Laguna Beach nonprofit ends Wells Fargo art gallery lease over censorship

Previously-full art gallery spaces in the Wells Fargo branch on Ocean Avenue. Firebrand Media file photo

The Community Art Project will terminate its long-term lease with Wells Fargo for a gallery space in the Ocean Avenue branch, following a demand that all future artwork be reviewed by the bank’s corporate office.

A 20-year relationship between the bank and Laguna Beach nonprofit has been on the rocks since the bank ordered the removal of a human rights-themed quilt show after receiving complaints from customers in January. “Piece-ful Protest” has since found a new temporary home at Neighborhood Congregational Church through April 24.

Faye Baglin, treasurer of Community Art Project, said she and fellow board members were blindsided by a proposed amended lease on Friday. They’ve decided to terminate the lease effective April 30.

“From our point of you, it is a shame that the bank decided to place unreasonable restrictions on the use of the gallery space in a building designed for the display of art,” Baglin wrote in an email Monday.

Gallery coordinators would have been required to submit a digital image of each work of art and information about participating artists at least 15 business days prior to installation, according to the proposed amended lease. The proposed exhibition details would be addressed to Bryan C. Campbell, a vice president and regional banking district manager at Wells Fargo’s Irvine corporate office.

“Our board found it unreasonable to have our art juried by one Wells Fargo Bank vice president,” Baglin wrote.

After the bank’s decision to end the quilt show, which CAP has described as censorship, other community members have offered alternative gallery spaces. Laguna Art Museum has displayed a couple of artist Allyson Allen’s quilts in addition to those installed at Neighborhood Congregational Church.

“We were recently informed that the Community Art Project is terminating its pro-bono use of space at our Laguna Beach branch. We wish the organization well and remain committed to the arts in the Laguna Beach community,” a Wells Fargo corporate spokesperson said in a statement.

The Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach previously exited its arrangement with Wells Fargo to display art on the bank’s third floor, Baglin said. Now the second-floor walls will also be empty with CAP’s departure.

“We will land on our feet and look forward to new opportunities and venues to promote artists and provide educational experiences to the community and visitors,” Baglin wrote.

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  1. Wells Fargo circled their wagons as they are devoted keeping the outside world clean and bleached.
    It’s time that bows and arrows are quilled for payback of Wells Fargo’s run away with the money Wagon Train.
    Bravo and Art is for interpretation and comment not for cancellation.

  2. So true Arthur, Wells F is the most egregious of the Big Banks. Now they want to be connoisseurs of (free)art?
    BOYCOTT, close accounts(did that years ago..), close down Wells and turn it into an ART space for all!


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