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Foundation Blames Costs in Closing of ARTSPACE

November 05, 1987|MIKE WYMA

The ARTSPACE gallery, which opened in September in Woodland Hills as a "major community outreach" by the San Fernando Valley Cultural Foundation, has closed and its director has resigned.

However, the chairman of the foundation said the organization is not scaling back its plans to build major arts complexes in the Sepulveda Basin and Warner Park, and that the gallery eventually may reopen with outside groups assembling and financing the exhibitions.

"We are not gallery people," Dodo Meyer said of the foundation's directors and their decision to close ARTSPACE. "It's a whole other business and one the board was not prepared to make decisions on."

Meyer, who became chairman of the foundation Aug. 31, said the group has decided to focus on fund raising, adding that ARTSPACE proved to be a drain of both money and staff time. Often financially troubled, the 7-year-old foundation has banked less than 1% of its $72-million goal.

Meyer said that although the group's board of directors approved the opening of ARTSPACE, the action was taken without much calculation of financial risks. Excitement over the prospect of exhibiting works by a major artist--Rufino Tamayo of Mexico--made the board move too quickly, she said.

"We needed to learn more about it, so we decided to close it down after the Tamayo exhibition," said Meyer, who is Mayor Tom Bradley's chief administrative assistant in the Valley.

A show of 28 works by Tamayo closed Saturday after a six-week run. The foundation hoped to raise $75,000 at the exhibition's gala opening, which was attended by the 88-year-old artist. The event drew less than a third of the expected 500 guests and, according to Meyer, ended up costing the foundation about $10,000.

Sheila Raikow, who resigned as volunteer director of ARTSPACE, said she quit Oct. 25 because the foundation's board would not act on her recommendations to hire a full-time director and make a commitment on a show to follow Tamayo.

One member of the board termed Raikow's letter of resignation "angry," but Raikow said "impatient" was more accurate.

"I see the value of the space and of a gallery to the community," she said. "I sat in the gallery and I heard the comments of the people who came in. They loved it. I feel very strongly that the gallery should have a permanent special director who can be there every day."

Raikow said she did not want the job.

'Had No Time'

"I'm an artist myself and I just had no time for my own art," said Raikow, who makes ceramics and jewelry. "My commitment was to be director for their first three shows."

The Tamayo show was the second exhibition at ARTSPACE. Arrangements were made by the foundation's executive director, Madeleine Landry, who since has gone on an extended medical leave of absence.

The gallery's first show, held over the summer in connection with the Pacifica Festival, was of paintings by Chinese artists. The third exhibition was to be of "functional art," three-dimensional pieces arranged in tableaux rather than hung on walls.

"We had not committed ourselves, which was one of things she (Raikow) was urging us to do," Meyer said of the functional art show. "One of the things we had to find out is how much it would cost to keep the gallery open. Insurance is expensive, guards are expensive, mounting an exhibition can cost from $3,000 to $5,000. From what I've been told, it can cost between $50,000 to $100,000 a year to keep it open."

Meyer agreed with Raikow that the gallery was a hit with the public.

"The public really did come," she said. "We have a guest book and you can see they came from all over. We have from 400 to 500 names, and that doesn't include a lot of people who didn't want to sign or didn't have a chance."

30 Visitors a Day

Raikow estimated that the show averaged 30 visitors a day, a figure she called "very good."

Meyer and other foundation officials said they hope to find outside groups that will stage exhibitions at ARTSPACE, which is at 12800 Oxnard St., next to the Warner Center Marriott Hotel.

"We're presently discussing this with some of the local institutions to see if they'd like to use it as an outreach program," said George Moss, a real estate developer who is chairman of the foundation's gallery committee. Moss said the committee has had preliminary talks with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the county Museum of Contemporary Art and Barnsdale Park.

Perhaps the most promising talks have been with the county's Museum of Natural History. Museum Director Craig Black said he would like to place a short-term show in the ARTSPACE gallery, and that funding would come from the museum's budget.

"It's strictly in the discussion stage because it does take time to put a meaningful exhibition in," said Black.

Meyer said the foundation should be able to keep the 4,000-square-foot room donated by developer Robert Voit that was occupied by the gallery. The space is in an office building owned by Voit.

"There's no formal lease, but our relationship with Bob Voit goes back for years," Meyer said.

The closing of ARTSPACE does not affect a nearby gallery run by the San Fernando Valley Arts Council. Called Warner Center Gallery, the facility at 12600 Oxnard St. features work by artists who are not widely known.

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