On Tuesday, longtime curator Jane Hart confirmed that she is no longer with the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. She was hired eight years ago, and the reasons for her sudden departure are unclear as both Hart and Joy Satterlee, executive director of the Art and Culture Center, declined specific comment.
The news sent shock waves throughout South Florida's tight-knit arts community. Artist Sri Prabha, who has exhibited at the Art and Culture Center and worked with Hart in the past, said he was "flabbergasted." But tensions culminated on Wednesday afternoon when international curators Tami Katz-Freiman and Ombretta Agro announced on Facebook that they would be stepping down as jurors for the center's 2015 biennial event in the fall, where they were scheduled to judge contemporary works:
We (Ombretta Agro and me) were shocked to hear the news of Jane Hart's sudden departure from the Arts and Culture Center of Hollywood after very successful 8 1/2 years. We were thrilled to work with her as the jurors for the 2015 Biennial edition. However, because of the fact that her departure was so sudden and un-clarified, we decided to withdraw our participation as an act of solidarity for a fellow curator. We ask the center director to please take our names off the Art and Culture Center's website to officially formalize our position.
Katz-Freiman and Agro are colleagues and close friends. Originally from Israel, Katz-Freiman is an art curator, critic, and historian. She has curated exhibits at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Bass Museum of Art. Originally from Italy, Agro has curated shows in Europe, the United States, and India (like at Art Basel Miami Beach and Queens Museum of Art). She has even lectured at the United Nations.
According to Katz-Freiman, Hart was the only reason she and Ombretta accepted the position over a year ago. Being a juror doesn't pay much, but Katz-Freiman looked at it as a way to contribute to the burgeoning arts community in Broward. Besides, she was excited to work with Hart, whom she considers an "exciting and passionate curator."
"It was an act of support to collaborate with Jane on this project. Now she is gone, and we don't understand why," Katz-Freiman tells New Times. "I don't know anyone else at the Arts and Culture Center; I know Jane."
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Within an hour of Katz-Freiman's Facebook post going live, the Arts and Culture Center had removed both curators from the biennial event on its website. But John Stengel, chair of the Arts and Culture Center Board of Trustees, confirmed that the event will go on without Katz-Freiman, Agro, and Hart. Stengel also stressed that every other event is also scheduled but admitted he was disappointed upon hearing the news but understood Katz-Freiman and Agros' reasons. "The two people who pulled out, that was their decision," Stengel says. "I think Jane brought them to the table, and now they don’t want to be there. That’s fine. They'll get somebody else."
He continued: "The situation is in Joy’s court. She's the executive director. The board does not tell her who to hire or what to do or what hours or what they get paid. We're here to help the Art and Culture Center and its staff... I really have no real insight to why or what has happened. I'm just hearing it secondhand as you are. As a board member, I'm not privy to the day-to-day insight."
Satterlee, who is privy to the day-to-day insight, didn't have much to add. She is currently on vacation but remained diplomatic as she quickly told New Times: "We understand that Tami and Ombretta are not serving. We understand and are disappointed. We will find new jurors for this year’s biennial for the Art and Culture Center."
The Art and Culture Center (along with the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art) is one of the most important cultural icons in the Broward art scene, which is often overshadowed by Miami's. The center opened on the Hollywood beachfront in 1975 but moved 16 years later to its current location at the Kagey mansion in downtown, allowing for expansion and education classrooms. Hart was brought on as a curator in 2006. It was around this time that the Broward County Board of Commissioners designated it as one of only eight "major cultural institutions" in the county (which has more than 800 cultural entities altogether).