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CAC Director Jay Weigel Steps Down
by Brad Rhines
Last month, a handful of artists from St. Claude galleries pulled their work from the Spaces exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center to protest the practices of the CAC’s director, Jay Weigel. On Wednesday, Weigel announced his departure from the CAC, ending a tenure that began in 1996. While Weigel and the CAC made no mention of the opposition, the timing is certainly very interesting.
Spaces opened at the CAC in February, and the exhibit was a chance for St. Claude artists to show their work to a larger audience and enjoy the legitimacy that comes from gallery artists occupying a museum space. Or so they thought. Artists complained from the beginning about how the show was handled, specifically concerns about the limited access to the show as a result of the CAC sometimes closing to the public and renting out space for parties and events. When artists learned that the CAC would close for five days for a film shoot, some of them decided to remove their work, rather than have it treated as something secondary to Hollywood money.
“They obviously don’t care that much about it if they can shut it down for five days for Sylvester Stallone,” said Dan Tague, one of the artists adamant about removing his work from Spaces.
Another charge against Wiegel was that his focus on his own career as a composer distracted him from running the CAC.
Weigel told NoDef last month, “There are times when I have work to do during the day, but I use my off time for that. I don’t think I’ve ever short-shrifted time and energy to the CAC to be gone for a day or two on a project.”
In the comments section of NoDef’s original article on the protests, Dan Cameron (or at least someone posting as Cameron), who served as the CAC’s Director of Visual Arts from 2007 to 2010 and founded the contemporary art biennial Prospect New Orleans, wrote “Jay Weigel's claim that he does his music before and after work hours is a complete fabrication...I recall many days when he was locked up in his office with movie types for hours at a time, and nobody on the staff had access to him.”
With so many artists and former CAC employees speaking out against Weigel, his stepping down from the CAC isn’t necessarily the result of pressure from the local arts community, as a CAC press release explains that Weigel is leaving on his own terms. After holding the position for more than 16 years, the release states that Weigel “will return to his lifelong love, music composition and production.”
“With the completion of our strategic planning process, I feel the CAC is on sound footing and the timing is right for me to step down,” says Weigel in the release.
Weigel agreed to stay on for another year, or until his replacement is found, and plans to serve as a consultant during the transition to a new director.
When NoDef asked Tague last month what the artists’ protest might accomplish, he was less than optimistic about their power to impart change.
Dead Huey Long, Emma Boyce, Ian Hoch, Sarah Esenwein, Will Dilella, Chris Rinaldi, Lianna Patch, Phil Yiannopoulos, Cate Czarnecki, Jonas Griffin, Jennifer Abbot, Mary Kilpatrick, Elaina Patton, Mike Horst, Devin Bambrick, Katherine McGuire, Norris Ortolano, Joe Shriner
Michael Weber, B.A.
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