Friday, April 24, 2009

Credentials - What's the Big Deal ?

"A credential is an attestation of qualification, competence, or authority issued to an individual by a third party with a relevant de jure or de facto authority or assumed competence to do so." ( ) I like the succinct quality of this definition of credential. Credentials quite simply are the basis of everything that holds an appraisal organization together as they represent the standards by which we are all judged. Educating the public about our credentials and our standard is the means by which we market our services to prospective clients. Credentials are the single most important tool we own as appraisers.

Having said all that, we had a problem during the recent conference in Charleston when we were introduced to Alvah Beander , an appraiser from Washington DC specializing in African and African American art. In January when I saw the conference promotions and her listing as an African art specialist , I was very curious because no one I ever dealt with had heard of her. I alerted ISA's leadership that something was not completely right. I didn't hear anything back until I saw her lecture listed in the conference schedule as: “Are you Alone? Are you Sitting Down: The Cultural Art of the Gullah People”, Alvah Beander, Certified Member of ASA. Because clearly these credentials were not correct, I was stunned to see them in print.. As late as today, April 10, 2009, ASA has no listing for Ms. Beander as either an accredited or certified member and certainly not as a specialist in African art. As many of you know there is no certified appraiser in ASA - only accredited member (AM) and accredited senior appraiser (ASA).

Ms. Beander's bio on her website lists her credentials as follows:
"Alvah T. Beander is a certified personal property appraiser specializing in African, African American and African Diaspora art. Upon completing the requirements of senior level appraiser in the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) she will become the first African American and women awarded the designation in African art. Alvah was the former owner of two galleries located in Old Town, Alexandria, Va."

At the end of her recent article on appraising African art in the Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies, Ms. Beander kept most of the same wording but omitted the reference to being certified:
"Alvah T. Beander specializes in African, African American and African Diaspora art. Upon completing the requirements (pending) of senior level appraiser in the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) she will become the first African American and women awarded the designation in African Sculpture. Alvah was the owner of two African art galleries located in Old Town Alexandria, Va." Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies 2009 p. 325

The Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies website had Ms. Beander listed as a certified appraiser: however this was modified as noted below.

Pictured here is Foundation Board Member Judith Vance ASA, Accredited Senior Appraiser in Fine Arts (right) with Alvah Beander , member of ASA specializing in African art. MS Beander was a speaker at the ISA Conference held in Charleston in March 2009. She is also a contributor to the Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies - 2009 with an article “A Guide to Appraising African Art”. (Pasted from <
ASA will not even list candidate members much less their specialties. I believe at this point in her career Ms. Beander is a Candidate Member of ASA. I have never seen this credential in print, so I assume this cannot be used in print as credentials. The only accredited specialist in African art in ASA as of April 10, 2009 is Charles S. Greco, AM from Reston, Virginia, which ironically is in the DC area. In my opinion this misstatement warrants a letter of correction from Ms Beander.

I don't know Alvah Beander and I have never seen any of her appraisals, but I would hope that at some point she would write a letter to ISA seeking a correction and setting the record straight about her credentials. So why should this be important to me and to you? It is important because the credentials that we have all worked for are critical to our credibility as professionally trained appraisers. I certainly can't speak for ISA, ISA's Board of Directors, or the Journal for Advanced Appraisal Studies; however, in my judgment we need to hear from our leaders and we need to have a dialogue on issues of this importance. Our members need to trust the information that is provided. We do not need at this point to indict anyone; however, it would be helpful to know that issues like this are taken seriously and will be handled with greater care in the future. Some of you may be tempted to use this as an opportunity to make this about me. To the contrary this is about us and I certainly would have been very content to stay in the background and let the principles handle it. I have kept silent; however, now it is painfully obvious that nothing will happen. You won't hear any names from me, but the response I got was to suggest that I pursue an ethical complaint with ASA. That is just not good enough. This is really not about Beander, ASA, or African art… it is all about ISA and ensuring that we take care of our own business.

On a related topic, there was much that I disagreed with in Ms. Beander's article in the Journal on appraising African art. That is a completely separate issue for another day. JB

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