Kristin Shears, owner of Willo North Gallery, isn’t content just to lie to an incompetent reporter about why she canceled the Joe and Jan show. She got her attorney, Jason Kelly, to send a letter, with more lies, to the artists who were to be in the show. The letter says:
In an unfortunate turn of events, Robrt Pela decided to resign from his position at Willo North Gallery. The management of the Willlo North Gallery immediately accepted his resignation. As of January 28, 2013, Mr. Pela was no longer associated with the Willo North Gallery.
As a result of his abrupt decision to resign, the planning for several exhibitions and the upcoming First Friday event were disrupted. It is Willo North’s understanding that Mr. Pela plans to go forward with the previously-planned exhibitions through a different gallery. We regret any inconvenience caused by Mr. Pela’s resignation. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.
Pela’s resignation was not “abrupt.” He gave eight weeks’ notice, and said he would complete the few remaining details of its installation, manage its opening and closing, and provide all work necessary for its success. He said he would remain at Willo North through March 31.
He had previously been unwilling to release his letter of resignation to the media, not wishing to embarrass Shears by going public about incompetence and disrespect he and his interns (who, like him, were working for free, and at least one of whom had just quit in disgust) had endured from her, but, tired of being lied about, he gave me a copy. After explaining his reasons for resigning, he wrote:
It would be best if we made this show my last for you. Perhaps some of the interns will stay, and the work I’ve done to create an audience for Willo North is one you can continue to build on, for sure. But I’m tired of showing up to find my work undone, or re-done, and I’m embarrassed to have to keep asking that you communicate with me about what’s going on, when clearly you don’t wish to.
I’ve finished installing this show, with one small exception, and I will be professional and courteous on Friday night. Next week, I’ll send out a press release to colleagues explaining that this is my last show with Willo North, which wanted something I could not provide. I’ve hung on as long as I can, but it’s clear I’m not giving you what you want. And, in the bargain, I’m beginning to feel like a real chump.
In response, he received the following email from Kristin Shears :
I consider our working relationship severed as of today January 28, 2013. There will be no need to finish installing the show as I am canceling all shows until further notice. Please email me and let me know a convenient time for you to pick up all of your personal property.
I asked Pela to comment, and he told me:
I remain sorry for the artists who created work especially for this show. Willo North’s disregard for these artists is representative of the reasons I left the gallery, after two-and-a-half years. The gallery owners’ assertion that I left abruptly is absurd; I gave eight weeks’ notice. I made it clear that I would stay through the two months the “Joe and Jan” exhibit would be up, and offered them both my volunteer staff and my collateral materials (mailing lists and so on) for any exhibits they did after March 31. I received a reply telling me to go now, and informing me that they were going to cancel the show, which I’d already installed and which was ready to open.
The response from the arts community has stunned me. As of this evening, I have been offered 16 different spaces for the “Joe and Jan” exhibit. I will consider each offer and look forward to opening this show in March.
Never try to teach a pig to sing.
Before Pela began curating shows at Willo North, the gallery averaged 10 visitors at a First Friday opening. Pela’s shows brought in 700 people. Kristin Shears has said that Willo North will close. This is no loss to the Phoenix arts community, as long as Robrt Pela continues to curate at other venues.