Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Detroit deal making?

Has anyone else seen either of these articles in the Free Press (links below)? Apparently the city of Detroit has spent 1.6 million dollars on artwork for the public schools that now cannot be accounted for!! I don't know exactly what happens downtown in deal making but that just seems ridiculous to spend that amount on works worth a good chunk of money - we aren't talking poster art! And the gallery behind the big sales...Sherry Washington.
"Detroit's school board president said Monday he would press school officials to account for at least $1.6 million in artwork the district bought from a downtown Detroit gallery." freepress 2.27.07
"...District records obtained independently by the Free Press show the $1.6 million was paid to the Sherry Washington Gallery. Washington, the gallery owner, has sold contemporary and African-inspired art in downtown Detroit since 1989, with paintings and other objects costing thousands of dollars apiece.
While the spending is only a sliver of the $1.5 billion in bond money taxpayers approved, critics say the $1.6 million could have been used to patch leaky roofs or spruce up rickety gymnasiums...
Education experts say most districts display students' art, not professional artists'.
"It's unusual for a school district to go out and buy art, especially in large numbers," Jennings said." freepress 2.24

I wonder if anyone might have any inside info on this case? Is Washington Gallery making a killing because of her location...maybe more galleries need to have Detroit addresses to be a part of the new development downtown...it also doesn't hurt to be a minority business too. I know that it is important to have artwork in schools but if you can barely keep running your art classes then I would cut the art on the walls first!! Come on that a no-brainer! It is just fishy that all that art seems to be "missing"?? Very weird.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ooohhh. sweet sweet ann.

"...it also doesn't hurt to be a minority business too. "

In all my years reading your blog....

Anyone else want to field this one?

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sherry also was the go-between for some corporate art sales in the area. i think she came into the gallery about 8 years ago or so looking for stuff for blue cross.

she's been active.

3:30 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

That's how business works downtown...I know b/c I have submitted work for new projects downtown and they only accepted business proposals from woman or african american businesses. I knew if I uttered the words "minority" people were going to get all uppity. It is just the facts of the matter. I am a woman...and therefore if I had a business it would be minority. Please let's not jump to anything here...but I am sure everyone will anyway :)

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as I know, Sherry Washington does a lot for the community. According to her website, she takes part in all of the following organizations:

"Board Memberships and Community Service:

• Detroit Public Schools - Detroit School of the Arts
• Downtown Development Authority
• Detroit Public Library Commission
• Black Women Contracting Association, Inc.
• Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
• The Detroit Athletic Club (DAC)
• The Detroit Institute of Arts, Friends of African and African American Art
• Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts
• Detroit International Jazz Festival"

If you did all that then you would get those opportunities too!

How many of us can say that we are this deep in our home town's affairs? Very few!

Oh, and Sherry Washington is a Detroiter, born, raised, and educated here too (aside from college, Ann Arbor, UofM).

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And here are a few facts for the future of this discussion (US Census):

-Detroit population = 911,402

-African American population in Detroit = 81.6%

-Other (white, hispanic, asian, etc.) population = 18.4%

And this is only the percentage of people who chose to fill out the census.

Do the math. Black people don't get the opportunities because they're black. This isn't racism. Black people get the opportunities because they are the majority!

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so maybe there should be affirmative action for the minorities in detroit. just like there was affirmative action for the minorities who were accepted to U of M.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog has sunk to a new low. I will not be posting here again.

9:49 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

I really hope that we can focus on the "missing art" and the detroit public school issue....that is why I posted this news...not to focus on what washington does or doesn't do.

Come on the issue is the missing art!

10:01 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

Actually the more I think about it...I wonder how much art, if any, CAID or DAM sells...they are non-profit so does that exclude them to make big sales to corporations or to the city?

10:08 PM  
Blogger craigpaulnowak said...


why are we running from this topic. I would like to see what results from the discussion. Maybe we can start a new post for it and leave this post for the discussion of missing art in Detroit public schools.

I'd just think twice before attempting to throw this one aside.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see in the Freep editorial this morning that my name was mentioned, along with that of Dominic Pangborn......

6:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

craig, in what direction should this discussion go......about the gallery selling the art, or the school systems purchasing agenda, or maybe deeper, more underlying issues?

what is curious to me is that there is such vitriol aimed at sherry washington......jealousy by other art marketers, perhaps?

isnt it curious that none of the other galleries, consultants, or artists have been quoted. Doesnt this strike one as funny? There are LOTS of galleries in Detroit.....why havent they spoken up against washington? Just asking.

what do the powers that be have against the current school system administration, or maybe against the mayor? why would the news media slyly intimate that there is some "relationship" between washington and the mayor's father?

this "scandal" has nothing whatsoever to do with Art. I would caution anyone against coming out with opinions or commentary before all sides are heard.

7:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote a bit about this for GrowDetroit (http://www.growdetroit.com/blog/?p=559) I think what is at issue is 1) that DPS is so terribly disorganized that the can't really say what was bought when and where it wound up. I don't know that any art is really "missing" per se, just that no one seems to be able to produce an itemized list (Jack Lessenberry has talked about the terrible shambles in record keeping in the DPS at length) and 2) that it is highly unusual for a public school district -- economically crunched or not -- to go through an art broker (and thus double their cost) rather than dealing directly with artists (this is the opinion I got from artists who work installing pieces for schools and an ex-gallery director in the Metro area.) If it's true that Sherry serves on any capacity to the board of the Detroit Public Schools, that makes it all the more suspicious.

I don't believe that sour grapes or race questions are motivating this discussion or the Freep's investigation; it is not unreasonable for tax payers and participants in the city's public schools to ask "Why did Sherry Washington make a half-million dollars selling art to a school district that couldn't afford fully functioning bathrooms or desks?"

The Freep's investigation has already uncovered highly suspicious expenditures by DPS, such as $100,000 paid to an unlicensed Eastpointe catering business based in the home of a Detroit elementary school principal (http://www.growdetroit.com/blog/?p=507)

Dave . . .

P.S. I check Detroitarts every day, and have found it to be an invaluable resource on what's goin' on. Kudos to the anonymous blogger who keeps it going.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If it's true that Sherry serves on any capacity to the board of the Detroit Public Schools, that makes it all the more suspicious." You can skip suspicious and go straight to completely unethical.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

face it, the schools are shit anyway. so what if they wasted some money on art that they can't find. rarely does anyone in the position to make a decision in Detroit have enough sense to make the right decision.

i'm just saying.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That painting they're using as an example looks pretty hideous. Am I wrong in suspecting that Washington saw this as an opportunity to unload a bunch of crap that nobody else in their right mind would buy?

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the work was all original, based on themes given to the artists

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh. Then I'll just say I agree with the other anonymous that it's not such a bad thing that they can't find that crap.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Warning! Vitriol!

Sherry Washington appraised the art herself that she "commissioned" and sold to the schools. Lets see, in her "professional" opinion, the piece at the top of this article is worth... Hmmm... $3,150. (a very small fraction of this goes to the artist) Multiply this by 40 or so pieces for the halls of one school. Repeat process for at least 5 more schools. But be quick! One of these schools may be closing! Then add a commission for the gallery, which she admits is between 20-50%. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Lol! What is she thinking? That no one would ever find out?

Was this illegal? I have no idea- I am not a lawyer. Unethical? You. bet. your. ass.

Legal or not, I hope her reputation and business is ruined and whoever enabled this deal is exposed. The IRS can have what is left.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Nolan said...

I think it's pertinent to mention that this is not the first time improprieties of this type have stemmed from Sherry Washington's management of arts funds. She was fired as art consultant for the city of Detroit due to her funneling public money through her gallery, buying art almost exclusively from artists she represents, and taking her customary 50% commission on top of her paycheck from the city. She is certainly no stranger to unethical activity, at least when it comes to public dollars. It's not hard to imagine a scenario in which Sherry used her clout with the school board to direct the money through her gallery, and in doing so something in the neighborhood of $800,000.00 to her bank account. The work being lost adds insult to a gaping and unfortunately familiar injury.

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not believe the art is missing. It may be a case that the DPS hasnt given an exact accounting of their inventory because of the logistics. I can imagine how difficult it would be to account for every pencil used in the last five years

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, the artwork is not missing- it is hanging outside my classroom. It just appears to be student artwork.

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DPS hit the lottery and if I hit one we would both be surrounded by all our long lost friends, but bond money is sacred and covered by law. As a supplier I live and die by requireded bids most often bidding at or near my cost. I have not observed any DPS bids in recent history. Bonds funds in 2 recent Macomb districts were recently befriended by contractor/vendors and given non-bid treatment. Well our Friendly Bureau stepped in and the administrators are now in prison and paying restitution.The vendor on both projects is also incarcerated and bankrupt.Detroit's public officials are always under intense scutiny by Lansing and DC, so some showdown will be coming - and it could be fun.By not going through the required bidding DPS probably got a wonderful, appreciating, overpriced, substandard collection.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"buying art almost exclusively from artists she represents"

nolan, what does this mean? How does she represent them? As far as I have heard, there are no exclusive relationships with the artists that work with her. I see them everywhere.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where are you, nolan??
you can zing in here with some comments about Washington prior business, and speculations about what she might or might not have done,completely ignoring Ann's request to---

"not to focus on what washington does or doesn't do.
Come on the issue is the missing art!"

Its amazing to me how quickily the pent-up racist attitudes will emerge!!!

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cadbury, not sure what about Nolan's post was racist...? Also: the art is missing, whoopdedoo! That's hardly a scoop of the same level as the unethical purchasing.

Besides, it's probably not missing. It's probably in some board members' home, or office.

Missing artwork = finite subject. "the artwork is missing, shame on them!" Corrupt system = infinite ramifications = far more important (and interesting!) to discuss.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Washington is Black. Comments were made critical of Washington, a Black woman. Criticizing Black women is racist. Understand now?

Personally, I find the discussion about Washington to be much more interesting than anything said about the schools. It's no surprise that DPS on it's best days is inefficient and corrupt. What they don't want you to know is that the people who dominate the art industry are at least as shady as the worst political appointees you can find. I don't know Nolan but I must say I admire him for speaking honestly about someone who can make it hard for him to do business in Detroit.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and how, pray tell, does washington make it difficult for nolan to do business as an artist?
enlighten me

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"........I see them everywhere...."

cadbury said this, i want to respond. I have worked with Sherry Washington gallery for a number of years, and have had one person shows and been in group shows there. I also show in this area with Dell Pryor, Neal Davis galleries, and at the Detroit Rep, and with the NCA. I consider myself my own agent, and therefore have consignment agreements with all of the above exhibition spaces.

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superba: Do you think Ms. Washington's influence stops at the school board? She could easily blacklist someone if she wanted to. Arts people invented the blacklist,

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, how can she blacklist anybody? It is my feeling that gallerists, dealerists, what ever you want to call em have to depend on artists for stuff to sell. Sure, let them try to do this. Artists talk, and they protect themselves by doing so. Sharing info.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! This conversation has gone off the deep end. Superba, artists careers can be ruined, but something tells me that it's foolish to imply that Sherry Washington is going to do anything of the sort.

(to everyone else)
And all this talk about Sherry Washington being a bad person (or however you want to say it) is a lot of "bull". All of you negative commentors probably haven't even met her. At the same time, the people who have met Sherry, aren't commenting because they know that Washington is a respectable stand up individual who doesn't deserve this sort of contrived and overly negative criticism.

Please stop posting naive speculation. Remember, some people believe what they read on this blog, and you're not helping the discussion unless you are posting facts.

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or are a lot of these comments racially motivated? Everyone should take a step back and look at why they're saying these things. Why even mention her ethnicity? I see a lot of people in this small art community that look the same giving each other opportunities, and most of them just moved here.

4:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Homo Sapien, my response to Anon was meant to clarify the fact that I dont think any galleryist can blacklist an artist......they need us too much in order to have something to market.

Concerned Detroiter, I was suprised, myself, at the temperature of Ann's original post, which seemed to start the ball rolling towards attitudes that may be construed as naive at best and racially motivated at worst. One cant ignore provocative catch words like "uppity", or phrases like " it doesnt hurt to be a minority business too". Acknowledging a few exceptions, I would be curious to know just how many minority artists have been served/promoted by the galleries, exhibition spaces, blogs, and consultants around here.

Homo Sapien, I agree with your observations about posting speculation not based in total fact. I dont know what kind of person washington is, but I sure didnt get any indication based on any of the articles in the paper.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet some people could say that the people at Enron were nice, stand-up people too. It doesn't mean what they did wasn't unethical (illegal). Everyone has multiple faces: you can volunteer with orphans and still shop lift, you can advance the world of knitting and still commit insider trading. Don't be so naive.

it doesn't matter what kind of person she is. selling 1.5 million dollars to a public entity which you just so happen to sit on the board of is a conflict of interest and downright wrong. (if that is what indeed happened, as the articles would seem to indicate, but per Sapiens remark I shall state for the record that I have not personally fact-checked these articles).

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

".....According to her website, she takes part in all of the following organizations:

"Board Memberships and Community Service:

• Detroit Public Schools - Detroit School of the Arts"

Her website doesnt differentiate between what organizations she sits on the Board of, and those she merely does Community Service for.

If she indeed does COMMUNITY SERVICE for the DPS, then that would not involve any kind of conflict of interest. The papers dont clarify this, and allow for unbridled speculation.

At all of the televised Board meetings of the DPS, I have never seen her or heard her name mentioned as a member. I believe these positions are elected, and I have never seen her campaign for this, either.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice or not, unethical (or illegal) or not, I sniff a lot of funk brewing from this article. Apparently, the news likes to pick and choose which interviews it deems valid. I'm personally through commenting on this post. We have given far to much power to what appears to be not only a speculative article, but also a misguided one. They're making us look like fools, while instigating what may or may not be a controversial scam in our art community. Were there any facts in this article aside from the fact that the Detroit Public Schools are especially unorganized. To hell with these papers, the Freepress and the Detroit News. The Detroit art community deserves more than just speculative excerpts on the (presumed) negative quality of our doings.

3:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Detroit art community deserves more than just speculative excerpts on the (presumed) negative quality of our doings"

Amen and hallelujah, brother

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sapiens: I know you said you were done posting but, REALLY, how naive. That's ALL news, friend. That's ALL journalism. That's the way media works. But to say "I'm not going to discuss this because I don't know ALL the facts" (or, more aptly, you don't like where the slim facts point) is to say you won't discuss anything because if you really scritinize no one knows ALL the facts about anything. Ever. Especially the press.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

m, homo sapiens is not naive. I get a sense that he or she is just TIRED of batting this thing around without more meat to the issue. Just as I am tired, too.

probably just like the papers are tired of it, and have moved on to something else. This isnt Watergate, for heaven's sake......maybe it might be if the reporters had the same integrity and strength of motivation as Woodward and Bernstein. But they dont, and they arent.

There is nothing more to this aspect of the story, which is why it has disappeared from the front pages.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This last comment is only so you understand why I'm done with this article. Posting comments here (on this post) gives this half-assed article more power than I feel it deserves. Therefore, I've chosen to move on. If we were discussing more than speculation, and what we were discussing made it possible for us to alter and/or fix a possible problem then by all means, let's do just that. Otherwise, I'm perfectly happy leaving this article in the past until more solid facts have arrived (where after I will most likely insert my 2 cents).

And this is just my oppinion, but maybe it's naive to continue discussing a "dead end" topic without the impending guarentee of legitimate evidence.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You haven't moved on. Do you even know what "done" means? The papers have moved on long ago. Tara Grant will soon be a memory and you're still flagellating yourself over some gallery owner with a perverted sense of ethics. Nothing will happen to Washington or the officials that authorized this embarrassment. It's over for good except for here.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sapiens (superba) I must apologize, you're right: I completely missed the inherent underlying sense of grandoise self-importance that causes you to announce when you're bored (or "done") with a discussion. LOL. This blog is always guaranteed to give me a good morning chuckle. I'm not laughing at you, just every sentence of your last post.

But, now that I'm "done" with this thread, I can't really break you down line by line except to say that I'm amazed by the power you think blogging discussions have (esp.your participation in those discussions). The ability to give power to a printed article. To (in other circumstances) alter/fix problems.

Wow. Really, wow. This shit cracks me up, I love it.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you just want the last word, m.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sherry Washington is a big time con. Nothing more, nothing less.

Don't believe the hype. That was corruption at its worst.

did the public school system provide a fair bid to all.
Or did Washington blow the old super to get in good as usual?

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She sounds crooked to me.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sherry hides the missing art work,in her girdle...can't you tell?

6:30 PM  

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