EVERETT — “Indigenous Peoples: Photos From the Ends of the Earth” was to premiere at The Schack Art Center in August. But questions about cultural sensitivity led the solo exhibition to be delayed.
Then The Daily Herald uncovered another problem related to photographer Bob Fink’s showcase: the artist’s past. As a psychiatrist, he was accused of sexual misconduct with a patient. Fink denied that it amounted to misconduct, but because of the allegations he no longer has a license to practice in two countries.
Herald reporters Sara Bruestle and Rachel Riley dove into the issue by interviewing Schack leaders and the Everett-based photographer, while also digging up records about Fink’s psychiatry career.
Here are three questions our reporting raises:
Can you separate art from the artist?
Fink, who was selected as the Schack’s Artist of the Year, was fired from a government health care job in New Zealand in 2016, amid the misconduct allegations in the United States.
Schack Executive Director Judy Tuohy said Schack leadership did not know about Fink’s sordid past in late July, when they postponed the exhibit. Art class instructors must pass a background check, but otherwise the Schack doesn’t “look at people’s pasts,” Tuohy said.
However, Tuohy said, Schack leadership still hopes to move forward with Fink as Artist of the Year.
When artists depict people of color, who gets to decide if the art is appropriate for public display?
White artists depicting people of color have faced increased scrutiny in the 21st century.
Fink’s collection features photos of remote tribes in Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Namibia, Ethiopia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
Bernardo Ruiz, a racial equity consultant who advised the Schack on the exhibit, asked the Schack — among other considerations — whether the photographer was an anthropologist “with knowledge of how to work with tribes in a way that maintains their sovereignty and dignity.”
Fink isn’t an anthropologist. He is a former psychiatrist. He said the Schack team didn’t talk to him about Ruiz’s recommendations. He said he meets most, if not all, of the criteria to show respect to Indigenous people. He believes his work should be displayed.
Did the Schack handle the situation properly?
The Schack Art Center, based in downtown Everett, hosts gallery shows, art classes and artist studios. It’s led by 16 board members and an executive director.
Shortly before Fink’s showcase was to open, Schack leadership told him he couldn’t present it as he planned it due to questions about the content. At the time, Tuohy said, the art center did not know that Fink had been accused of sexual misconduct in 2016.
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