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Demonstrators Call for Cowen's Resignation

Several dozen arts and art supporters picketed outside of the Fund for the Arts headquarters in downtown Louisville Friday.Most of the demonstrators were producers or patrons of visual arts. They were calling for the dismissal of fund CEO Allan Cowen, who allegedly threatened the job of the director of the Visual Art Association in a voicemail last month.Longtime artist and former association board chair C.J. Pressma said the voicemail is typical for Cowen."Allan is an autocrat. He's nasty. He abuses people verbally and he is a manipulator," said Pressma.But gallery owner and visual art board member Paul Paletti said the demonstration was also meant to bring attention to what he says is inequity in the fund's allocations."One of the main points for us is the visual arts as a whole receive less than 3% of the annual budget of the Fund for the Arts and it basically ignores an entire segment of the arts spectrum," he said.Board members issued a statement last week saying they, not Cowen, distribute the money, and that Cowen was disciplined for the voicemail, though board members and Cowen have declined to elaborate. Board chair Ron Murphy told WFPL last week that he had not heard widespread complaints about Cowen.Cowen's supporters tout his fundraising skills, but the demonstrators say they won't give up until the CEO is fired or resigns.Fund officials repeated a response to the protest issued Thursday. They say they appreciate the exercise of free speech and hope people continue to give to the fund.

Gabe Bullard is the director of news and editorial strategy.