There was a major gap in Leslie Newell Peacock’s Feb. 8 article [“Scratch Besser from Picture”] about my role in Art Across Arkansas, caused by Rose Crane’s refusal to comment on senior management’s (Crane’s) decision to terminate my participation in the project.

First and foremost: Senior management unilaterally decided to renege on all of the key promises made to well over 100 serious artists who had offered to donate about $2 million worth of drawings and paintings.

I was invited to join this project in late September because after 40 years of serious collecting I had created a network of known artists who would be inclined to donate to a worthwhile project. Considering the quality and monetary value of those donations, which were to be made to the Clinton Foundation, I felt it was necessary to give the artists certain perks. These included promises that the artwork would travel not only to schools in Arkansas but, through the Art Across America extension of the program, to 13 states in the region by 2010; that they would be reimbursed for reasonable packing and shipping costs (terms were later restricted); and that under my guidance there would be a three-month exhibition of their work in the gallery at the Clinton Library accompanied by a first-class catalog budgeted at $40,000 to produce. Crane took me out of the loop and put herself in charge of the exhibit and catalog.

So what do we have left? Art Across America will never happen. What you have to look forward to is an exercise in mediocrity that will embarrass the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton. And me? I come out looking like a damned fool in the eyes of the national art community for my poor judgment.

Sandy Besser

Santa Fe, N.M.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mary Cornwell’s Feb. 21 comments regarding the THEA Foundation’s attempts to collect first-rate art to install in public schools around the state through “Art Across Arkansas.”

As the owner of an art gallery that carries work by primarily Arkansas artists, I was outraged by the same remarks Mary refers to, calling the curation of this installation “Art Across Asher.” No doubt anyone looking through the list of artists who have already contributed to this remarkable project would know that many of the highest caliber names in Arkansas art have donated their work to this worthy endeavor. These committed artists have seen the greater good in helping to create a lasting legacy by investing in the education of our state’s young people.

Sometimes a successful project doesn’t have to have the most educated or most knowledgeable person as was implied in the article that sparked Mary’s letter. Sometimes it just has to have a person with a lot of heart and a lot of determination. It’s hard to say no to Paul Leopoulos, founder of the THEA Foundation. To take the tragic loss of his daughter and turn it into something that can potentially impact every child in the state in a positive way is a remarkable charge and one that needs to be supported, not insulted.

In today’s society, it’s much easier to tear down than to build up. I agree with Mary and also encourage readers to log onto THEA’s website (www.theafoundation.org) to learn more about the project and to find a way to help.

Debra S. Wood



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