiiiiiiiight.


9 people like this
Posted by Local Kardashian
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2015 at 9:11 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2015 at 10:54 am

A lot of great artists wouldn't be known today if it wasn't for patronage.

Speaking of ego - I'm not surprised that Diana Diamond is involved.


Like this comment
Posted by EugeneD
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2015 at 11:30 am

@flash

the use of nonplussed apparently is in the director's statement:

"But McDonnell -- a marketing professional who has worked for the San Francisco Symphony, TheatreWorks and San Francisco Opera -- said this week that she is nonplussed, despite the instability into which she has stepped."


2 people like this
Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 7, 2015 at 11:40 am

The League, as it is now called, tried the boutique artist theme several times before. Both times the chosen member to be special artist in residence had some talent and a following among some of the ladies in the League. Both were allowed to live and work in the tower suite.
It was a bad idea then and is a bad idea now. The choice of artist in residence will be based on the taste of one or a few members and will not necessarily reflect the choice outside that range.
I was a member of the Palo Alto Art Club and even the Pacific Art League as it was renamed because some thought the new name sounded better in our upscale community. I left when they started to move certain classes out of the main site and into others. It was neither pleasant nor particularly safe to have to teach night classes in a warehouse on San Antonio or in a similar building on an alley behind Alma in downtown Palo Alto.
The League became too elitist and exclusive for local artists.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 7, 2015 at 12:24 pm

>A lot of great artists wouldn't be known today if it wasn't for patronage.

Before they had suffered, worked their butt off, sacrificed? If so, name some.


1 person likes this
Posted by Zac Lowing
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2015 at 10:55 am

Interesting how this became in part and argument on a word. Let me rephrase that, a throwing of insults is more precise.
Yes, I am an outsider, I live in Chicago. If there was less mud slinging and more actual discussion on what was happening, this might have been a constructive comment area.
As for what makes a great artist, how hard your life has been is not a cue to how great your stuff is. I know several incredible artists that lead normal lives but just never sought the lime light. Heck, look at Vivian Maier. Me, I've had a fairly rough life and have a smattering of an ego, but I'm not going to spend most of my time seeking to get into a gallery instead of actually doing art.
The best thing a gallery should do is look for who is doing cool stuff and give them freedom to do more. Most gallery's these days are filled with so-so stuff by people that know the right people or art that is seen as an investment.
Have fun now, lol


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 69 comments | 5,919 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 888 views

Couples: Sex and Connection (Chicken or Egg?)
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 706 views

Zucchini Takeover
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 645 views