Following a summer controversy, CAC regroups and moves forward

Anne Davis Mulford is board president of the Contemporary Arts Center
Photo: Bill Hughes

The fact that artist Scott Carter is tearing out the walls of the Contemporary Arts Center couldn’t feel more appropriate, given the overhaul critics say the organization needs after last month’s tangle with a controversial fundraiser.

The nonprofit arts group, which has had its share of tribulations over the past two decades, was skating ever upward in sophistication when it came under attack this summer for lending its space to a benefit that featured drawings and paintings by serial killer John Wayne Gacy (with proceeds going to the CAC).

Vitriol spewed forth from critics, saying the group had lost its way and was accepting blood money. Some argued that the organization should be shut down and that the fundraiser was used to pay off past debts to Arts Factory owner Wes Myles, who was in charge of the Gacy exhibit. The CAC exhibition committee resigned, and questions emerged as to whether the organization would survive.

Chicago artist Scott Carter works on his installation opening at the Contemporary Arts Center

Chicago artist Scott Carter works on his installation opening at the Contemporary Arts Center

But that was last month. The organization is forming a new exhibitions committee headed by Downtown artists Matthew Couper and Jo Russ—a good choice given the New Zealanders’ (who moved to Las Vegas in 2010) rich experience in contemporary art and art history. Also, the formerly financially struggling CAC is coasting on a $10,000 grant from Cosmopolitan hotel.

The Details

Through November 18, Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m.
CAC, 107 E. Charleston Blvd., (inside the Arts Factory), 382-3886

This month’s exhibit, Affect/Effect, featuring Carter’s installation built from drywall torn from the gallery, is the first of six shows selected by the former exhibitions committee that reflect the ongoing refinement of shows over the years.

“I want to assure the community that the board and exhibitions are on the same page,” says board president Anne Davis Mulford, who took much of the criticism for the Gacy fundraiser. “That will be proved by the Scott Carter show that’s opening next week and the shows into the future.”

Mulford says the CAC is a well-established institution with enough support and name recognition to keep it moving forward, and that any financial debts to Myles were forgiven, unrelated to the CAC’s Gacy show. “That was never part of the agreement,” she says. “We have paid our rent on time for the last year and a half and have had money in the bank for a while.”

Whether the Gacy controversy will be forgotten remains to be seen. Growth is essential to the CAC. The organization has only 250 members, only one part-time employee and a handful of volunteers handling daily operations.

“We’ve survived worse,” Mulford says. “The people who love and believe in the CAC go deep.

“I was disappointed that people said things publicly that could have endangered the stability of the CAC and didn’t even talk to me or other board members,” Mulford continues. “And that it got personal. But it was motivated by the fact that people are very protective of the level of quality that we’ve achieved.”

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