The board of directors of the Painted Bride Art Center need to take a big step back and reconsider their position against historic designation for the Painted Bride's Building.
They should also reconsider their murky redirection for the organization. Their supposed vision for the Painted Bride contains way too much ambiguity and a lack of clear direction. The board is asking the public to trust them as they dismantle a vibrant performing and visual arts space and enable the destruction of a Philadelphia icon.
Why should the public give them this trust? The vision that the board professes to have for the Bride remains obscure and fully incomprehensible. Have funding and audience feasibility studies been conducted? Is there really broad public support for this nebulous vision? Or is it just possible that it is the vision of a small group that will wilt when tested against the real-world reality of finding sustainable funding?
For those who might scoff at my comparison of Zagar to Gaudi and consider Zagar to be but a glorified graffiti artist, I implore you to visit the Magic Garden, witness the number of visitors, listen to the variety of languages being spoken. Alongside the Barnes it is one of the most important new destinations in Philadelphia’s efforts to become a destination city.
The Baltimore Clayworks recently went through a tumultuous period with a board of directors whose vision for the organization failed and they saw no other direction for the organization but bankruptcy. The organization was saved by a literal revolution of the “old guard,” people who had not lost the vision of what their organization was and should be about.
Jimmy Clark is director emeritus of the Clay Studio (1986-2001) and former president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance (1997-98).