Valerie Vadala Homer to Retire from Post as Director of Scottsdale Public Art

See also: Margaret Bruning Steps Down as Associate Director of Scottsdale Public Art See also: Scottsdale Public Art Presents Master Plan, Discusses Separation from the Scottsdale Cultural Council See also: SMoCA Introduces New Associate Curator Emily Stamey

After 25 years with the Scottsdale Cultural Council -- the last 10 as Director of Scottsdale Public Art -- local art champion Valerie Vadala Homer announced she'll be leaving her post at the end of September.

"After almost a quarter of a century with the Scottsdale Cultural Council developing, nurturing and growing Scottsdale Public Art's exemplary program, I have decided to retire in order to spend more time with my family and to explore creative pursuits," wrote Vadala Homer in a release sent out by the Cultural Council this morning.

Vadala Homer began her arts career at the Cultural Council in 1989, and the positive impact she had on the public art scene -- both in Arizona and nationally -- is rarely disputed.

"This is a person who has been a nationally award winning director," says local art historian and ASU professor Betsy Fahlman, who served on the Cultural Council with Vadala Homer and now describes herself as one of Vadala Homer's old friends. "Her leaving is a huge loss to the state and to the Cultural Council, as she set the public art program on the path to become a nationally recognized program with imaginative leadership and dedication... I just hope they recognize that public art has brought so much to this city."

During Vadala Homer's time with Scottsdale Cultural Council, Scottsdale Public art has commissioned more than 200 permanent and temporary art pieces -- including works by James Turrell, Paolo Soleri, Dennis Oppenheim, Laura Haddad, Tom Drugan, Mary Lucking, Todd Ingalls and Mary Neubauer, and John Randall Nelson (to name a few) -- that have drawn crowds, created landmarks, and formed a big part of the community's identity.

"We have achieved great milestones and set an enviable standard for quality and the future direction for public art programs across the country," she continues in the statement released this morning. "As with all public art programs, we have had challenges, but our focus has always been to position Scottsdale Public Art to be one of the strongest in the nation, an outcome I am proud of."

Vadala Homer's retirement follows the exit of Margaret Bruning, who served as Associate Director of Scottsdale Public Art until October 2011 when she stepped down and moved to California to become the Director of Civic Art for Los Angeles County Arts Commission.

At the time, SPA was working through a restructuring Master Plan and called upon Scottsdale City Council that same October to intervene on conflicts between the Scottsdale Cultural Council's leadership and a few of the public art staff members.

Internal and community questioning of management by Scottsdale Cultural Council, which oversees SPA, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Scottsdale Center for Performing Art, reached a boiling point last summer.

In June 2011, SPA withdrew a motion during a City Council meeting to talk about separating from the Cultural Council. That September, Banchs (who could not be reached for comment) denied SPA's request to apply for a Piper Trust grant and accused Valdala Homer of disloyalty in e-mails. Valdala Homer then publicly sought protection under a whistle blower policy (which protected her from retaliatory action) after being issued a gag order by the Cultural Council.

During that same September, Scottsdale's Vice Mayor Bob Littlefield called for an audit of the Cultural Council to make sure city money that was allotted for public art wasn't being used for other purposes.

For the last year, word from Cultural Council, Scottsdale Public Art, SMoCA, and the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts has been much quieter. Staff agreed during City Council meetings that too much was being "aired out" in public, and a new Cultural Council-formed Master Plan Task Force took over conversations.

In 2012, SMoCA named a new curator after Cassandra Coblentz left in 2011 and brought Tania Katan on board to oversee programming in SMoCA Lounge, SPA continued its INFLUX program, and Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts continued its performance season.

According to Scottsdale Cultural Council President Mike Miller, Valdala Homer will continue until the end of September, and the organization will conduct a "comprehensive search" to find a replacement. In the meantime, Dick Hayslip, Scottsdale Cultural Council trustee and former associate general manager at Salt River Project, will serve as the interim director of Scottsdale Public Art and work with Donna Isaac, who replaced Margaret Bruning earlier this year.

Stay tuned for more details ...

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