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come back to Smithville “several times” leaving notes on Tolbert’s door and asking a neighbor of his whereabouts:. “I never got any response,” she said. Ultimately, she drove back to Tolbert’s house, loaded the tombstones and transported them to Austin for the exhibit. Turner left a business card with a neighbor and wrote on the back, “I have borrowed two of Mr. Tolbert’s grave stones. I will return theni or buy them,” without indicating when the pieces would be returned, certainly without having settled on a fair price with their maker. The neighbor who holds that card, Estella Chase, said she hasn’t “lived in Smithville long. I’m from Bastrop.” Chase did not even know Tolbert’s first name. Neither did Turner. Nor did Turner believe it necessary to acquire such a basic piece of information before proceeding to display Tolbert’s work. TFR director Pat Jasper says now that Turner’s decision was “probably a poor ‘ split-second judgment.” As for the exhibit’s scant labelling of Tolbert’s work what’s his first name. I mean, what’s the problem? The label’s being changed. It now says ‘James Tolbert.’ ” \(It will need to be changed still again: Tolbert’s first Even when the curators get Tolbert’s name right,. the following difficulties may not be so simple to resolve. Kay Turner came onto Tolbert’s property without permission and removed things of value without his consent. The representatives of Texas Folklife Resources failed to document this artist’s Work as their grants from NEA and the Texas Commission on the Arts required. They failed even to learn whether Tolbert fit their folkloric criteria. They did not secure a signed loan agreement before taking and exhibiting the tombstones. The uninvited and unauthorized removal of Bill Tolbert’s tombstones is not the only case in which the folklorists have overplayed their role. In the course of their survey and the subsequent curation of “Handmade and Heartfelt,” Turner, Jasper, and their colleague Betsy Peterson \(also employed at Texas to Jasper, “about twenty pieces” from artists for free. Most, if not all of these works, now in the private collections of the three women, were exhibited at “Handmade,” to the exclusion of other pieces the curators borrowed but chose So arises an issue which Jasper and Turner, as folklorists, find somewhat tawdry to confront: that in addition to their intrinsic values as works of art or craft or renderings of “traditional life,” the art works of the folk are commanding more and more at market. At least one Dallas gallery and another in Houston now specialize in folk art. Leslie Muth, owner of the latter business, said, “Folk art seems to be catching the rage in Texas.” She noted that Southby’s had recently announced a sale of “just one collector’s folk art. You know Southby’s wouldn’t be bothering with it if he didn’t have some valuable pieces.” On the one hand, Kay Turner says part of Texas Folklife Resources’ duty is to “create a link” between artists and a buying public; in fact, the folklorists pride themselves on having encouraged before “Handmade and Heartfelt” opened. Jasper said she had introduced one basketmaker to a Dallas gallery, and Turner confirmed that she has done “a considerable amount of appraising.” Yet when the acquisitors were themselves, Jasper, Turner, and Peterson have accepted pieces of value without paying for them. Nine other works on exhibit were labeled as belonging to the non-profit Texas Folklife Resources; eight of these were decorated breads. We find in Jasper’s, Turner’s, and Peterson’s private collections the baskets, paintings, and sculptures. The values for such works have been “priced up” by the curators; the pieces’ inclusion in a museum show certainly will tend to increase their values further. On this issue, Pat Jasper, the director of Texas Folklife Resources, retreats to the language of social science: “Folk art is used typically as gifting.” Of course, all artists make presents to their friends, especially artists who lack the means to give storebought presents; it’s likely that sculptors and painters who’ve never estimated a cash market for their creations would part with their works even more liberally, without expecting money in return. But is it appropriate for folklorists, who are being paid by the state and federal governments, to accept such gifts from artists whom they’ve met only once or twice? Jasper answers, “It’s really important to realize that we’ve established relationships with people, and they’re either responding to their relationship with us or to the fact that what we’re doing is very imporant.” Exactly. Most of the artists represented in “Handmade and Heartfelt” had never been represented in a museum show; many had never sold their work. Thus the folklorists, arriving with schooled appreciation, their cameras and tape recorders, and the promise of state-wide exhibitions, held a steep leverage. It’s appalling that they used that power to such personal advantage, and that, afterward,. they would make a folk artist’s proclivity to make “gifts” the justification for their own actions. Jasper said, “We carve along folklore ethics, not museum ethics.” From the folklorists’ performance as guest curators here, it seems the two functions diverge significantly \(certainly the code of museum ethics does not permit curators to accept art works as personal But if Jasper and Turner were to seek the role of curators, shouldn’t they have versed themselves, even generally, in the conventions of museums? Shouldn’t they at least have read the contract they asked artists to sign? Jasper admits that she didn’t note until “about two-thirds of the way through” the procurement process that Laguna Gloria’s loan contract claims a commission for the museum on all sales during the exhibit. To insure that the artists received the full prices they’d asked, Jasper sought Laguna Gloria’s indulgence. She said that the museum has agreed to waive its normal commission for this exhibit, and that a “verbal agreement” to this effect will countermand the signed contracts. The curators further neglected to make any provision for the artists’ payment, should works sell. One piece, made by Smithville sculptor Ed Martin, was procured for the exhibit and never shown. He, disappointed as he arrived Bill Tolbert, 1984. \(Photo not to display. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17