MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON CUTS OUT THE HEART OF MIXED MEDIA
To my surprise in late December, 2013, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston contacted Reprogram Multimedia to let us know that we were no longer needed to curate the MIXED MEDIA series at the MFAH. When asked why, the reason they gave was that they were going in a different direction with the event, book it in house and do something completely different. NOT TRUE. Reprogram was/is the co-creator of the event, acting as music curator for the series successfully since 2005 helping develop the brand name to where it stands today. The series have reached spectacular numbers of crowd attendance upward to 10k plus. The event has been giving many awards, and critical acclaim. 2013 was no different, winning a Best of Houston / Houston Press award among others. By no means was the event broken. Challenged perhaps as we encountered a limited artist budget, not many major art exhibits to tie into and new representation/staff at the MFAH but Reprogram still managed to work with what we were given and get the job done right. Regardless, I was contacted by means of a rather discourteous conference call by the MFAH stating we were not wanted and they were to continue using the Mixed Media name but with new direction and complete changes to the event. My response was that they can’t do that. Reprogram was not simply an employee of the Museum that worked for them, such as you might consider a caterer, but Reprogram is the one of the creators and developers of the MIXED MEDIA brand since its inception in 2005. I immediately requested that, if they are going to go “a different direction with the series”, as they claimed, they should change the name I helped to create and establish. Matter of fact, in the 2012 press release for the series the MFAH reminded the public of the distinction of who exactly created this event stating, “It’s back! Brought to you by the same people who created the Mixed Media Music Series at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston…” That alone states the obvious. So this is how the MFAH treats a local artist who put massive amounts of heartfelt energy and brought in national industry connections into an event that frankly changed the way people felt about the MFAH? Beats of Basquiat anyone? This event started out and progressed to be a one of kind party for Houston. No matter the efforts made, the MFAH has chosen to lie to its co-creator and oust me. Basically taking the name, concept and heart that the party has/had. Not cool. Not community friendly. As for the individuals who the Houston Press states have “taken over” the series, not a very friendly thing to do and a very un classy look. #sloppy seconds I guess.
Below is a letter we wrote Gary Tinkertow the director of the MFAH. We have yet to receive a reply.
I’m writing to you to express my disappointment and shock at the way the MFAH has handled the so-called “changes” with Mixed Media. You’ll indulge my need to explain my feelings since the Mixed Media events predate your arrival to the MFAH. Unlike other MFAH events, Mixed Media is an event that was originally created by the combined efforts of Reprogram Multimedia, Starbucks as the sponsor, and the MFAH. Reprogram was never simply hired help: we were brought into the initial conception phase in 2005 and helped to build a brand that is not only identified with the MFAH, but with us, Reprogram Multimedia, an event based company. This distinction was used in a press release written on behalf of the MFAH, when we were asked to bring the events back in 2012:
“It’s back! Brought to you by the same people who created the Mixed Media Music Series at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston…”
When I received a phone call in January from Whit and Linda, I was told Reprogram would be relieved of it’s services and led to believe the MFAH was completely changing direction for the event and that all talent booking would happen in-house due to budget cuts. I mentioned that we had not discussed budgets for the new series and offered to negotiate my fees, but they were unyielding based again on the idea that they were “completely changing direction.” At that point in time, I requested that the name Mixed Media not be used. I was told they were not changing the name so that the energy and familiarity of the brand could be used moving forward. Again, Mixed Media is an event I not only helped to create, but guided and built into a brand. My company was one of the core creators and I did not want an event which I helped to create, but where I was no longer involved, to be misrepresented. Less than two weeks after being told the MFAH was “changing directions”, the line-up was released with a) local DJ b) Dam Funk, an artist who I had proposed over a year ago, but was told there was no budget to afford. There has been no change in direction. I was lied to. The event is the exact same recipe we created. If there is indeed a substantial difference, I would insist on having those differences explicitly articulated in writing.
Moreover, is this really the way the MFAH will henceforth conduct themselves with local artists in the community? It certainly has been handled with little tact and less class than anyone would expect of an institution if its stature in our community. Our followers are the demographic the MFAH says it wants, so let us help you bring them to you: in any case, we will counter MFAH marketing with a message explaining the facts above so that people will know that this product we helped create is no longer affiliated with Reprogram Multimedia.
I hope we can address these issues in an honest, collegial and straightforward fashion.
Sincerely, Eric Castillo / Reprogram Multimedia