Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The MAG is Doggone Wrong!

As director of The Shoe Factory Art Co-op, I am appalled at the Memorial Art Gallery’s decision to select Brooklyn based artist Tom Otterness to design and build a sculpture of monumental proportions to be installed on the grounds of the museum’s future Centennial Sculpture Park.  This decision was made knowing the artist’s history of once “adopting” a dog from an animal shelter, chaining it to a fence, and shooting it to death in order to film the animal’s agonizing end of life for an “art” project.  I am saddened that this disturbing information did not cause the MAG to cross out Tom Otterness from their list of candidates.

Since our first exhibit last November as a grass roots art gallery, The Shoe Factory Art Co-op has had eight art shows featuring the work of more than 200 artists, about 95% of them from the Rochester region.  The Shoe Factory has been a proud neighbor of the Memorial Art Gallery, adjacent to their property on N. Goodman St.  As gallery director and promoter of local artists, I have been excited about the MAG opening their grounds by removing their iron fence and the prospect of their new sculpture park benefiting the Neighborhood of the Arts and our community as a whole. 

I am not only extremely surprised and disappointed by the MAG’s decision to hire this figurehead of artistic animal abuse, but I am also now faced with being forced to look at this giant sculpture every day and have my stomach turn. 

The MAG’s argument seems to be that Tom Otterness is now contrite about his heinous act of long ago.  They seem to think he is an all around nice guy and great to work with and should be forgiven.  Whether he is genuinely contrite or whether this happened a long time ago does not change the fact that he committed a violent act against an animal and ended its life for the sake of art. It is part of his art bio and he is forever linked to animal abuse because of it.  As an institution that teaches about art, the MAG has a great responsibility.  By showing their respect for this artist through hiring him for an expensive and important public art installation they send a strong message that anything is okay to draw attention to yourself for the sake of art and not to worry!  People will forgive and forget if you kill an animal on a creative whim! This will not impede your art career by any means!

Adding this significant and profitable public art project to Tom Otterness’s resume offends my principles and strong feelings about defending the rights of animals.  The thought of being associated to Tom Otterson in any way, shape, form, or proximity disgusts me and makes me want to move my gallery out of the Neighborhood of the Arts, or even out of Rochester entirely.  This is my reward for what I’ve been working so hard for in this neighborhood? Trying to provide underserved local artists as well as myself to have a venue to their show art?  To have this giant insult of an artist’s work looming over our neighborhood?  This is so hugely disappointing and discouraging for me.  I’m having difficulty even understanding and processing my anger and trying to put my gut feelings into words.

Other cities don’t want Tom Otterness’s art and neither do I.  I’m asking others to join me in protest and making it known to the Memorial Art Gallery and the world that we do not approve of tarnishing our city’s reputation with a permanent Tom Otterness sculpture.  We, as citizens of Rochester, are independent thinkers and will not sit back and allow the misguided decision of a few cast a dark shadow on the hard work and progress of the many who have stood up for animal rights.  We refuse as a community to send the message that we reward people who commit violence and abuse towards animals.

The Shoe Factory Art Co-op has been in the process of planning a call for artists exhibit for February 2012 entitled “Unconditional Love: Cats and Dogs”.  This exhibit will honor our feline and canine best friends through an open call for art of all mediums to be created by artists from the Rochester area and beyond.  This exhibit will coincide with the month of February’s Valentine’s Day and Spay Day and is intended to express support, love, and care for animals through art.  Tom Otterness is not invited.

Beth Brown
Director of The Shoe Factory Art Co-op

Sign Petition #1 Over 2,800 signatures from Rochester and around the world and counting!

 Sign Petition #2

Complain to the Memorial Art Gallery

Underdogs for Justice / Mad at MAG website

"Boycott the Memorial Art Gallery" Facebook Page

"Boycott the Memorial Art Gallery" Twitter

"Rochesterians Against Tom Otterness" Facebook Page

"Boycott Tom Otterness" Facebook Group


  1. A snuff videographer (albeit of a little dog) goes on to make cutsie poo public sculpture--and THIS is who gets the MAG commission for its new public art project? Horrifying!

  2. This is incredible! Was he ever presecuted for this? There are (as if we need to remind ourselves) laws against animal cruelty. Why was he not sent to the slammer for doing tha doing such a hideous thing to a poor, defenseless doggie? This I'd love to know!


    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  3. I have read some thought provoking discussions on Facebook - check out Studio 215 if you like...I still come around to this: I have no interest in what this so called artist has to say, I don't think he has ever really answered for his actions and I don't care how long ago or how old he was...he actions are the presentation of a very sick person who has no regard for anything but his own satisfaction - so, let him live with the consequences - social and artistic oblivion. I truly question whether MAG should have our community support in the future. The curator, Marjorie Searl was incredibly arrogant in her response to our concerns.

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  5. It's just BAD art too. LOOK AT IT, such a joke and he copies and dumbs down other's work like Nast and Hicks to turn it into this ugly smile face junk. He also -this year- keeps pushing his bronze mall playground slides knowing his bronze "inter active" junk burned people in CA LAST year. SO not only does he NOT care about animals he doesn't care if he continues to burn people because he just wants that cash. This is not an artist this is a CON MAN

  6. shall we boycott picasso, gaugin, carvaggio?

    how idiotic.

    censorship from a so-called artist.

  7. otterness is hardly in the same league as Picasso, Gaugin, or Caravaggio, dear.

  8. and who the hell are YOU to make that decision?

  9. Me and 2600 other people and counting.