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Longtime Arthouse leader resigns

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Sue Graze, longtime executive director of Arthouse, said Tuesday that she will step down from her post effective Oct. 14. Graze has led the Congress Avenue contemporary arts center since 1999.

Arthouse's board of directors has appointed Graze, 63, director emeritus.

During her tenure, Graze has been credited with raising the profile of the 100-year-old organization, moving it beyond its role as a statewide artists organization and into its current position as an originator of innovative exhibits and projects of an international scope. Graze also oversaw the significant $6.6 million renovation of Arthouse's building at 700 Congress Ave., an architecturally progressive remodeling that transformed the historic building into a sleek destination art center that opened last October.

"It's been my plan to build the organization and leave my successor the opportunity to take Arthouse to the next level," Graze said. "This anniversary of our public opening is what I've always had in mind, and it's the right time for this transition."

Graze's tenure wasn't without stumbles. Last spring, Arthouse faced controversy when it was revealed that its leaders had rented out an artist's installation during the South by Southwest Music Festival to a corporate entity without seeking the artist's permission, a possible violation of Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which grants artists the right to prevent modification to their work.

Several board members, including prominent Texas artist Dario Robleto and major arts patron Julie Blakeslee, resigned in the wake of the dustup.

Arthouse is currently in merger talks with the Austin Museum of Art, a move that would give each visual arts institution something the other needs.

AMOA is cash rich, but lacks a downtown home after selling a choicely located lot for $21.75 million on which it had long planned to build. Arthouse has the architecturally interesting downtown facility, but has struggled to fund the full scope of programming the building has the potential to host.

A merger of AMOA and Arthouse would actually reunite two organizations born as one a century ago. Both emerged from the Texas Fine Arts Association, which was founded in 1911.

jvanryzin@statesman.com; 445-3699