Art of the Deal

Art of the Deal

Spread it around, MFA: Congratulations on an excellent article about Peter Marzio's bonus ["What's Wrong with This Picture?" by Jennifer Mathieu, January 17]. There is, however, one point that you neglected to mention. If the MFA had hired a consulting company, the work (and pay) would have been spread among many employees in the company.

But while the work was undoubtedly spread around the MFA staff, only Marzio is getting credit for working hard, and only Marzio is reaping the substantial financial rewards. It is appalling that Marzio and the board of directors failed to reward the efforts of the less visible, but no less important, museum staff.

Name withheld by request

Worth the bonus: I just celebrated my 25th anniversary at the MFA, and I love the museum and love working here. As I told Peter Marzio many years ago, I will stay as long as he is the director, although I have had plenty of opportunities to leave. He is one of the rare directors who remains a scholar while supporting the dissemination of art to a wide audience. He also knows how to read a budget and to raise the funds necessary to maintain both scholarly and popular programs as well as pay the staff to implement those programs.

Although your article speaks of his successful programs to bring art to the larger public, you ignore his high standards of scholarship and the extraordinary growth in size, quality and breadth of the collection.

If you feel the need to attack, why attack those of us who have to ask for money for public programs and the ways we feel are most effective to raise those sums? Why not attack the systems that keep the hands of nonprofit professionals always upward and open?

Our museum's growth is owing to our trustees' dedication and to Peter Marzio's leadership in his 20 years here. Regarding his bonus, I think it more accurate to say that the trustees were rewarding 20 years of dedication and labor and, more important, the vision that has directed his energy and efforts.

Anne Tucker, Wortham curator

Flush with cash: I loved the fact that you put that article up in everyone's faces. (I work at the museum and cannot use my name because I'd be fired.) If you go to any salary finder, you will see that the museum pays about $2,000 below the least amount we are supposed to get.

What I find appalling is to have spent $40 million on this extraordinary building that cut into our budget and cost us our raises just to witness the numerous failures that occur at least once every two weeks. Gallery doors fall apart, and toilets in the women's restroom overflow at least once a week because of the plumbing. And the elevators get stuck between the only two floors they have to go to with guests inside them.

We draw in large numbers of guests, all at the required donation of $5 each. What I want to know is if all the art is donated or purchased with grants, where is all the money going?! Who was in charge of the money?

Name withheld by request

Peter's no Conan: Peter Marzio has improved Houston's art scene immensely. Thank you, Peter, for bringing Houston close to New York, Paris and other world-class cities with histories and classic art. He has brought the museum's endowment up from $25 million to $430 million -- you do the math. The new Beck building is awesome and another Houston flagship.

I moved from Chicago in 1981, and the Museum of Fine Art was a small respite for the art withdrawal I had to overcome. Chicago's Art Institute and various other institutions and venues were hard to keep up with because of their magnitude and scope.

I made a point of going to hear Peter talk next to the Menil museum in support of the endowment for the arts during the Republican National Convention. He was convincing and charismatic with a tenacious message: "Don't be a barbarian!" Support the arts, back away from commercial drivel. Don't be a barbarian.

Percy J. Thompson

Grim Reality

A violent situation: On behalf of formerly battered women and those who work at domestic violence agencies, I thank you for writing such a wonderful feature story on Dr. Michael Brown ["The Good Doctor," by Tim Fleck, January 24]. You captured the reality as only his wife and those who understand her situation know it. Congratulations, Mr. Fleck. I will look forward to more articles written by you.

Donna Trahan

Hale to the Chief

PAC it in: Thanks to Mr. Hale ["Grassroots Campaign," by Wendy Grossman, January 10]. But I wish more Americans would speak up about using pot in the past, even those holding office now. As for there not being enough pot smokers in your city to elect Mr. Hale, I would like to remind him that he can "get by with a little help from my friends."

That is, if Mr. Hale will get in touch with They now have a PAC that might throw a little green his way.

Buster Jones
Albany, Georgia

Pot shots: A skeptic of Stephen Hale's call to decriminalize marijuana is quoted as saying, "I don't personally think there's enough stoners out there to get somebody elected." Anyone who pays taxes has a vested interest in reforming marijuana laws. In 2000, there were 734,497 arrests for marijuana in this country, 646,042 for possession alone.

For a drug that has never been shown to cause an overdose death, the allocation of resources used to enforce marijuana laws is outrageous.

Taxing and regulating marijuana is a cost-effective alternative to the $50 billion drug war. Decriminalization acknowledges the social reality of marijuana use and frees users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal records. What's really needed is a regulated market with enforceable age controls. Right now kids have an easier time buying pot than beer.

The reefer madness myths have long been discredited, forcing the drug-war gravy train to spend millions of tax dollars on politicized research, trying to find harm in a relatively harmless plant. The direct experience of millions of Americans contradicts the sensationalistic myths used to justify marijuana prohibition.

Robert Sharpe
The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation
Washington, D.C.

Get Some Class

Administrators are out of touch: The privilege to teach is an honor that I take seriously. Wendy Grossman's article ["Trip Out," January 17] is just a sample of poor decisions made by educational administrators and management. They have been so far removed from a classroom and daily teacher responsibilities that they don't know what it takes to get young students "hooked" on reading.

A teacher has to be creative and entertaining to hold the attention of students. The field trip plans had encouraged some students to go out and buy the 500-page novel and actually read it. That's a satisfaction that only a teacher can completely appreciate. How disappointing to then be told much too late that the trip had no educational value and would be canceled. The superintendent should be held at fault. Those in positions of educational management and administration would benefit greatly if they were to be teachers for at least a week during the school year, in order to keep them in the "reality" mode about what the teachers face every day.

F.F. Davis


Lay off the vegans: Maybe you guys are just catering to the popular culture by allowing your sneering food critic to bash vegetarian food ad nauseam ["Fat City," by Robb Walsh, January 17], or maybe you just don't read his columns (I don't blame you). Whatever, his shit about how worthless vegetarian food is is tired and dumb-assed.

Don't you guys realize that vegetarianism is more popular among your core readership than it is for the average population of this Darwinist smog patch? Figure it out! Get someone that maybe is vegetarian to do the vegetarian restaurant reviews, eh? Also, why don't you send a vegan to a steak house to get his honest (truthful) opinions of what he sees? Robb Walsh's thoughts on my food are for shit. I understand he feels the same way about mine. I could give a damn.

Greg Barker

Playing the Bars

South Park's problems: First of all, this guy South Park Mexican has still not admitted to his wrong, as if society will just forget [Racket, by John Nova Lomax, January 31 and October 11]. I tell you what, I've been to prison and paid for my mistake. This guy needs to do some time. He is still out here performing as if nothing has happened.

I'm no hater; I only think the crime he did was not called for. In prison, if he wants a piece of ass, it will all be there for him, for this time he will be the bitch.

Hope Jimenez


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