hudgens prize hanky-panky?

i’ve been yelled at, recently, about my skepticism regarding the mega-huge $50k single prize for a georgia artist that was offered at the hudgens center in gwinnett county. my yeller thought i was too suspicious and went to great lengths to prove to me that the contest was on the up-and-up.

it’s true that the panel was filled with top-flight academics, but the identity of the donor was a secret, and tho they picked 5 finalists, i was disappointed by their choices, because all the finalists were new-york-museum-mfa-art-paper quality, which means the art is inscrutable and the pictures not very attractive or accessible. the kind of art that galleries love and the man on the street scratches his head at. and i’m not the kind of person who thinks that the experts are right. in general, the experts tend to be full of shit.

so what appears in my mailbox the other day but a plea for an emergency donation to cover an unexpected $30k shortfall in their annual budget. how could that have happened? why, by not getting the desired number of artists to fork over $50 bucks in order to be rejected for the mammoth first prize.

here’s one of the articles published about it.

Gwinnett’s Hudgens Arts Center faces emergency cash shortfall

11:54 pm October 1, 2010, by Howard Pousner

Late Friday evening, the Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts’ board chairman sent out an e-mail to supporters that dropped a bomb: Gwinnett’s biggest arts center is facing an “emergency” cash shortfall and needs to raise $30,000 in 30 days.

Stan Hall’s letter notes, “The biggest need the Hudgens faces today is an immediate influx of cash to sustain the organization at its present level while the acquisition of long-term funding can be achieved.”

The letter does not specify what led to the shortfall at the nonprofit, saying obliquely, “Under normal circumstances, the Hudgens would be in great shape … but these aren’t normal times.”

The Hudgens Center (formerly the Gwinnett Arts Council) dates to 1981. It moved into a newly constructed facility in 1993, a 14,000-square- foot building adjoined by the 28,000-square-foot Al Weeks Sculpture Garden. In 2000, 20,000 square feet of galleries, classrooms and performance space was added.

The community arts center, located at of 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Building 300, in Duluth, offers a multitude of classes for adults and children. The Hudgens also mounts four to six major visual arts exhibitions yearly that draw metro Atlantans from beyond Gwinnett’s county lines. Its next show, opening Oct. 12, is “Works by John Lawrence,” by the noted Georgia photographer and director of the Lamar Dodd Art Center at LaGrange College.

This year, the center won attention for launching the $50,000 Hudgens Prize, to be awarded to a single Georgia visual artist, with the winner from among five recently announced finalists to be named on Nov. 30.

Hall’s letter does not suggest that the Hudgens will have to close its doors, but solicits help to weather a cash shortfall it terms as “temporary.”

“Solicitations to major donors and foundations have been made but may be some time in coming,” Hall writes.

The economic downturn has been difficult for metro Atlanta arts groups of all sizes, with organizations including the Atlanta Opera cutting performances to cut costs and even Midtown’s Woodruff Arts Center (parent organization of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, High Museum of Art and Alliance Theatre) experiencing a rare decline in annual corporate giving.

Donations can be made via 770-623-6002 or

Here’s the full text of the letter from Hudgens’ board chair Stan Hall:

A Letter from the Chairman of the Board

It is the best of times and the worst of times.

The Hudgens is rising like a Phoenix yet we are faced with an urgent financial challenge in the midst of great success.

In the last two years we have worked diligently to reorganize and strengthen The Hudgens internally and externally. With your donation, we can continue to make great strides.

The board structure has been revised, the finances evaluated and analyzed, and there is a long term strategic plan in place. We have doubled class enrollment, expanded membership 600%, and increased volunteer support. The Hudgens has developed strong and sustainable partnerships with schools, museums, libraries and others that will enrich the communities we live and work in through strong arts education and programming. We are developing the 3L Project which is an integrative art/math program for 6th graders in Gwinnett. This pilot program will introduce children to art with The Hudgens being front and center as the arts leader in the community.

In order to help support and encourage Georgia artists we are awarding The Hudgens Prize, a $50,000 prize to a single Georgia visual artist which will be announced November 30th. The five finalists have been selected from the 396 entries and will have exhibitions in the future. This extraordinary opportunity will help encourage Georgia artists and catapult the Hudgens Center for the Arts into state wide and even national news. It is important to note that the prize and additional support funds for the events surrounding it have come from a single anonymous donor. No operating or program funds have been used to accomplish the amazing event.

Under normal circumstances, The Hudgens would be in great shape to continue and advance its leadership in the Georgia Arts community. But these aren’t normal times. The biggest need the Hudgens faces today is an immediate influx of cash to sustain the organization at its present level while the acquisition of long term funding can be achieved. Solicitations to major donors and foundations have been made but may be some time in coming.

We ask you to respond to this emergency by donating now.

Our goal is to raise $30,000 in 30 days. Your gift of support can help us weather this temporary cash shortfall and continue the great path the Hudgens is on. Please respond today, by mail or phone, or visit our website by October 30.

For nearly 30 years the Hudgens Center for the Arts has been known for innovative experiences which bring art lovers, leaders and learners together through quality programs and exhibits. Many of you have been there for us so many times in the past and many of you are new to our family. Please join us, as we all come together. With your generous support, by contributing to the 30 in 30 campaign, we will continue to make a difference in our community and in the lives of children, the next generation of art lovers, leaders and learners.

Stan Hall
Chairman of the Board

a friend of mine wrote a comment to this article.  here’s his response:

Dear Mr. Pousner:

Life affords us so many amusements if we pay attention. Your article about the Hudgens Center for the Arts attempting to cover a $30,000.00 short fall in 30 days was just such a moment.

Two or three months ago a friend forwarded me an application to compete for the Hudgens Prize. Both of us are lifetime professional artists and neither of us had ever heard of such a large sum being offered to artists especially by a Georgia organization. We debated the origin of all that money and who this Hudgens person might be. The entry fee was $50.00 with all of the usual rules and restrictions. Even though the theme of the competition violated my number one rule of never to enter a competition that lacked a spread of awards; (early in my career I took second place in a national competition that had a large first prize and only took home a red ribbon) for a sum that large I took the chance along with my friend and as it turned out over 400 of my fellow artists.

Your article explains the origin of the prize money. The Arts Center expected to receive 1000 applications -or more- which would have funded the competition and put their organization on the map as a generous benefactor of the arts.  However, there was no benefactor and as usual we artists were funding ourselves. Sweet irony that the Gwinnett Arts Center is now having to raise the money they should have had in escrow before announcing the competition.

Interestingly my friend, who knows good art when he sees it, Googled the work of the the five front runners for the prize and said he would not be going to the show. Sincerely, (name withheld to avoid persecution by fundamentalist art professionals)

so, even tho i felt properly chastised for my skepticism after i was yelled at for having little faith, i am right back to my conviction that this contest was all smoke and mirrors, trying to legitimize poor little georgia in the eyes of the international art world.  this is always a bad move, as new york and london just laugh at attempts by country cousins to ape the sophistry of the big city.  and now it’s gotten them into trouble, as they’ve promised $50k and have to come up with it out of the pockets of the community thinking they’re supporting the arts instead of supporting badly thought-out ideas.

to my yeller, please forgive my bad judgment in bitching and moaning about the stupidity of arts professionals left off their leashes.

4 thoughts on “hudgens prize hanky-panky?

  1. Hello . . . your “yeller” here.

    In my 40-plus years as a professional artist, making a rather comfortable living with my paintbrush and my wits, I have developed a theory based upon the many artists I have known or encountered: There seems to be a direct correlation between talent and character. The more talented and productive seem to have a higher degree of kindness, generosity and grace while the lesser tend toward rude, defensive, suspicious and petty behavior. The consistency of my theory has amazed me.

    Regarding the letter posted herein from your “friend”, a reasoned and honest answer has been issued and your “friend” has responded in a manner which proves him to be a gentleman with much grace. My theory is intact.

    I question the motive for your continuing attack on the Hudgens and the Hudgens Prize. You stated you had not entered the competition yet have published your unfounded speculation with the fervor of a major stakeholder — that seems a little irrational to me. I didn’t “yell” but commented to you in an honest attempt to defend an organization and a project that I am proud to be part of. Your sarcastic plea to me for forgiveness falls into the category of rude, defensive, suspicious and petty in my opinion. Your “conviction” is totally false speculation and a little research on your part should have been in order — you have reduced your posting on this subject to nothing more than vicious, possibly harmful rumor.

    • i’m sorry you took my response the way you did, but i stand by my suspicions. you accuse me of not researching before i posted, but you’re incorrect, because i did a lot of research, and found out that the identity of the donor is indeed anonymous and withheld, and that – right there – is justification for any suspicions i may have.

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