The new executive director of Blue Star, Bill Fitzgibbons, makes administration an art

ANJALI GUPTA: Your predecessors, Carla Stellweg and Lawrence Miller, were both very enthused about reinventing Blue Star, with placing it on a sort of global continuum, and judging it in relation to other arts organizations. Lawrence was in the process of drafting a new mission statement for the organization when he left. Did you come in to your position with the same sort of agenda?

BILL FITZGIBBONS: No. Our mission statement will not change. I think the mission, for the entire history of the organization, has been one of providing a vibrant center for contemporary art. Our legal name - Contemporary Art for San Antonio - says it all.

AG: What are the main challenges you're facing at the moment in terms of stabilization of the organization?

BF: As with any non-profit organization, our main challenge is funding. But in the last six months, we have managed to really turn things around. We have increased our membership and membership revenue, partially by establishing a new, large giving category.

AG: Have you seen once stable funding sources dry up, as is being noted by many non-profits post-September 11?

BF: No, quite the opposite. We've seen avenues open up. This years Arts & Eats Gala was a great success, bringing in more revenue than any gala in the history of the organization. The City has also been generous, as have private and family foundations. However, with organizations like the Texas Commission on the Arts, my guess is we won't get the level of support we are used to due to cuts in the state legislature.

AG: The position you walked into was hardly a turnkey position. It had some serious identity conflicts - a push and pull between the administrative and curatorial role of the executive director.

BF: Executive director is ultimately responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization, and raising funds is a very important part of that equation. The curatorial aspects of the position are also significant, but I have been lucky in that the Blue Star Board's Exhibition Committee is an excellent resource. We have outstanding local artists on our Board, who have a wealth of ideas for exhibitions, connections with curators and outside institutions. They are an extremely important partner in developing the future schedule.

AG: In the past, Blue Star seemed to be slowing moving away from strictly local programming. Is that pattern going to remain the same?

BF: We will continue our responsibility to support local artists, not only through our exhibitions, but by bringing the art community at-large - national curators, writers, and other artists - to San Antonio, and providing an environment in which these people can interface.

AG: What can the public expect from Blue Star in the near future?

BF: The best way to define what I see as our future direction is to briefly describe our recent and next few exhibitions. We recently concluded Blue Star's first architecture exhibition, with some 70 local architects showing drawings that represent the genesis of some quite influential aspects of the built environment of San Antonio. It was the first show I have been responsible for as the director and as co-curator. Also coming up this month is the 13th annual Red Dot Art Sale, on March 27. The Red Dot will be followed by a group print exhibition, and a solo show by San Antonio artist Mark Hanson.

AG: You have a dizzying amount of events scheduled for March. How is this schedule affecting your art making?

BF: Being the director of any non-profit entails an unlimited amount of work. There are never enough hours in the day. So as a visual artist, I have to maintain a very disciplined studio schedule and stick to it. Otherwise, as an artist, I'd go crazy. I have certain days and times reserved for the studio, and during those periods, I'm essentially out of town. •

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