Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Spain to Here

We in St. Augustine have the opportunity to present the importance of Spanish heritage in the United States. The 450 th anniversary of St. Augustine is approaching . Our emphasis may be on history but perhaps we should stress what have the Spaniards wrought that is with our society today. We are still steeped in British heritage language, surnames, foods etc. but consider this and the role that St. Augustine, Florida plays in the culture of The United States of America :
  • Hispanics are under-represented in all areas of U.S. media.
  • Hispanics are a diverse group, made up of many sub-groups, complicating identity.
    The history of Spanish colonization has not been presented accurately.
  • Hispanic contributions to the development of the United States are little known.
  • Hispanics will soon be the largest minority group in the United States.
  • Racism is detrimental to the well-being of the United States.
  • Positive Hispanic role models are needed to guide our youth.
  • Promotion of outstanding Hispanics serves to break down negative stereotypes.
  • Non-Hispanics and Hispanics will benefit by increased respect for one another

Freedom of Speech

We saw former Fresno State and dismissed (unfairly?)Kansas athletic director and new author Alan Bohl looking lost and forlorn at a few sparsely attended book signings around town. He has a work of fiction "Back Porch Swing"

Mr. Bohl and his wife Sherry moved to St. Augustine in 2003 where he wrote his book. We invite him not to waste time in bookstores and come out to the Plaza and set up his books. More eyes. Mr. Bohl, More eyes. He sounds like someone that we might like.

Constant Erosion

N.Y.C.'s Bloomberg Administration is carrying on former mayor and top seated presidential candidate (can you believe that!)Giuliani's aggressive war on the individuals First Amendment rights. New York City is one of the most photographed places in the world. The new proposed permits while not intended , restrict the amateur and professional alike. Times Article

Quality Loses Out

Vernacular painter E.M. Lee is taking some time off from display in the Plaza. Lee's works are remarkable renditions of southern country houses pictured with dignity and nostalgia. Florida is more than beaches and imported palm trees. E.M. will be putting down his brushes for awhile and is doing temporary electrical work in Jaxville.
Most tourists coming to see the artists in the Plaza want to get a picture. We ourselves call our works "prints" or "paintings". By" picture" the visitor means that he wants an image of St. George Street, Casa Monica, the City Gate or any number of locations around town. The street artist here that exhibits anything other than these images can expect meager sales. A three million dollar Rothko abstract original would remain leaning against a tree with little notice. A color snapshot of the "Oldest Schoolhouse"(Yeah, Right !) framed and mounted will always find a buyer. Works such as E.M. Lee's are a "niche market" yet they are some of the finest works in the area. Ernest takes almost three months for each painting which is one of the reasons he has declined to be one of the new "Highwaymen" because his art is not formulaic ,though his work has a recognizable theme throughout.
Ernest has found it necessary to take a temporary outside job in order to buy paints, brushes and canvas. I've heard it said by City Administrators that the "market will weed out" those plaza artists if they start to proliferate in numbers considered too large. True enough, but this certainly is not the gauge of quality. It is more a reflection upon the type of tourists we solicit. Lately it has been NASCAR ,bikers and my God, are the tourist development people actually going after big fat people and kids of both sexes? Ok, that is a snide remark but come down to the Plaza or walk St. George St. These folks are looking for pirate postcards, t shirts and food ,lotsa junk crap.
Some with a discerning eye have started collecting art by E. M. Lee. Not enough though. We want him back.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Quick Sketch

Artist Charles Dickinson in the Plaza by Gretchen Duane
Has anyone seen Charles "Golden Boy" Dickinson lately? He has zipped away somewhere. He doesn't call, doesnt write. .Raimondo is not talking but seems overly happy. hmmmm

Friday, July 27, 2007

Our Plaza Brethren

One commissioner won't speak with us regarding the panhandling/ homeless situation in the Plaza, claiming that pending legal action against Art In The Market artists prevents him from doing so. No, commisioner you are incorrect, unless you are either the judge, the prosecutor or jury on the September 26 case. (City of St. Augustine vs Plaza Artists.) Public Affairs Director Paul Williamson claims that he doesn't read this blog though the public use of the Plaza De La Constitucion is one of his projects. Finance Director Mark Litzinger ignored us when we ran into him in the Government House restroom (yes, we artists all go at the same time....there's safety in numbers). Commissioner Errol Jones has the courtesy to return phone calls made to him and shows an interest in our plight, though we believe that he does not understand the whole freedom of speech issue.
We have been banished, arrested and defamed. We are .......are you ready for this favorite word.....an anathema to the functionaries in City Hall. Frankly, here is our description of what we are...........We are citizens who are exhibiting in public places and permitting the public to purchase our artworks as guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution. We are nothing more, nothing less. We are not (most of us,that is) anarchists, godless heathens nor counter cultural radical anti authoritarians. Come down to the Plaza and talk with us. Find out why the out of town visitors like us and leave here with a work of art and positive feelings for this beautiful city. Without us the visitors are accosted by the Plaza bums and this is done in a very aggressive manner. We are protective of our visitors and our (and your) Plaza.Our vehicles have been targeted by some of the troublemakers since we take a proactive role ( our presence, phone calls to the police and rarely..... a sharp word) in keeping the peace in the Plaza. We also bring food and clothing for some of those in need. There are those who cause no problems and those of the criminal element that do cause problems by preying on the weaker ones.
Nashville, Tennessee has posters and handouts for t downtown visitors who may feel magnanimous in giving cash to the "street people". This is a suggestion made at the last community meeting of Innkeepers. OK, so let it happen. Link here for the posters and handouts.
Those of you who feel good buying one of those plaited palms from "sweet little old lady"Marge should know this: The boys make 10 or eleven of these in the morning and the Marge heads down St. George St. with her inventory. About 90 minutes later she returns with approximately 30 dollars. Then the party starts. Someone is sent for the beer and (sometimes vodka). It is stashed in the trees. Within an hour there are harsh words and fists start flying. The ambulance comes someone goes to the hospital and someone is on the run into the marsh area, lying low for a few days.
If you bought one of Marge's palms.........you helped assault that guy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Spanish is America's First Language (After Native American)

This is the logo for the column Ask A Mexican !. This is definitely not a politically correct image by any means. We love the column anyway.The columnist Gusavo Arrellano makes a point and mentions our city in Friday's Village Voice column. St. Augustine is preparing for it's 450th anniversary in 2015. Attention must be paid to our friends and visitors of Spanish heritage.
At 37 million strong (or 13 percent of the U.S. population), Latinos have become America's largest minority. Mexican Americans make up some two-thirds of that number. Gustavo Arrellano confronts the bogeymen of racism, xenophobia, and ignorance prompted by such demographic changes through answering questions put to him by readers of ¡ ASK A MEXICAN
We particularly like this Q&A from a recent column. The answer should open some eyes. America, be prepared for the inevitable and embrace it. Fear and predudice should be put aside.

Pre Concert Celebrity

Photo by Elena Hecht
City Public Affairs Director Paul Williamson introduced NASCAR driver Kyle Petty prior to last Thursday's Concert in the Plaza. Vice Mayor Don Crichlow seemed non plussed while Petty seemed amused when Paul began his introduction by singing (see photo), "Don't do me like that","Don't do me like that","What if I love you baby? ","Don't DO ME like that." No one had the heart to inform Paul that he was thinking of Florida's own rocker and sometimes St. Augustine visitor Tom Petty from Gainesville.*

Kyle Petty was in town for a cross country charity bike ride.

*We are just kidding. Paul is a hip guy who has his finger on the pulse of pop culture .

Monday, July 16, 2007

Scott Raimondo

The Oyster Creek Bar by Scott Raimondo

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Officer Friendly

An Editorial in the recent St. Augustine Record made suggestions to alleviate the presence of transient persons in the Plaza. Campamento Plaza is the clever name the editorial writer gave to the Plaza De La Constitucion.

The newspaper suggested putting up "Keep off the Grass" signs. Suspending the rule only for concerts or special city approved events.

The unidentified editor suggested that if "Keep Off" signs aren't acceptable, small gardens should be created to "break up the inviting carpet-like grass."

Our City officials can join the regulatory mind set that is running rampant in this country ( C'mon you haven't noticed?). In New York City, citizens are regularly fined for taking their feet off their bicycle pedals while riding, feeding bread to pigeons (they are allowed to feed bread to sparrows and finches and other birds, but if any pigeons show up to join in the feast, they're in trouble), sitting on milk crates, smoking beneath awnings, and sitting down on subway stairs (in fact, a pregnant woman was once accosted by NYC officials for stopping for a moment to rest on a subway stairway, and she had to go to court to fight the fine).

We say Solutions not Prosecutions ! Criminalizing ordinary behaviour is a dangerous thing.How is it fair or legal to fine an unhoused citizen whose only "crime" is to sit, to eat, to sleep, to stay warm or dry, or make a few dollars to buy essentials? These are all activities taken for granted by people who can perform these functions at home.Even the "public drunkeness" of "serial inebriates," can be caused by the sufferer's use of alcohol or drugs which may be the only anesthetic available to deaden stress and pain --- the pain of loneliness, isolation, or fear, or physical discomfort ---or the savage pain of homelessness. This County needs work on this.

"Community Policing" is often used to define strategies designed to prevent crime before a patrol officer or detective has to slap handcuffs on somebody. A police presence in the Plaza is expensive yes, but how expensive is it to selectively enforce stepping on the grass or napping under a tree.( we believe that parks are there for this reason ) Build a Police substation Kiosk (architecturally compliant with our city ambiance) and use it. Here are some used police kiosks that might work.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Just Holding A Sign


June 5, 2007

Long-time D.C. Statehood Green Party activist Debby Hanrahan has won a settlement in her First Amendment-false arrest lawsuit against Amtrak (The National Railroad Passenger Corp.) and has directed that almost all of the settlement proceeds other than lawyers' fees and her expenses go to two local civil liberties organizations. The two organizations will receive a total of $35,000.
Hanrahan, 68, a leading participant in the No DC Taxes for Baseball coalition which opposed public financing of a new baseball stadium, was arrested without any warning by Amtrak police in the Grand Concourse in Washington, D.C.'s Union Station on November 22, 2004 during a public rally promoting the naming of the Washington Nationals baseball team. For quietly holding a poster opposing public financing, she was charged with unlawful entry and jailed for 28 hours before her release on her own recognizance after a court appearance.
Hanrahan said that a portion of the settlement will go for fees incurred by the law firm of veteran civil liberties attorney James Klimaski. Klimaski's firm took the case on a pro bono basis and spent hundreds of hours in legal work before Klimaski negotiated the settlement with Amtrak earlier this month. The suit was filed in 2005 in D.C. Superior Court, after Hanrahan's criminal attorney, Paul J. Riley, successfully got the criminal charge dropped in January 2005.