Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Worst Artworld Power Grab

How did Maggi Battalino shut down Commerce Street Artists’ Warehouse collective? With two cops and a lawyer.

Battalino first garnered some attention this summer when she instructed two hired off duty police officers to remove everyone from the building during a cultural event of traditional Aztec food, dance and art. Families and children were pushed out of the building, as were residents Skeez 181 and Javier who organized the event. Whether she considered it or not, the surprise escalation of security at the normally relaxed art space seemed implausibly racist, and when the event organizers were evicted just weeks later they brought their story to the Houston Press.

In a short-lived court case two guys named Skeez and Javier had no shot at defeating lawyer Frank Holcomb. The suit with the office across the street from the posh Houstonian Resort took the collective agreement that had governed over a hundred Houston artists at Commerce Street since 1988 and had it declared non-binding, meaning that Battalino could evict whoever she wanted to, whenever. When the story of the violated contract was discussed at Commerce Street, Battalino canceled several meetings and said that she was above the rules that she had signed when she joined the artists in 2006.

On November 25, 2007 Maggi Battalino was removed from all elected offices of the group of artists known as Commerce Street Art Warehouse. She promptly evicted the fourteen members who had voted against her. When sued by the members Frank Holcomb defended his self-created precedent in court, and as of publication Battalino still has the $14,000 that she embezzled from the collective and refuses to give restitution or explanation.

via "Worst of Houston" Houston Free Press January 2008