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An Open Letter to:

Mr. Kevyn Orr, Emergency Manager
City of Detroit
2 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48226

Dear Mr. Orr:

On behalf of the College Art Association that represents over 14,000 art historians, artists, curators, art educators and art conservators we express our shock and concern upon reading The Detroit Free Press article today, “DIA’s Collection Could Face Sell-Off to Satisfy Detroit’s Creditors.”

The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the greatest art museums in the country that represents the finest creative achievements throughout the history of the world. The DIA is not only a great treasure but one of the very few places in Detroit where all people can enjoy, contemplate and study art and its many related concepts. The DIA has developed itself as a public educational institution and has been a leader in the profession at engaging with all segments of the community.

The CAA adheres to the principle that public art museums are held in the public trust and as such are to be protected for the public good. It also supports the Alliance of Museums Code of Ethics and the Association of Art Museum Directors’ Policy on Deaccessioning that states that the sale of art museum collections to support operating expenses is unethical.

We appeal to your higher judgment in assessing the true value of the DIA and its critical role for the public good of the city, state and the country in deliberating on the future of this great collection.

Sincerely yours,

Anne Collins Goodyear

Linda Downs
Executive Director

August Update

On August 26, 2013, the Executive Committee of the CAA Board of Directors has agreed to promote this petition, initiated by Jeffrey Hamburger of Harvard University, regarding the potential sale of the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Sequestration: What It Means for Museums

posted by Linda Downs

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) sent the following email on March 5, 2013.

Sequestration: What It Means for Museums

On Friday, March 1, $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts were triggered, a process commonly called “sequestration,” which is now affecting nearly every agency throughout the government. For most agencies that support museums, (including IMLS, NEA, NEH and NSF) this means a five percent cut in their annual funding, including a reduction in grant-making activities for the year ahead.

While Congress may still undo or restructure sequestration, federal agencies are now determining how to absorb these severe cuts. The National Endowment for the Humanities expects to make fewer new awards at lower award amounts. The National Science Foundation is expecting to award 1,000 fewer new research grants.

“The Alliance will continue to fight for federal museum funding in the days and weeks ahead, but we must be sure the current decrease in federal grants is not compounded by a reduction in charitable giving incentives,” said Alliance President Ford W. Bell. “I was pleased to submit testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee last month, but members of Congress also need to hear from their constituents about how charitable giving limitations would affect museums.”

While Congress’s inability to reach agreement on spending issues has complicated and slowed the federal budget process this year, interest is also picking up on comprehensive tax reform. The House committee with jurisdiction over the tax code held a hearing on February 14 on proposals to reform charitable contribution tax incentives, many of which could have a devastating impact on giving to museums and other nonprofits.

Do your legislators know how important charitable giving is to your museum? Tell them right now.

P.S. If you appreciate these Advocacy Alerts, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our year-round advocacy efforts.

Recent CAA Advocacy

posted by Christopher Howard

CAA’s advocacy efforts this year addressed a wide range of issues of critical importance to the visual arts, from the necessity of artists to have affordable health-insurance options, to the ethical treatment of animals in works of art, to the ins and outs of copyright law and museum practices. Below is a summary of eleven issues to which CAA has been committed during the past twelve months.

In June 2011, CAA filed an amicus brief in the case of Golan v. Holder, which the United States Supreme Court began hearing in October. The issue raised in Golan v. Holder is whether Congress, after enacting the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994, could legally remove tens of thousands—if not millions—of foreign works from the public domain and bring them back into copyright. Consistent with the First Amendment, the brief argued that those works should remain freely available. On January 18, 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s previous decision, 6–2. In short, foreign works formerly in the public domain in the US can have their copyrighted status reinstated.

In December 2011, CAA signed onto a statement from the Association of Art Museum Directors that opposed the pending sale of a fifty percent stake in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern American and European Art at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Since 2005 the school had been attempting to sell the collection, donated by Georgia O’Keeffe (who specified that it never be sold or broken up). “Such an action,” stated the letter, “would violate a core professional standard of AAMD and of the museum field, which prohibit[s] the use of funds from the sale of works of art for purposes other than building an institution’s collection.” Nevertheless, the Tennessee Supreme court did not block the sale to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, on April 25, 2012. The university and museum will share the collection on a three-year rotating basis, with the museum helping to conserve the collection.

CAA board and staff members represented the organization at two events this spring in Washington, DC: Anne Collins Goodyear, then-incoming board president, and Linda Downs, CAA executive director and chief executive officer, attended Humanities Advocacy Day in March; and Judith Thorpe, an outgoing board member, and Helen Bayer, CAA marketing and communications associate, went to Arts Advocacy Day in April. The goal of both days was to support continued federal funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, and to articulate to Congress the vital importance of the humanities and the arts in higher education. The National Humanities Alliance’s annual meeting coincided with Humanities Advocacy Day. Goodyear and Downs have offered a summary of this important event.

At the request of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), CAA investigated the use of homing pigeons in Jon Rubin’s interactive artwork, Thinking about Flying (2012), on view this year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado. The piece invites museum visitors to take home a bird, placed in a cardboard box, for a day before releasing it, so that it may fly back to the museum. CAA confirmed the humanitarian treatment of the birds by the artist and museum and notified PETA of the findings.

In April, CAA investigated the complaint raised by several artists who lent work to the 2010 World Festival of Black Artists and Cultures in Senegal that was not returned due to a dispute with an art shipper in Dakar. CAA determined that the situation did not need the organization’s assistance.

Michael Fahlund, CAA deputy director, testified on behalf of the organization at an oversight hearing convened by New York City’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations on January 25, 2012, regarding increasing access to affordable health insurance for artists. Even though CAA is an international organization, its office is in the state of New York; presently the healthcare industry is regulated state by state. Fahlund proposed that CAA be given “employer status” in relation to its members living in New York State in order to provide health-insurance options for them. The committee’s discussions are ongoing.

CAA monitored a federal bill, the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), that was introduced in the US House of Representatives on December 16, 2011, by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and cosponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)— chairman and member, respectively, of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The legislation would prohibit federal agencies from mandating free access to scholarly articles submitted to a scientific or scholarly publication without the consent of the publisher. This act primarily addresses science and technology publications but, if enacted, could affect art and humanities publications as well. Many learned societies who are publishers oppose the legislation, and CAA board members have begun discussing the issue and are paying close attention to the legislation’s development.

Representing CAA, Fahlund contributed his expertise to a National Coalition Against Censorship committee that developed Museum Best Practices for Managing Controversy, published in May. The document offers guidance for institutions to turn controversial situations into learning experiences for their public. The committee comprised representatives from the American Association of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of Art Museum Curators, Columbia University, Arizona State University, the University of Washington, and the New School. CAA’s Museum Committee is reviewing the guideline and will present it for adoption at the CAA board meeting on October 28, 2012.

Fahlund also worked with a liability insurance broker, Herbert L. Jamison and Co. LLC, and Philadelphia Insurance Companies, and with two CAA members, Barbara Buhler Lynes and Nancy Mowll Mathews, to establish comprehensive, affordable liability insurance for art historians and artists who authenticate works of art. Such insurance would help defend against a damaging financial loss that could occur from alleged mistakes or negligence. CAA does not administer the insurance but acts as a referral to the insurance company; in a brief article from this past January, Fahlund offers helpful loss-prevention tips for the art professional to avoid potential workplace liabilities.

Last month CAA signed onto a letter from the Association of Art Museum Directors sent to Congress, urging legislators to pass the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (S. 2212), a proposed law that would shield a loaned work of art from a non-US collection from being seized by anyone with a claim to legal ownership while the art is on display in the country. According to the letter, the US has “long provided the crucial legal protection that helps make loans from foreign museums possible” through the Department of State, until a 2004–8 lawsuit involving heirs of Kasimir Malevich and the City of Amsterdam weakened those protections. The House passed the bill (H.R. 4086), which the Senate is now debating.

As a member of the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, a group that addresses workforce issues in higher education, CAA helped to prepare and administer a 2010 survey on contingent-faculty issues. The results have been tabulated and will be distributed soon. More than one thousand CAA members filled out the survey. [June 20 update: the survey results have been published.]

Founded as an advocate for the visual arts in higher education, CAA actively engages matters of public policy, litigation, and activism at the local, state, federal, and international levels. For further information, visit the Advocacy section of the website. If you have questions or have advocacy issues you would like to bring to the attention of the CAA board, please contact Anne Collins Goodyear, CAA president, and Linda Downs, CAA executive director and chief executive officer, at

The American Association of Museums (AAM) sent the following email on June 15, 2012.

Senate Committee Approves IMLS Funding; Congress Needs to Hear from You

This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill to fund the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). While the bill would sustain the current $30.8 million for the Office of Museum Services for FY13, this is just the first step in the appropriations process.

The bill faces an uncertain future because it includes funding for implementation of the health care reforms enacted in 2010. In a preview of the difficult budgetary decisions to come, Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby said, “In this grave fiscal climate we should not fund programs we know are going to force our country deeper into debt…. We should not mortgage our children’s future for non-essential, unproven programs.”

AAM President Ford W. Bell urged continued advocacy. “At a time when every federal program is being scrutinized, Members of Congress need to hear from constituents about how IMLS funds are essential to museums and how successful they are in serving our communities,” he said. “Participating in ‘Invite Congress to Visit Your Museum Week’ is a great opportunity to demonstrate our value.”

The bill would provide $158.8 billion in discretionary funding, a $2 billion increase over FY12 levels, which is in line with President Obama’s FY13 budget request. The bill also includes $549 million (level funding) for the Race to the Top initiative, President Obama’s signature competitive grant program, which rewards states for making changes in elementary and secondary education.

Let your Members of Congress know how important funding for the Office of Museum Services is to you!

Invite Congress to Visit Your Museum.

Visit to learn more about AAM’s Advocacy for Museums.

CAA is the principal national and international voice of the academic and professional community in the visual arts; the organization was founded on the principle of advocating the visual arts and actively continues that engagement today (see The Eye, The Hand, The Mind: 100 Years of the College Art Association, edited by Susan Ball). The principal goal of CAA advocacy is to address issues of critical importance in the visual arts that benefit artists, art historians, and museum workers and to inform the public.

CAA specifically advocates change and improvements in these areas:

  • Government funding for the arts and humanities
  • Freedom of expression and against censorship
  • Intellectual-property rights
  • Preservation of the artistic integrity of public spaces
  • Higher education and technologies to facilitate distance learning
  • Philanthropy for the arts and humanities
  • Tax policy as it applies to CAA members
  • Conditions in universities, museums, and other workplace environments of CAA members

CAA cosponsors and regularly sends representatives to the annual Arts, Humanities, and Museum Advocacy Days in Washington, DC. Email petitions are requested of CAA members throughout the year when legislation is being considered in Congress related to specific issues. This year’s advocacy message to Capitol Hill focused on maintaining the funding levels of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Recent issues related to freedom of expression and censorship on which CAA has taken a public position include:

  • Incarceration of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei
  • Removal of David Wojnarowicz’s video from the Hide/Seek exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery
  • Proposed removal of the John T. Biggers mural at Texas Southern University
  • Removal of the Department of Labor mural in Augusta, Maine
  • Adrian Piper’s placement on the Transportation Security Administration Watch List
  • Supreme Court amicus brief in support of petition for review regarding artists whose vehicular artwork was removed by the City of San Marcos, Texas
  • Supreme Court amicus brief asserting the unconstitutionality of a federal law criminalizing the depiction of animal cruelty in United States v. Stevens

In addition, CAA has been involved in intellectual-property rights, as described below.

Orphan Works

CAA participated actively in US Copyright Office proceedings to study orphan works and, thereafter, actively supported legislation—yet to be passed by Congress—that would require users to conduct work-by-work, due-diligence searches to identify and find the copyright holder. If that search failed to identify or find the copyright holder, the work could be used without the threat of injunctive relief or statutory damages. If the copyright holder emerges after the work has been researched and used, he or she could still sue the user for copyright infringement, but a losing defendant would only be required to pay the normal license fee; the proposed legislation includes a safe harbor for museums that removed works expeditiously. It is unclear if any orphan-works legislation will be reintroduced in this or subsequent Congresses. After the March 2011 decision of Judge Denny Chin of the US Court of Appeals Second Circuit rejecting the settlement of the Google Books litigation, CAA’s counsel was approached by Public Knowledge (“a D.C. public interest group working to defend citizen’s rights in the emerging digital culture”) asking if CAA remained interested in orphan-works legislation and, if so, to sign a letter to Congress requesting that orphan-works legislation be reintroduced.

Cost for Reproducing Images of Artwork in Museum Collections

In recent member surveys, one of the most critical issues articulated was the high cost of reproduction rights of works in museum collections that are not under copyright. CAA has requested formal attention to this issue from the Association of Art Museum Directors.

Fair Use

CAA’s Committee on Intellectual Property, chaired by Doralyn Pines and Christine Sundt, is reviewing and proposing revisions to the Intellectual Property in the Arts section of the CAA website. The committee will also review a draft set of fair-use guidelines being prepared by the Art Law Committee of the New York Bar Association and the Visual Resources Association; after such review, the CAA Board of Directors may be asked to endorse the updated guidelines.

Extension of Copyright Term

CAA signed a Supreme Court amicus brief regarding the retroactive application of the extension of copyright term in Eldred v. Ashcroft. The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 was challenged with the original complaint filed on January 11, 1999. CAA was an amicus when the case was brought to the Supreme Court, which held on January 15, 2003, that the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 was constitutional (see the March 2003 CAA News).

Artist-Museum Partnership Act

CAA actively supports the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which establishes fair-market-value tax deductions for works given by artists instead of the current limitation to cost of materials. Information on the progress of the Artist-Museum Partnership Act is published in the weekly CAA News email, posted in the Advocacy section of the website, and communicated to the Services to Artists Committee. If and when a bill is subject to a vote in Congress, CAA will urge all members, affiliated societies, and committees to contact their representatives.

Coalition on the Academic Workforce

CAA is a member of the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, which recently prepared a survey of contingent faculty. Over 30,000 individuals completed the questionnaire—many were CAA members—and the results will be tabulated this spring. Information on all aspect of working conditions is included in this survey and will assist in informing future standards and practices. CAA’s Professional Practices Committee and Education Committee are kept informed of the survey and its tabulation and will analyze the results and determine action to take that will benefit CAA members. Contingent faculty is currently responsible for 76 percent of teachers in American colleges and universities. CAA supports equitable hiring, representation, and benefits for this growing segment of the faculty.

How It Works

How does advocacy work at CAA? CAA both monitors advocacy issues and is approached by universities, colleges, organizations, and individuals who raise issues via CAA’s counsel, officers and members of the board, executive director, deputy director, affiliated societies, or other partner organizations such as the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Association of Art Museum Directors, or the associations of the American Council of Learned Societies. If an issue warrants action and is consistent with the advocacy policy, CAA will prepare a response. Depending on the importance and complexity of the issue, CAA will prepare an email, letter of support, or statement; cosign a letter with other organizations; or, in exceptional circumstances when legal action is required, prepare an amicus brief or support proposed legislation. All advocacy issues brought to CAA’s attention are reviewed by the counsel and the executive director. Consistent with the organization’s Advocacy Policy, the Executive Committee and, if necessary, partner organizations also review the issues. Important matters where legal action is involved will be brought to the board.

At the February 2011 board meeting, Andrea Kirsh, then vice president for external affairs, volunteered to work as CAA’s advocacy coordinator. She has since actively assisted in carrying out research and drafting letters and statements. CAA members who would like to be informed of the organization’s advocacy efforts—and spread the word—can send an email to

The Institute of Museum Ethics at Seton Hall and the Institute of Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School will hold “Hide/Seek: Museums, Ethics, and the Press,” a public conversation about current ethical challenges in the field, on Saturday, April 9, 2011. Registration begins at 9:30 AM, and the conference takes place 10:00 AM–4:00 PM. Lunch will be served.

Participants will examine the controversy surrounding the recent National Portrait Gallery exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, highlighting the ethical issues involved, discussing the role of print and electronic media and other instances where museums’ ethical practices are interrogated, and exploring related issues such as artists’ rights.

Rutgers University in Newark is the host: 190 University Ave, Newark, NJ. Registration is free, but space is limited. Visit the conference website for more details and to register.

The newly created Modern Art Iraq Archive (MAIA) is part of a long-term effort to document and preserve the modern artistic works from the Iraqi Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad, most of which were lost and damaged in the fires and looting during the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003. As the site shows, little is known about many works, including their current whereabouts and their original location in the museum. The lack of documents about modern Iraqi art prompted the growth of the project to include supporting text. The site makes the works of art available as an open-access database in order to raise public awareness of the many lost works and to encourage interested individuals help document the museum’s original and/or lost holdings.

The MAIA site is the culmination of seven years of work by its project director, Nada Shabout, professor of art history and director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute at the University of North Texas in Denton. Since 2003, Shabout has been collecting information on the lost works through intensive research, interviews with artists, museum personnel, and art-gallery owners. Shabout received two fellowships from the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq, in 2006 and 2007, to conduct the first phase of data collection. In 2009, she teamed with colleagues at the Alexandria Archive Institute, a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to opening global cultural heritage for research, education, and creative works. The team won a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a comprehensive archive of works once housed in museum’s galleries. These significant national treasures are displayed in an format that invites worldwide use, including the Iraqi national and expatriate communities. Users are encouraged to help identify and further document individual pieces.

MAIA aims to map the development of modern art in Iraq during the twentieth century and be a research tool to scholars, students, authorities, and the general public. It also strives to raise awareness of the rich modern heritage of Iraq. Furthermore, the creation of an authoritative, public inventory of the collection will not only act as a reminder of its cultural value and thus hopefully hasten its return, but it will also help combat smuggling and black-market dealings of the works.

In response to the possible sale of Jackson Pollock’s Mural (1943) by the University of Iowa and the state legislature, Barbara Nesin, president of the CAA Board of Directors, and Linda Downs, executive director, sent the following letter to editor of the Des Moines Register. While the newspaper did not publish this missive, it did print a letter from Paul B. Jaskot, a professor at DePaul University and CAA president from 2008 to 2010, on February 20. The next day, Jason Clayworth reported that the idea to sell the painting died in legislature.

Letter to the Editor

February 17, 2011

To the Editor
The Des Moines Register

When Peggy Guggenheim donated Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” to the University of Iowa in 1951 she was not donating the cash equivalent of the painting’s value. She was giving the University and the state of Iowa an iconic American painting. The purpose of the gift was to enrich the present and future members of the University community, and to benefit the citizens of Iowa as well as all Americans.

I am writing on behalf of the College Art Association, the nation’s premier visual rights organization, with 16,000 members—artists, art historians, other visual arts professionals and institutions across the country. It would be a major mistake for the Iowa Legislature to pass House Study Bill 84, which would compel the University’s Board of Regents to sell an irreplaceable part of the state’s patrimony.

As teachers, students and arts professionals, we acknowledge the urgent financial situation facing the University, and we note that the bill proposes that any funds earned be used to support scholarships for art majors. Any sale of “Mural,” however, would violate broadly accepted professional museum standards. More importantly, it would rob all Iowans of a remarkable painting, which was intended for them to enjoy and appreciate—in Iowa. We are hopeful that the legislature will reject the bill, to keep the painting in Iowa, where it rightly belongs.


Barbara Nesin, MFA
President, College Art Association

Linda Downs
Executive Director, College Art Association

The Executive Committee of the CAA Board of Directors has reviewed and approved the support of the following statement, published on February 2, 2011, under the aegis of the Association of Art Museum Directors. You may download a PDF of the letter.

Statement regarding Egypt

New York, NY—February 2, 2011—Recent news reports about the turmoil in Egypt have varyingly reported that some damage was done to works of ancient art in Egyptian museums—and that those who attempted to do harm were stopped. Just as we worry about the safety of Egypt’s citizens in this time of civil unrest, so, too, do we worry about the safety of the country’s cultural heritage—works of art and material culture crucial to our understanding of world civilization and humanity.

We, the representatives of the leading American museums and university art and art history departments, stand with the people of Egypt in their determination to protect 5,000 years of history, including those objects from history that remain unexcavated. Our members—more than 21,000 institutions and individuals—stand ready to assist in any way possible to secure the art and artifacts of Egypt.

Association of Art Museum Directors, Kaywin Feldman, President
American Association of Museums, Ford Bell, President
Association of Art Museum Curators, John Ravenal, President
Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, David Alan Robertson, President
College Art Association, Barbara Nesin, President


Janet Landay and Christine Anagnos
Association of Art Museum Directors

Sascha Freudenheim and Elizabeth Chapman
Resnicow Schroeder Associates
212-671-5172 and 212-671-5159

Because fifty-one new members of the United States Congress may be unfamiliar with the important contributions made by the visual arts, the humanities, and museums in their communities, now is a crucial time to join the advocacy efforts of your peers, visit the offices of your federal representatives, and make your voice heard.

Join members of the CAA staff and Board of Directors at three upcoming advocacy events in Washington, DC: Museums Advocacy Day (February 28–March 1); Humanities Advocacy Day (March 7–8); and Arts Advocacy Day (April 4–5).

On the first day of each event, advocates receive training on how best to present a concise, compelling message to congressional leaders. On the following day, advocates gather by state and make personal visits to their senators and representatives on Capitol Hill to address the specific needs, interests, and contributions of their constituents—that is to say, you, your friends and colleagues, and your schools and museums.

The nineteen new senators and thirty-two new representatives (PDF) must be updated on the crucial activities in the arts in their respective states and districts. The most effective educational tool is for advocates to meet their members of Congress and administrative staffs in person. Every state needs representation. CAA urges you to sign up today!

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