Long Beach Art Museum Cancels Enamel Exhibition

Dear Friends,

Perhaps you have not heard that Hal Nelson, Director of the Long
Beach Museum of Art, has been unceremoniously dismissed by the
museum’s Board of Directors.

I wish that I knew and could share exactly why this has happened.
What is said to be at the heart of the matter to the Board ( in what
order of precedence I’m not sure) are 2 issues; that they didn’t
agree with Hal’s choices of exhibitions ( and in addition was too
independent of Board oversight) and that the exhibitions were too

Nevertheless, Hal’s contribution to that institution;

to the edification of it’s visitors; ( “craft” openings very well

the historic perspective with which he has organized LBMA’s

to the physical transformation of the museum;

to the leadership which resulted in a great working team

to his dedicated proselytizing for LBMA and the arts

his personal contribution to putting LBMA on the national cultural
map to his recognition of the importance of “decorative” arts place
in the American Art world have EARNED him the respect and gratitude of
everyone who cares of such issues, LBMA’s Board most of all.

Hal Nelson’s dismissal, without the recognition he deserves and in
the very midst of great exhibitions he has worked so hard to create
is very hard to accept. But his personal treatment is one issue. Also
of great concern is the future of LBMA and it’s vision. Nelson has
been systmatically documenting the transition of CRAFTS into ART. He
has a significant role in the recogniton of the top "craft " artists
as perhaps the most innovative in America today. Will the Board turn
back time and go back to pleasant shows of unsurprising concept? Will
they close the door to the crafts community that Hal has opened? Or,
will they realize what visionary shows contributes to the very
existence of the museum, the vitality of art discourse in the
community and art scholarship for the future?

If you value this man’s contribution or, if you know nothing about
him or LBMA but you believe in the importance of the art work being
done in the “decorative” fields then perhaps you speak up?


You could help Hal and co-curator Bernard by attending the long
awaited opening of “Painting with Fire” ( perhaps the most
significant museum profile of the AMERICAN ENAMEL movement of the
mid 20th C) by attending the opening at the Long Beach Museum of Art
on Thursday, January 11, 07 at 7-9 pm. If you can be there by 6 pm,
for the VIP preview, please RSVP to the Museum at 562-439-2119 or
margeryb@lbma.org, Hal would appreciate your support!

You could send an email care of Ron Nelson ronn@lbma.org ( no
relation, acting Director and fine person!) to bring to the Museum
Board meeting on Tuesday Dec 12. You could write in support of Hal as
director of the museum and/or you could write in support of the
important shows of American Craft/ Art movements.

You could suggest that the museum properly honor it’s outgoing
director after 18 years of dedicated, visionary service!

Share this message with others?

thank you, Marianne

Hi All,

A blow to Craft and enamel in the US, please consider commenting by
email to the board of the Long Beach Art Museum.


Long Beach art museum director is being replaced
By Mike Boehm, Times Staff Writer

  HAROLD NELSON has been pushed out after 17 1/2 years as
  director of the Long Beach Museum of Art, prompted at least
  partly by trustees' displeasure with his emphasis on craft

  Nelson, 59, exited Nov. 27 from a job that had paid $123,600
  in 2004, according to the museum's latest available tax return.
  He declined to comment Thursday, except via a prepared
  statement in which he cited his accomplishments at "this widely
  respected little jewel of a museum," including overseeing a
  $7-million expansion in 2000. Ron Nelson (no relation), the
  museum's development director and former board president, is
  serving as interim director. 

  "The change, we feel, is necessary for the future growth and
  vitality of the institution," Pamela Munzer, president of the
  board, said Wednesday, adding that the board concluded that a
  string of craft exhibitions under Harold Nelson became "more
  pervasive" than the public wanted. 

  More emphasis will be placed on the permanent collection of
  more than 5,000 artworks, she said. A search committee for a
  new director will be formed "in the very near future," Munzer
  added, with an eye toward finding "great management skills,
  artistic knowledge and, hopefully, lots of experience." 

  A knack for fundraising wouldn't hurt: The museum, with an
  annual budget of about $3.4 million, has been chronically
  deficit-ridden since the expansion doubled its space. Ron
  Nelson said that $2.4 million remains to be paid by 2009 as
  part of a bond-financing agreement with the city. 

  Harold Nelson's imprint on the museum will remain palpable for
  most of 2007: "Painting With Fire," an exhibition on 20th
  century American enamel painters he curated with Bernard
  Jazzar, opens Jan. 11 and continues into August.


If you wish to register your feelings about this change contact the
museum at:

Mikhael Mei Williams, ext. 256 mikhaelw@lbma.org


Ron Nelson, ext. 224 ronn@lbma.org

The following is from Judy Stone about this event

  "What has happened to Hal Nelson affects all of us and
  especially the historic enamel exhibition, Painting with Fire,
  due to open on January 11, 2007 The scheduled symposium on
  Jan.13th featuring William Harper, Bill Helwig, and June
  Schwarcz has been nixed by the LBMA Board of Directors but the
  exhibition opening will happen as scheduled. Hal Nelson has
  asked that we try to produce as many "bodies" as possible to
  come to the opening and subsequent docent tours by Hal and
  Bernard Jazzar on Friday and Sat. Jan. 12-13. I think the
  repercussions form the LBMA board's actions could be immense,
  especially because of the reasons for firing Hal ( too much
  emphasis on fine craft) and the timing of the firing, just
  before this very important enamel exhibition is set to open.
  June Schwarcz will be attending as will Bill Helwig. William
  Harper will not come out of protest for the LBMA board's
  actions. I have sent an e-mail to Carmine Brannigan, executive
  director of ACC (American Craft Council), in hopes that ACC
  might somehow want to become involved. I don't hold out much
  hope here. I urge sending letters to the museum and to the LA
  Times. It won't hurt to also write to to the American Craft

 Judy Stone