Changing Houston, Changing Women's Lives:
The Houston Women's Caucus for Art, 1978 - 1988 (Continued)
By MaryRoss Taylor
Almost 100 women and men signed the Caucus letter and the organization bought newspaper ads to reproduce it. Copies sent to local journalists provoked a series of investigative articles by Mimi Crossley at the
Houston Post, substantiating the HWCA criticisms.40
Because several museum staff members were leaving, it appeared that the Museum would be in the hands of two devotees of a narrow specialty. Grace Glueck wrote a column on the subject in the
New York Times, in which Director William Agee and critic Rose were dismissive of the Caucus complaints.41
Glueck wrote, "Asked about the sale of the works, Miss Rose said: 'They are not my paintings; they belong to Jerry. I didn't know he had
sold them to the museum - although he donated one - because I was in Europe, doing research, and I had nothing to do with the sale.'" Glueck quoted Agee as saying, "Miss Rose's hiring and the purchase of the paintings are coincidental.'"42
As the controversy unfolded, thanks to Crossley's digging, it became clear that Agee was quietly selling a number of works. Some had been given by prominent families; many were by artists whose importance seemed to have increased, not diminished. The sales were to finance the purchase of art for which others did not share the director's passion. The deal involving Rose's husband seemed to give her, by questionable means, even more compensation than her sweeping title, non-resident status, and travel expense account. The combination did not look good. Museum trustee Caroline Law conferred with Caucus representatives Suzanne Bloom and Lynn Randolph on April 15; they found her sympathetic.43
The Trustees gave Agee a vote of confidence, but they also formulated their first policy concerning deaccession and broke tradition by making the names of their Board's acquisitions committee public. The following February Agee resigned.44
The Caucus had changed the face of the Museum of Fine Arts.
Photography/video artist Suzanne Bloom, who had drafted most of the MFA controversy correspondence, became chapter president for 1981 - 1982. However, the event that distinguished that year had nothing to do with political action. It involved the ultimately successful negotiations by which the Caucus leased a gallery space of its own. The Caucus had wanted a gathering place, resource center, and exhibition space, a "room of one's own," virtually from the inception of the group.45
As far back as 1979, City Councilmember Lance Lalor spoke with Lynn Randolph and then wrote to the Caucus about the availability of an old fire station as a possible gallery site.46
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