Wednesday, May 09, 2007

False Accusations ? Slander?

The following response was sent on 4-19 by Phil McDaniel, President of the St. John's Cultural Council to the St. Augustine Record's message board in response to one artist' complaints of police harassment of artists and the "private club" nature of the "art community". The artist - writer was referencing this blog entry from last month. This entry questioned the award of a 30k City art project to Mr.McDaniels' wife. The second last paragraph was what bothered Mr. McDaniel. We do not know nor does he say what part of our statement was false or "borderline slander" ( We believe that he meant, libel.) We have made a correction on the condition of the mosaic here.
.............................................................................................................................................Your facts are entirely wrong on the evolution of the work contract for the mosaic at the VIC. Your inferences borderline on slander, and I, quite frankly, would wish you would check your facts before making false accusations. The work done was done by two artists, Jan Master and Wendy Mandel – the latter to whom I have been blessed to have as my wife, partner and mother to our four children for the past 25 years. Both are experienced and professional artists - which is why the project turned out as well as it did. The city did not award this project, rather the builder - Walker Parking Services. It was not a formal public art project - simply an enhancement to the VIC and Parking facility. Congratulations to architects Fred Halback and Les Thomas for recommending the enhancements. If you like the end result, I urge you to complement the city commissioners on the project. Perhaps with some encouragement, they will consider establishing a real public program. My experience has taught me that of you choose to rant and accuse… it will likely be another 100 years before we see another piece of public art. By the way, one of the long term goals of the Cultural Council is to develop a formal countywide APP (Art in Public Places) program. Perhaps when we are ready to initiate the effort, you might offer to help rally such a cause to the benefit of all...- PM

Our same day response :

Dear Mr. Mc Daniel,

I've read your response to one of the artists in the Plaza asking the St. John's Cultural Council to make a statement concerning the arrests,art confiscations and intimidation that takes place by the city against the open air artists. Your response simply was to not respond. Please understand this,we do not ask the Council to take an active role in our First Amendment fight (and fight it is!) If your lack of manpower precludes you from making a single phone call (or returning mine) or a letter to the City, I´ve got to conclude that the issue of artistic freedom is not on your priority list.

One misunderstanding that many have is that artists on the streets and sidewalks are looking for represenation in a gallery. Most of us have credentials and have seasoned experience with galleries both here and nationally. The open air display on public space is part of the whole thing. Interaction with collectors occurs every day that we are out here not just on "Art Walks" sponsored by commercial galleries. We have places to show our work. Some of us do not need the insular and car lot,closing room (AKA "viewing room") atmosphere of some of the local galleries ("We Finance!")

Regarding your wife´s beautiful mosaic at the Visitors Center, you identify this as "not a formal public art project "but simply an enhancement" Mr. McDaniel,this large outdoor mosaic cannot be put into the same category as decorative dorknobs or ceiling mouldings.Recent articles and City Commission meetings all refer to this as a "Public Art Project" The City Manager´s administrative assistant told me that 30,000 dollars came directly from City coffers specifically for this artwork. Call it what you will but it is still site specific public art paid with public monies. No bids were taken ,no call for artists, no spec announced.The bookeeping may make it appear that Walker Parking Services was the private benefactor of this "enhancement".We believe that the public paid for this.

Perhaps you were unconsciously condescending when you referred to my fellow artist´s previous posts as a "rant". You are are no doubt unaware of the continuous harassment, and illegal actions taken against the artists exercising their First Amendment Rights on Public Space. This City handcuffs artists for displaying on public property! You can understand her strident tone! No, We do not want or need "workshops", discounted studio space, a swell gallery, or even recognition. We simply want to show our art to visitors and locals and give them the opportunity to acquire the works. This is our legal right. We do ask that anyone who reads this and understands and sympatizes, to call their elected officials to protest the illegal actions taken by the city of St. Augustne against artists.

Gregory Travous


  1. Anonymous10 May, 2007

    It is a beautiful mosaic but if the Cultural Council wants to be the administrator of some the State of Florida's Art funds, perhaps they should not give the impression of "inside deals "

  2. Anonymous11 May, 2007

    OR- maybe they shoud be a "not for profit" as you are. Mr. Mc Daniel and his "committee" charge to speak with them, or have your ideas heard. How self indulgent!

  3. Anonymous12 May, 2007

    This definatly puts a shadow on the integrity of the Cultural Council. It seems to be another example of the "in group" click of artists in St. Augustine.

  4. Mr. McDaniel, The Jig is up.
    We are Hip to you.
    From here on in,we will be watching you.
    If we catch you with your hand in our cookie jar,we will seek CRIMINAL Charges.Capeche?