I was saddened and perplexed by the abrupt resignation of Buddy Palmer as executive director of the Acadiana Arts Council (“Curtain Call ,” Jan. 23). As a member of Acadiana’s arts community, I have greatly admired and benefited from the operation of the AAC, and I attribute much of its success to his quiet leadership.
Since I am not a member of the council’s board of directors and the public has incomplete information explaining the sudden resignation, I can only assume the board and Palmer had serious disagreements over how the AAC and the Acadiana Center for the Arts should be managed. Accepting that I do not fully understand what was behind the resignation, I believe that Palmer and his dedicated staff succeeded magnificently in the most essential activity, establishing an environment conducive to and supportive of the arts, one where the artists and the general public both feel at home.
How to fund and support arts organizations is always a central and vexing problem. It’s been my observation that most arts organizations are not entirely self-supporting. To succeed, an arts organization must have both public and community support through taxes and the patronage of private individuals.
There is a vibrant arts community in our part of Louisiana, and I think it is easy to demonstrate the arts are a vital part of the cultural economy of our region. Just in the matter of education, the AAC’s various art programs presented in the local school system are a significant contribution to our children’s education.
It may be that the difficulties which caused Palmer’s resignation are the result of the scaling up of the activities of the arts council through the construction and operation of the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Perhaps it is a matter of reach exceeding grasp, and Palmer and his staff have been asked to make an ambitious transition without an adequate operating budget.
Whatever the underlying problems may be, it appears that the AAC has reached an important crossroads. If the people of Acadiana want to continue having outstanding events like the exhibition of folk art from the collection of Wyatt and Becky Collins which opened recently at the ACA, it will require a long-term commitment and cooperation among all sectors of the community.
If we overbuilt the ACA, I believe Lafayette will grow with the center and help it realize its full potential. The ACA’s main gallery, in my estimation, is a world-class exhibition space, and I like to think we can make full use of it.
One can hope that the person who replaces Palmer will possess some of his strong interest in building a community where the arts are a thriving, integral part of the way of life. I believe the people of Acadiana owe Buddy a debt of gratitude. If the board of directors could issue a statement clarifying the situation and confirm that Buddy Palmer will receive a generous severance pay for his years of service, this would help answer some of the questions people like me are asking.