State of (part of) the Nation

A Presidential address by Dave Crossley

There are sometimes great re­wards for getting organized. In my own lifetime I have seen little rows of plastic tabs stretch­ing back the length of my file cab­inet, all with little typed words in them, all alphabetical, all the re­sult of constant diligence. Surely others have similar experiences to report.

I am particularly pleased to re­port to the world at large that the Houston Center for Photography has been acting in such an organ­ized way that it has found a new home and a way to pay for it. By the time you read this we will have moved into what is the for­mer ShopKwik at the corner of Alabama and Mulberry.

Of course this new building will require big rent checks and some­where in the neighborhood of $20,000 for renovation. The costs of doing the kind of business we're involved in will seem to shoot up for a few years as every part-time salary represents a major addition to what remains a very small budget for an organization with the kinds of services and pro­grams the Center is engaged in.

Still, we've got a great new space with a parking lot, in a high traffic location smack dab on Ala­bama, just a couple of hundred feet from the new Menil Collection museum, which will house the largest art collection in the city.

In this space, we have three gal­leries, the old main gallery and the members' gallery, and the new alternatives gallery. We have room for our meetings and many of our workshops. We have a classroom so we can begin to conduct courses in photography.

Mostly, we've got something we didn't have at all two years ago. We've got a Houston Center for Photography. That's a fact.

The business of the Houston Cen­ter for Photography goes from September to September, and so another year is done. Last Septem­ber the HCP had $294.30 in the bank; at this writing, we have just under $30,000. We've started a fund drive which is headed for $180,000, and has already gar­nered about $60,000 in pledges over three years and $15,000 in hard, cold cash. And we've just moved into a new home.

No question it's been a success­ful year. The Center sponsored 11 lectures and six workshops and co-sponsored two lectures with Rice University, the University of Houston, and the Glassell School of Art. We sponsored 16 photogra­phic exhibitions of which two are currently on tour in the United Slates. The Center's first national juried competition drew 84 entries from photographers across the country. Three $1,000 Documen­tary Fellowships were awarded to local photographers.

Ten thousand copies of this magazine have been distributed free in schools, museums, galleries, photolabs, camera stores, and other public places where people interested in photography might congregate.

We held an auction of prints do­nated by more than 100 leading American photographers which netted $19,000, and we gained an unusually large first time grant of $12,590 from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston.

All told we raised about $53,000 (not including the fund drive) from memberships, dona­tions, grants, the auction, lectures, workshops, and the magazine. We spent just over $41,000 of that. It’s easy to measure things like that. Not so easy, however, to measure whether we’re doing what we set out to do. No question we’ve formed a community of photographers that didn’t exist before. But are we getting what we really needed as photographers, as artists? Nearly 200 more people have drifted into membership at the Center, but a few of the early members have drifted out. Why is that?

For the most part, I’ve been getting what I wanted two years ago. I wanted to see a lot more pictures from here as well as out there; I wanted workshops, lectures, op­portunities to learn. I wanted a place to make contact with other photographers, to try to under­stand what they were doing and to try to explain what I was doing.

Almost every goal I set for my year as president of HCP has been reached and then some. I should be just wild with success and opti­mism.

But I'm not quite. Now that the major programs and systems are underway, I’m beginning to have a nagging feeling that we might be developing soul problems. Is the HCP already too slick? Can it stick to a real purpose besides raising money and coming in under budget? We’re looking for substantial gifts from established sources, and we’re beginning to play the game in a way that will make that kind of activity successful.

But we’re not creating much of a fuss about the art we show, or in any way giving anybody reason to take issue with our programs.

We're safe, and we're becoming famous for being an explemplary organization, one that's pushing all the right buttons, making all the right contacts.

It's a good position to be in, of course. To think that our structural and financial problems are coming under control and that the path to the future is clearly marked is quite something. To think that our only really serious problems are artistic ones, aesthetic ones, even moral ones, well, that's the kind of problems we wanted to be con­fronted with, right?

The fact that our main gallery has exhibitions scheduled in it through April, 1985, isn't all bad, is it? We've introduced a new al­ternative gallery to enable us to do the things many of us wanted the Center to do, so we can have our cake and eat it too.

The fact that we re looking around for famous photographers to come give lectures and work­shops, basing that search on the draw we can expect from those people, isn't all bad. After all, that will give us credibility, they say, and enable us to do as we please with the rest of our lectures and workshops money.

The fact that we now look at programs with an eye to their ability to produce revenue isn't all bad, either. That means most of the programs will wind up paying for themselves as well as for those activities that can't.

I suppose the clearest example of what's troubling me here in the midst of all this plenty is my own frustration about the way I have to write this article. I had written several pages of wild gibberish, wonderful stuff, before I realized that the time had come: I wasn't speaking as myself. I was speak­ing as the PRESIDENT of the ORGANIZATION and that what­ever I wrote would wind up in the hands of people from whom we were going to be asking a lot. I couldn't say what I really thought. Just like that I realized what changes the Center has gone through.

So I didn't say quite what I wanted to, I didn't express what I really feel, the picture isn't quite true.

But it'll probably sell, and that's really what worries me about what we're up to here as we start the third year.
One of the first things we de­cided to do at the Center was give away money to photographers. Now we have done so. In July, Naomi Bullock, Martin Harris, and Pamela Morris became the first winners of the HCP Fellow­ships. Each has earned a nearly-no-strings attached check for $1000. The only catch is that they finish the projects they are in the middle of and that they allow the Center to exhibit the work which we'll do in October. The next deadline is in the Spring. Get ready.

I'm tempted to start thanking peo­ple, but the list gets too long. However, there's one thank you that's got to be expressed, and that's to Reverend Ronald Pogue and the board and congregation of Bering Memorial United Methodist Church. They gave us the space we spent the last year in. All that came to pass, came to pass there. Bering did a lot for the HCP. It’s part of our history now; the first part.