Perhaps some of our readers are tiring of the "politics" of the Plaza De La Constitucion /vendor issue. This is understandable. There is confusion, mistrust, wild accusations and exaggerated predictions. (per one immature bead stringer/jewelry vendor,"..........there will be RIOTS!")
This is a microcausm of a purely American issue. What is at stake? The issue is.........What rights does an individual hold concerning public property. Does a Governrment "own" this property and can do with it as it sees fit? We believe that the large majority will say that the government is the "steward"or "caretaker / administrator "of property held in public trust. Does administration require government to provide individuals a place to do business on public property? We see over and over that states,cities and townships are privitizing public spaces by leasing them out to commercial interests. This is a dangerous precedent. We believe that the stewards of our public spaces are not required to provide space for private commercial enterprise. One exception is for fundamentalFirst Amendment issues. The definition is not difficult and we have harped on this before.Case Law up to the U.S.Supreme Court has determined what type of art is eligble for full First Amendment protection which includes the SALE of such expression. You may wear your own uniquely designed jewelry, hair beads,magnetic theraputic bracelets etc. and no one can stop you. This is Freedom of Expression. Can you sell it on public property without a permit? NO. Full First Amendment basically covers press, written materials and visual art (for simplicity sake lets call visual art "pictures". In the words of Rod Stewart, "Every Picture Tells A Story".
Art In The Market saw little concern by commercial vendors when one of our artists questioned the abitrary and unequal enforcement by the City when it came to a small minority of visual artists. This artist has been sent to court and shut down three times by the city and the cases were dropped on the day of the court hearings. One case is still pending and the City is lagging on assigning a court date though the alleged offense (displaying art on St. George St.) occurred almost a month ago. The artists are small in number but their resolution seems much greater than those vendors who are simply fighting so that they can continue to make good money. At the risk of sounding all high and mighty, we visual artists have altruistic principals at stake.
The new City Attorney Ron Brown stated at the last Commission meeting that his office was looking into permitting "expressive"works in the Plaza. Let us stress that "expressive" works are not neccessarily protected with Full First Amendment rights. It is the" sale of......" that the courts have interpreted. Our paintings may be displayed and sold just a newspaper can. The money does not diminish First Amendment coverage.
Watch for talk of juries, a lottery system, limitations on products ,etc.. Art In The Market takes the stance of an interested observer. If the City mistakenly begins applying these rules to the visual artists we will be more proactive in this heated debate.