Previous story: After 25 summers of bidding campers, “See you next year,” Gainesville artist Fox Gradin won’t be greeting emerging young artists as they arrive to the Quinlan Visual Arts Center’s summer art camp this year.
“The news comes as a shock to me and I’m devastated,” the program’s longtime director wrote on Facebook Monday morning, citing the arts center’s transition to recruiting only accredited art educators for its K-12 programming. Gradin holds a master’s degree in fine art but is not an accredited art educator.
According to the Quinlan’s executive director, Nairika Cornett, the change in policy introduces a new level of consistency to the art center’s K-12 programming, otherwise known as the Quinlan School of Art.
“As we are moving into offering art therapy, as we’re offering courses and classes that require accredited teachers, parents are starting to ask, ‘So is camp just for those children who are not really interested in art? Are your teachers accredited?’” Cornett told The Times. “As the Quinlan School of Art is growing, this is a decision we had to make so that we are staying consistent with all our youth programming. From a personal level to an institutional level to the board level, this (decision) has given us tremendous heartache, but it’s something that we all knew we had to do.”
According to Cornett, the summer art camp director is a contract position between an individual and the Quinlan, meaning Gradin was not fired, but rather did not meet the requirements of the institution’s new policy.
The board had been deliberating the policy, which was formally implemented last week, since last September, Cornett said.
Going forward, all K-12 programming at the Quinlan, including the summer art camp, will be facilitated by accredited art educators within the Gainesville and Hall County school systems, Cornett said.
The art camp will resume this summer with Tracy Troutman, an art educator at Fair Street International Academy, at the helm.
“Art camp is absolutely not going away,” Cornett said.
Cornett added that the Quinlan extended an offer for Gradin to facilitate art programming for adults, which Gradin declined.
For Gradin, the 8-week program wasn’t so much a summer job as a legacy she hoped to leave behind, she said.
“When I took up the mantle of camp over two and a half decades ago, I did so for a specific reason,” Gradin wrote. “I needed someone like me when I was growing up. I wanted to change the trajectory of experience for kids who are struggling. I think it’s important for kids to learn from someone in the field, making a go of a career in art. It lets kids know that they actually can use their talent for an actual job. A strong foundation is also important so they know, even if they don’t go into art professionally, they never have to put down the paintbrush.”
Gradin thanked the community for its “outpouring of support.”
“I put my life and business on hold every summer for the program and was in the process of doing the same thing for this summer,” Gradin told The Times. “ I've had some offers from other entities already and I'll be okay. I'm tough.”