If you eagerly wait each September for Fast/Forward's glossy flyer announcing their season from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, brace yourself for a letdown. The series' artistic director Margo Crutchfield has resigned.
In the process of packing boxes, Crutchfield, who was also associate curator of modern and contemporary art, has not planned a 2001-2002 program. Though budget cuts often are to blame for losses to the arts, her departure is not prompted by a fiscal shortfall but by personal reasons.
"After working here for the good part of the last two decades, it's time for a change, time to go on to new horizons," Crutchfield says. " ... I'm taking a sabbatical. I want to refuel, to have the time to really absorb the arts without the administrative responsibilities."
Crutchfield was originally hired when Sydney and Frances Lewis made their their gift of contemporary work to the museum in 1984. That gift, along with one from Paul Mellon, included support for construction of the West Wing. Fast/Forward was conceived shortly after, when many of the museum's galleries closed temporarily because of the construction within the museum.
Crutchfield recognized that, despite a shortage of wall space to display art, performance provided a natural extension of the museum's mission. "Expanding into the moving arts made a lot of sense because in 20th-century art there's been a huge fertilization between all the disciplines," she says.
Since then, Crutchfield has consistently put together dynamic programs featuring emerging and established performance artists like Robert Wilson, Diamanda Galas, Robbie McCauley, and 33 Fainting Spells, many of whom challenge daily perceptions and notions about art.
In its 16 years, Fast/Forward developed as the only series in Richmond and among a relative few of its kind nationwide to include high-quality, cutting-edge performance, with a sizeable and loyal audience. Much of the work presented uncommon or unpopular points of view. It often blended art disciplines in new ways, sometimes in ways not easy to understand or appreciate. As a result, many audience members left the performances engaged in provocative discussions about what they just witnessed.
Provocation, along with originality and an understanding of creative lineage, are some of the qualities Crutchfield looked for in her performers. "I am always amazed at the vision that artists have and how they can challenge us to try to come to terms with the world around us and see beyond the everyday to a greater understanding, a greater sensitivity to what it's all about."
Her standards applied to performers, but also to the visual artists for whom she curated. One of them, sculptor Martin Puryear, was chosen as artist of the year by art critic Robert Hughes in Time magazine shortly after the exhibit closed.
As to the future of Fast/Forward, the museum claims to have every intention of continuing the well-received program. Museum Director Michael Brand says, "We will miss Margo's artistic vision and energy, and the creative connections that Fast/Forward opened up for the museum. Happily, I can say that Fast/Forward will definitely live on with the same spirit of innovation and creativity."
Promising words. Yet with no search for Crutchfield's replacement underway, who those visiting artists are and when they'll perform has yet to be arranged. "There will be a break in Fast/Forward as the museum attempts to continue in the fine tradition that Margo established," explains Suzanne Hall, the museum's manager of marketing and public affairs. "For a project of this size and complexity, it's important to make sure we're giving it the kind of consideration it needs. There is a lot of conversation about how we can continue to interpret contemporary culture to our