Fashion Victim

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"I can no longer, in good conscience, be associated with this group of women: Ardie Evans, Ginny Springall, Bets Manera, or Maggi Winius," he wrote. "In my opinion, this group of women have continuously embarrassed the Fashion Design Curator, the Phoenix Art Museum, and the City of Phoenix. I have found the powers that be in the ACI to be self-centered and mean-spirited."

The letter goes on to note that in spite of his numerous conversations with Ballinger about problems plaguing ACI, Sheflin saw no progress in correcting them.

(New Times reached all of the women mentioned in the letter, except Winius, who did not return calls.)

Sheflin's resignation followed a long-running spat with those women about a new ACI logo, membership brochure and directory, which he was designing at the request of the current president, Marsha Till. He says Ginny Springall, the incoming president, told him that she didn't want him working on the directory anymore. Later, he says, she changed her mind and demanded the artwork.

But Sheflin was already offended. About serving another year as ACI's public relations director (a volunteer position), Sheflin says that Springall didn't return his calls. "Curiously, now there is no PR director," he says.

Sheflin also says that Ardie Evans and Maggi Winius had told him that even though he and his partner paid for their ACI memberships with one check, their names must still be listed separately in the directory -- unlike heterosexual couples.

"To me, that was discrimination," Sheflin says.

After he finally e-mailed Springall to say that he was no longer willing to design the directory, Sheflin was the unintended recipient of a reply e-mail from Bets Manera to Springall that was about him.

"Hurrah! You finally have a definitive answer from him!" it reads. "We don't need his art work, we can get just as good from someone else. Now you shouldn't have to worry about him any more!"

Interpreting the e-mail as proof of discrimination, Sheflin resigned the next day.

Manera, a Professor Emeritus of Secondary Education at ASU, says that Sheflin misunderstood her response.

"In effect, he was saying that he would not do the brochure, which he had committed to doing over a year prior. And my response, which I intended to go to the president, was, 'Whoopee, hooray . . . after a year and a half we're going to be able to get the brochure done,'" she says. "So we could move on."

Manera also says she was sorry that Sheflin chose to resign, and that although "he was a very difficult person to communicate with," she felt they were working toward the same goal of supporting the fashion design department. His sexuality did not bother her, she says.

"I had heard by the grapevine that he said I was homophobic and that I was responding because I didn't approve of his lifestyle. I didn't even know that he had a different lifestyle until all of this came up, and it didn't make any difference to me," Manera says.

She didn't bother defending herself, she says, because she didn't think Sheflin would believe her anyway.

Museum director Jim Ballinger responded to Sheflin's resignation letter privately, in a letter to Sheflin dated September 22, 2003, informing Sheflin that his letter was "one of the most vicious I have received during my tenure as director."

In a recent interview, Ballinger tells New Times that the problem over Sheflin not completing the ACI directory is the only problem he's aware of. (Sheflin remains on the Phoenix Art Museum's membership committee.) About Sheflin's resignation, Ballinger says, "I know that for the years David was involved with the Costume Institute, they were very happy to have him on board. He felt snubbed -- that's his feeling, I can't answer for him."

Ballinger says that Sheflin could not have been discriminated against because he was welcomed into the group as a board member. "Then they had, as near as I can tell, one issue that I'm aware of from a structural point of view: the brochure. And frankly, both sides have different stories. The truth is somewhere in the middle, I'm sure."

As for the issue of the exclusive opening receptions, Ballinger says such events for every exhibition at the museum are handled on a case-by-case basis, depending on the popularity of the show and the support groups involved.

Barbara Kammerzell, a former ACI president who was nominated to take the helm again in June, says she hopes to strengthen the organization by bringing in new people.

"I certainly feel like the gay community here in Phoenix is a very strong community, and I would hate to see it not be active in ACI," she says.

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig