Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spain's Greatest Writer

Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes was eighteen years old when St. Augustine was established here on Florida's Atlantic coast. Both he and William Shakespeare died within days of each other in their respective countries, Spain and England. Their works were published in both countries, though those governments were often at war with each other during their lifetimes and well beyond.

We all know Cervantes' story of Don Quixote that tells of a man who perceives himself to be a Knight errant whose unbalanced mind sees enemies and danger where there is none, attacking windmills with his lance thinking that they were ferocious giant dragons. His chivalrous mind had convinced him to fight for the rights and dignity of his fellow man and woman. At he end the old knight is confronted with reality ,though his steadfast companion/ sidekick Sancho Panza tries to keep up the charade to prevent the Don from becoming an ordinary fellow. Alas, as Quixote comes to the realization that he has been deluding himself, he slips into melancholia and very soon, dies.

Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.

Miguel de Cervantes

Friday, December 24, 2010


Christmas In The Ancient City

For over 412 years Christmas has been celebrated in St. Augustine's Plaza de la Constitucion,the nation's oldest public park. As a meeting place, the tradition continues.The live oaks and palms are strung with thousands of white lights, a twenty five foot tree is erected in the center and a grand illumination is held for all to "ooh" and "aah" when the switch is turned on. And they do...the viewers actually make that sound.

A few days ago a local radio talk show host spent time reminiscing about St. Augustine Christmases past in which the speakers and callers waxed eloquently over holidays here in the 1950's and 60's. One caller actually said that they do not go downtown anymore because "you put your life in your own hands" when you do so. I waited for someone to call to refute such an outrageous statement. After 15 minutes and no such call came I had to do it myself. I told the radio audience and the moderator (who should have challenged the earlier comment) that I spend a great deal of time downtown, particularly in the Plaza and it is as safe as anyone's back yard. Furthermore, during the holidays hundreds of children daily are now having their own holiday experiences that will be lovely memories for them in 2050. The kids play tag in the Plaza, tilt their head up in wonder at the twinkling official tree and line up to see Santa* in the Slave Market . The downtown St. Augustine that I have seen is one of the most wholesome and safe places that I've experienced in my travels and this goes for the year round ambiance. The remark that you "risk your life" is more than hyperbole, it is irresponsible and anyone who would say such a thing is not anywhere near the truth and causing harm to this wonderful city. 

I am certain that the holidays in the 50's and 60's were a magical time for 10 year old white kids here in St. Augustine, but I'll wager that it is even better now and certainly more inclusive.

Thank you to the City of St. Augustine for the fantastic lights and decorations. Merry Christmas!


*Unfortunately some parents remarked that they have never experienced such a high pressure, mercenary Santa before. Our City authorized Santa had his elve assistants aggressively hawk for donations to their"charity" sometimes,while puffing on a smoke. I gave my best disapproving glare toward Santa as he was in his chair counting out bills in plain sight...he got the message.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Eavesdropping in St. Augustine

Heard Around The Plaza

"The Pope has a permanent bedroom available to him at all times here at the Cathedral that's what makes it a  Basillica." Red Train Driver

"Tomorrow, in the Plaza, the Jewish people are going to light up the Mezuzah" from a city worker.

"I don't have to pay for parking on Sunday? If I get a ticket I'm coming back to make you pay". From a way too suspicious tourist.

"They used to hang pirates from that tree" Walking tour guide spouting nonsense.

"Can I see some ID? A request from the police just before they issue a 100 dollar ticket to artist Suvo.

"I really doubt that there's 3 million lights here, it looks more like maybe, two million." Local person who knows.

Offering a religious tract to artist, "Have you been saved?.. "No, I've been spent", said the snarky artist.

"That guy that stole the old lady's tricycle, they should hang him here in the Plaza and have everyone beat him with clubs, and then string his guts in the trees".  A really creepy comment.

Three-year-old boy: Do Santa and Batman fly in the sky together?

Mom: I hope they're careful if they do, because otherwise... Batmobile crashes into Santa's sleigh, boom! (makes explosion noises) Santa and Batman. Dead.
Three-year-old boy: (laughs hysterically)
Auntie: I'm glad he laughed at that, otherwise you were getting the "worst mom" award.

Taxi dispatcher: "Yeah, take your time. No need to kill yourself".

Taxi driver: "One more reason not to kill myself. Copy"

And this below is the final use of this is now officially dead

Loud man on cell, walking across bridge: "So I just said, "I want it all! I want to see it all!"
60-year-old woman to teenage granddaughter: "That's what she said."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's Come To This

Regular readers may recall that Santa's throne has disappeared from his space at the St. Augustine's Slave Market. May recall? It was just five days ago! This is a solid fact, but there is backgound to this story and new disturbing developments since.

Some facts: On a previous week, one of Santa's elves has a wage dispute and brings her pickup driving boyfriend to confront Santa. He leaves when children start arriving and promises that "This is not over".

                  On Dec 2, Santa's tinseled and sequined throne disappeared sometime between Midnight and 5pm
                  The seat cushion mysteriously reappeared three days later (proof of life?)
                  On Friday December 10 a snatch and grab of Santa's donation jar was made by a                       twenty something man who gets away in a waiting pickup truck. A confederate?
 Saturday December11,an unsigned ransom note of cutout newspaper letters is found beneath Santa's tree by Santa's remaining loyal elf. It reportedly reads as follows; We have added underlining for emphasis.   


Important clues:   The Santa Claus parade organizer wanted Santa to "disappear" when another City authorized Santa came by on the "official" Float last week week. Slave Market Santa refused to leave his throne. Possible questioning needed here.

pickup truck ...the throne was bulky and would not fit in a regular car or SUV.
                       the perpetrator profile indicates a deep and longstanding resentment over perceived slights by Santa Claus.

The ransom note was actually quite colorful and creative, indicating an artistic personality.Plaza artists were present during three of these incidents.Artist Scott Raimondo said earlier that day that he had a flat tire on his ArtCycle and brought his pickup for the first time in six months. Related?

Santa's current elf  ( who found the ransom note) shows very unelf-like behavior....openly smoking,,studded lips and nose rings, felt antlers (she's an elf, not a reindeer!) aggressively hawking passersby for "donations" to Santa's charity ( really?)

Status of Case: Santa took a break yesterday evening to go to the police station to make a report. The ransom note is in SAPD possession and it will be "dusted" for fingerprints. By eliminating all those in the Slave Market who handled the note (big mistake!) the police should lift one from the perp or perps.

We were told that a 24 hour watch is being given to the Christmas Tree. by the police Department (unlikely)
Santa Claus himself has told us that HE will be on stakeout himself, watching the tree. More later as the story unfolds. 

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pirate Museum Opens

Top L to R: Owner, Pat Croce and all female staff, Wednesday V.I.P opening, Croce and the Mayor, Fake pirates and Elaine Frazer (Fountain of Youth)

On Friday 12/3 there was a V.I. P. reception for local bigwigs and city employees at the "Pirate Soul Museum" built by entrepreneur Pat Croce. You could spot our local politicians in their coats and ties while Croce was in jeans and an oxford cloth button down. Noticing this, the mayor pocketed the tie that he came with.

It is impressive according to attendees. Disney animatronics has been employed to tell the story of the life of eighteenth century pirates. Display cases exhibit artifacts from Croce's private collection and items on loan from the state of Florida.

The "pirate juggernaut" in our tourism plan seems to be taking over though St.Augustine was never "a stronghold of piracy" as was reported. Nevertheless, the building renovation is a great addition to our bay front and Pat Croce's enthusiasm for his project has given our town a nice new addition. LINK

Monday, December 06, 2010

Naughty Not Nice!

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer

Date: Friday, December 3, 2010
Time: Between Midnight and 5 PM
Description: Santa Claus' Throne
Location: Plaza de la Constitucion, St. Augustine, Florida

 SAPD's Sgt Etheridge states that they heard about the missing Santa throne, but no official report has been filed. "It's probably in some college kid's fraternity house somewhere".

Santa has now replaced his throne with a Queen Anne style upholstered chair that has no real flair but does the job well enough.

 Since December 1, parents and relatives of the little ones have donated, through Santa, over 750 dollars for children's charities.

If you have any info regarding recovery of Santa's throne, please call the St. Augustine police department at 904-825-1074

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Old Friends

Art In The Market artist and former St. Augustine resident Richard Childs (L) watches while painter Tom Wright (R) works at Spiral Press Cafe in Manchester Vermont. Both artists can be seen regularly creating their art on site at least three days a week during the winter months.

Richard also works outside in the summer months in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. His artwork and sculptures were recently shown at Wampanoag Country Club in West Hartford Connecticut.

Childs says "I truly miss the conviviality and friendship of my fellow artists in St. Augustine. I hope that St. Augustine will one day recognize that artists in public places is a plus for any community."*
 Richard's artwork can be viewed here.

* Richard Childs was a successful plaintiff in 2009 with Bates, Childs et al vs City of St. Augustine affirming artist's rights in Federal Court.


Ordinance 22-6 ,City of St. Augustine.....(prohibited in the Plaza and surrounding streets) "...artistry or the creation of visual art and wares, which includes drawings or paintings applied to paper, cardboard, canvas, cloth or to other similar medium when such art is applied to the medium through the use of brush, pastel, crayon, pencil, spray or other similar object, and the creation, display and/or sale of crafts made by hand or otherwise".

The next day the artist Suvo was again in the Plaza and cited on the above city code violation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

We say "YES!"

We do not always agree that Ed Swift's Historic Tours of America serves the city with historically accurate narratives and we feel that the "Old Jail" is one of the most prominent tourist traps in our city.

The addition of the Segal inspired contemporary sculptures by Monte Triz in front of the old jail is something that we can say is a positive and interesting addition. The local comments denouncing the works are to be expected in a small Southern community. City Commissioner and architect Don Crichlow said in a past Commission meeting that he did not want to see any "modern art" in St. Augustine.

St. Augustine is not Williamsberg or Jamestown, but a living city and has been for 445 years. The mayor and others want to create a faux Disney atmosphere with pirates (never were here, privateers, yes) and phony architecture. This brings in the dollars, but the gullible public leaves here without a sense of what the history of our town means to the whole scope of European settlement in the New World. Ghosts and pirates stories prevail and Historic Tours of America is guilty of spreading the misconceptions but these artworks are to be applauded as well done.

The hue and cry of the local wags will most likely cause them to be removed even though the installation is on private property. We'll see.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Apocryphal News

The City of St. Augustine has established a program for aspiring archaeology students. This program gives students aged 16- 20, a hands-on approach to archaeological methods and research. "We do not advise or interfere but leave the research and the dig work entirely in the hands of the students." says Harley Colbirt, city archaeologist "These are bright young people who have already had class room training, so the fieldwork is a way to put their scholastics to work."

What may appear to be a mundane find over on the NW side of the Plaza may be significant according to seventeen year old  Beth Mandeson . "At first we weren't sure what these 'thingies' were but someone said that in the olden days these were called "pull tabs"  or "pop tops"and came off beer and soft drink cans. That made sense".

The student's research indicates that there may be a tie in with these items and the Catholic Church just across the street. The hypothesis is that, while Mass was going on, some husbands loitered over here in the Plaza sipping beer while their families were inside the Cathedral. In the 1960's ,Catholic Mass was still said in Latin and was interminably long .It is difficult to determine whether these six "pull tabs" were the result of one session of beer drinking or six separate incidents.According to research, we can date these aluminum pieces to sometime in the '60's since removable  pull tabs became obsolete sometime in the 70's. "People were swallowing them or cutting themselves with the sharp edges"."We found that out on Wikipedia", said participant Stacy Gurlick of Green Cove Springs.

"What's cool," says Randy Phillippi of Spuds Florida, is that you have history right under your feet here in St. Augustine."" Some dude, older than my grandpa, was just hangin right here with a quaff, while his old lady was in church,and here I am now,standin' here drinkin' a beer."

Anyone interested in this program may call the City of St. Augustine Archeological program at 904- 825-1088

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Old But Not The Oldest

North America

As the City of St. Augustine approaches it's 450th anniversary (in 2015) as the "Oldest City" we must point out, in the interests of accuracy, that it is NOT the oldest permanent European occupied city in North America.

Just as the Genopoly building on St.George Street is amended in it's definition as "The oldest WOODEN schoolhouse" in St. Augustine, we must look more closely. The prevailing thought by hundreds of teachers and students who visit and photograph themselves beside the old clapboards, is that it is the oldest schoolhouse in the nation. Actually it is questionable whether it was ever a schoolhouse. The current and previous owners  (not all ) of the building took broad strokes in it's description to lure in the tourist dollar. It is false history to get the lucre.

As my friends from down Mexico way, who are keenly aware of their own history, remind me they are also from the North American continent and that the "oldest continually occupied  European settlements in North America" are south of  St. Augustine, Florida. They are as follows:

1498 - Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
1510 - Colon Panama
1510- Guantanamo, Cuba
1515 - Havana , Cuba
1519 - Vera Cruz, Mexico
1519 - Panama City, Panama
1521 - San Juan , Puerto Rico
1524 - Granada, Nicaragua
1550 - Acapulco, Mexico
1563 - Cartago, Costa Rica
1565- St. Augustine, Florida
1610 - Hampton, Virginia
1613- Newport News , Virginia
1614, Albany, NY
1620- Plymouth, MA
1660 - Jersey City, N.J.

Acoma  Pueblo and Taos Pueblo  New Mexico. The oldest continuously occupied communities in the United States. The Acoma Pueblo today is known as Sky City. Estimated establishment 1000 A.D.

St. Augustine did not become part of the United States until 1821 two hundred and fifty six years after the Spanish established the town. Boundaries are political lines drawn by governments. History shows us that these things change.

North America is unarguably defined as thus: The northern continent of the Western Hemisphere, extending northward from the Colombia-Panama border and including Central America, Mexico, the islands of the Caribbean Sea, the United States, Canada, the Arctic Archipelago, and Greenland. source..Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

If we sound overly definitive here it is because we must drop our myopic ethnocentric concepts that the United States and it's  non Latin ,( i.e. English heritage) can be the peoples who can claim dominion over "The New World" discoveries.

St. Augustine Florida has a long 440 years of history and false history only clouds a clear understanding of the city's significance. Using uunsubstantiated stories of Ponce de Leon and the mythical Fountain of Youth and the embracing of the fake Hollywood pirate stories is frankly deception to lure the "sucker" dollars from unwary tourists. Let's have real history in our old city not fabrications and doublespeak.

New occasions teach new duties;
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth.
James Russell Lowell

Friday, November 05, 2010

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Art, Bubble Gum and High Crimes.

Londoner Ben Wilson has spent time in British jail cells for hitting the streets and recontextualizing the petrified blobs of discarded chewing gum on the sidewalks of old London. His DNA sample was forcibly taken by the bobbies (leading to large public outcry and an eventual change in the law) This happens here in St. Augustine as well.SEE HERE

Video of Ben Wilson at work                The Policing of the Artist by Madeleine Bunting

Monday, November 01, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Survivor !

We love a good rescue at sea.......STORY

What do you wanna bet that at least one reporter asked,"What were you thinking while you were standed at sea?"

Possible answers: I was thinkin' ..............
  'Did I unplug the iron before I left?'
 "Why didn't I take up golf for a hobby instead?"
 "Am I gonna have to drink my own urine?"
 "I should recharge my cell phone more often"
"My ex is laughin her ass off right now"
 "Am I hallucinatin' ,or is that Sarah Palin's face on a sea cow!"
"First mate Jorge, I miss him already but a body has gotta have protein to survive!"

We are glad that Mr.Steg is back. There are some funny and strange comments at the end of this news story link.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Bricks Of St. Augustine

Here's an old St. Augustine tour guide joke...."DON'T STEP ON THE GRAVES !"
(see brick upper left)

As you walk the streets of the nation's oldest city you will see four or five various brands of brick below your feet. There's an old story that ,back at the turn of the century, St. Augustine benefactor and promoter Henry Flagler offered the City of St. Augustine, pallets of brick to pave the streets.When the city was slow to accept, Henry simply had them delivered and they were set down at the locations he wanted paved. The city supposedly relented and laid the bricks as Flagler wished.
The recent completion of the Aviles St. rehab had city workers carefully replacing these old bricks as it was back in 1900. Not long ago a portion of St. George Street was also repaved with brick.Here is a story about the Southern Clay Mfg. of Robbins, Tennessee and a story by Peter Guinta of the St. Augustine Record.
The work of producing brick was a backbreaking process done mostly by African American workers making 1.50 a day in the 20's and 30's The employees were forced, by company policy , to purchase their household needs at the "company store".They were also charged rent for the company owned shotgun houses with no running water. Many ended up in debt to the company, playing catch up when the monthly bill arrived. Southern Clay shut down operations in 1939.
Our city's history is all around us. In the foliage, in the people, the buildings and underfoot.African American contributions are  plenty and are only now, beginning to be recognized as it should.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wrong Perceptions

The other day I had a conversation with a contender in the upcoming City Commission race. He had taken an informal survey of citizens and merchants regarding their attitude towards art vendors and street musicians.Here at Art In The Market we have little discussed the street musician issue since there is a different set of Constitutional laws regarding the ability of governments to control and restrict their activity. This has mostly to do with intrusive noise. That said, contrary to what some think, we street artists enjoy street musicians and wish them well in any attempts to stand up for their rights. We visual artists simply cannot take them to court with us since our case cites previous decisions involving visual speech (art).

The City Commission candidate brought up some points that we sometimes miss being so myopic regarding our own cause. Much of it has to do with the economics of our enterprise. Amongst the artists we have always agreed not to discuss money with "outsiders" (the press, the police, the politicians etc.) Here we will dispense with that for illustrative purposes.The discussion is paraphrased below.

Can the artists work out an arrangement with galleries? Yes, galleries are always looking for new artists and inventory but consider this...As an artist who sells our work on public property we feel that not only  is this the best way for others to see our work but it is also, and many won't understand, a philosophy that this outdoor vending is also part of the message. Those who would never consider going into an art gallery will see our work. Our artworks are affordable and many times, particularly in a younger person's case, this would be the first time they have bought art for themselves.

We have many galleries in town and they serve a purpose, but frankly, very few local artists will be found in the high traffic art galleries. The cooperative galleries tend to be physically removed to affordable rent areas. A working artist cannot hope to sell enough to keep body and soul together much less recover the cost of producing artworks.Our profit margins are slim and paying commission to a floor salesman and the gallery would be prohibitive.

Would the artists accept an application/permit process if there was no cost involved? No, other than our sales tax license that permits us to collect state sales tax. This is a point that we cannot stress enough. A fee is a tax and the Federal courts have ruled that you cannot tax First Amendment activity.Visual art is symbolic speech. The very term "permit" implies that it can be withheld or withdrawn. The courts have also held this to be a "prior restraint". In other words, asking permission to express your ideas is anathema to our U.S. Constitution. Being photographed and forced to wear a badge identifying the artist as a "Street Performer" is laughable at the least. The current permit process is changed and interpreted at whim by the clerks in the City Finance office. For instance there is a 3.5 hour window when you must get to the office to pay for your licence if you are lucky enough to win in a lottery held on the 20th of every month. You cannot call on the phone to find out if you have "won" but must physically go to the office. The fee that is annualized to 900 dollars a year is by far the highest price fee in the country coming in first over Key West's 200 dollar annual fee (under challenge at this time) that gives an artist a 30 day window to apply. So.....this illustrates the danger of permits for free speech and is bureaucracy's way of eliminating the chance for many to exercise what is a fundamental right.

Much of the public feels that displaying your art is OK but selling it makes this "commercial" therefore it can be restricted by government.  Yes it can, and should. We have never denied the city's right to place restrictions upon our activity. Reasonable time place and manner rules are not only needed but welcome. The key word that is rarely heard from city legal counsel is "reasonable".Would a visual artist simply set up his art in an innocuous manner simply to show it to people? Might be fun, but as the courts have ruled "It is well settled that a speaker’s rights are not lost merely because compensation is received; a speaker is no less a speaker because he or she is paid to speak” 1988 Riley vs. National Federation of the Blind North Carolina, 487 U.S. 781, 801. Just as a newspaper collects the dollar to print more papers, the artist creates new work from the sale of other works.

The artists in St. Augustine did not create these decisions from the Federal Courts. They have been tested in court and well settled. We are asked often, "How does the City of St. Augustine get away with ignoring Federal law?" They simply rewrite another faulty ordinance after they lose in court defying the artists with limited means to go back into court. When one sitting city commissioner was told that if we cannot reach a Constitutionally valid agreement we will be forced to go back into court. Her reply was, "To what end? What would that accomplish?" Either she was warning us that the city would continue to rewrite illegal ordinances or she is clueless to the fact that we are fighting for the right of visual artists to survive in the nations oldest city.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Banned !

Click on pic to enlarge
Where are the last of the Plaza artists?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Criminal Rocks

It is a no-brainer that law enforcement officials should apply common sense in enforcing the laws of the state of New York. Sadly, that is not always the case. A classic case in point is the matter of the People of the State of New York against Silva-Almodovar.

The defendant was arrested in Union Square in New York City for allegedly offering to sell ten painted rocks without a license. In the complaint, the arresting officer swore that he observed the defendant offering the rocks for sale on January 6, 2010 at 1:20 P.M. and on January 31, 2010 at 2:00 P.M. The defendant was charged with acting as a general vendor without having obtained the necessary license from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, in accordance with the New York City Administrative Code.

In a decision published in the New York Law Journal on May 4, 2010, Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino noted that excepting written materials, the New York Vendors Law prohibits the retail sale of non-food goods and other services on public streets without first obtaining a license.

Taking this case and running with it, the presiding judge hypothocated that one may only wonder if there is any constitutional protection (federal or state) with respect to the freedom of either artistic expression or visual art with respect to the sale of painted rocks. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects more than merely written or spoken words as mediums of expression. Also protected are pictures, films, paintings, drawings, engravings, and sculptures. The judge also noted that the New York State Constitution is even more protective of free expression than the United States Constitution.

The prosecution relied on a case entitled Al-Amir v. City of New York. There, the defendants claimed First Amendment protection with respect to the sale of perfume oils and incense in connection with proselytizing messages about Islam. The Al-Amir court held that the defendants were not entitled to First Amendment protections as neither vials of perfume oil nor sticks of incense had any inherently communicative element. The prosecution further argued that the rocks sold by Silva-Almodovar did not convey any emotions or ideas, there were just plain old rocks.

Judge Sciarrino quoted a prior case that held that "[v]isual art is wide ranging in its depiction of ideas, concepts, and emotions… a primitive but effective way of communicating ideas." Judge Sciarrino pointed out that in a 2008 case, People v. Chen Lee, a judge found that a defendant arrested for selling coasters bearing photographs (not taken by the defendant) of New York City landmarks and dead celebrities was protected by the First Amendment since the coasters were not suitable for use as coasters or any other practical purpose, and that their purpose was "exclusively expressive."

We suggest that the courts of our great state have more important things to deal with than the sale of painted rocks.              

Stephan J. Siegel , Atty at Law

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Example of Privatization of Your Public Spaces

Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park in NYC is a new project overseen by a private group called The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation that two artists must remove themselves and their artwork, The artists asserted their case tested constitutional rights for visual art in public spaces. They produced their state sales tax certificate and tried to "educate" Regina Myer and Jeffery Sandgrund on the fine points of the law.

The legal advice given to the Brooklyn Park Corporation by their own legal counsel. Leave the artists alone.....Federal Law supercedes any local,state law or "rules" set up by a private group seeking revenue.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Not All Art Is Protected Speech


The photos above illustrate the fine line that the Federal Courts must decide in expressive First Amendment art cases. On the left is a dented and beat up 1988 Oldsmobile (remember those monsters?) transformed into a decorated cactus planter. It was ordered removed from view by the city of San Marco,Texas.On the right is renowned artist John Chamberlain's crushed car body sculpture valued at 20 million dollars.

After losing in the lower courts, the owner of the Oldsmobile appealed to the Supreme Court who declined to hear the case, leaving the appeals court decision standing. This case has relevance to us here in St. Augustine since a county judge had ruled in the artist's favor a few years back, that first amendment protected "art" may be in media other than pigment on paper or canvas. This seems like an obvious conclusion and the artist's here in St. Augustine should never have been arrested, jailed and taken to court over such a basic issue.

The wrecked Oldsmobile is certainly "art", but is it protected by the U.S. Constitution's first amendment? A previous Federal ruling stated that there must be a defining line between the utilitarian and the purely expressive.This decision is a delicate one that sits on a precarious see saw with one side being the "use" and the other side being  "expressive value". A flea market toaster is not purely expressive if a rose decal is affixed. And contrary to City Attorney Brown's opinion that t shirts with expressive pictures on it is protected, it is not, unless that message is political or religious. Is Duchamp's R. Mutt signed  urinal protected speech? Duchamp's "ready made" art was making a statement (we will not dissect that here) and no....the porcelin urinal lying on it's side atop a pedestal was not meant to be utilized (you can get thrown out of the museum for that!).

You say, "Well ,that Oldsmobile cannot be driven and it has paintings all over it". Good point! This was most likely an issue that was brought up by the appellant artist in the San Marco case. Here is an interesting, albeit erroneous statement by the City's attorneys . They said that past first amendment  cases "expressly protects only great works of art that are primarily, if not solely, expressive in nature." In reality, the lawyers in Texas need to learn (and this was the artist's strongest argument) that  "non great" or even downright bad art is protected equally. But the decision hinged more on the expressive vs. utilitarian. The creator of the art/planter might have fared better if he left out the cacti. The court decided that the utilitarian nature meant that it was not "solely expressive" as a painting on canvas would be. John Chamberlain's metal car part sculpture has no "use" other than as an artistic display. Since the Supreme Court declined to review this decision, The decision means that the planter /art may be removed as ordered by the city.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


Click on pic to enlarge

Last night our historic little town celebrated the reopening of Aviles Street. It was a party! Citizens mixed and enjoyed the new European style outdoor dining and drinking. The art galleries were packed, the street was impassable. It was esplendido! The photographer for the above pictures admits that the complimentary sangria along with the Modelo beer from Madre's may have contributed to some fuzzy photos.

Congratulations to the City of St. Augustine for a job well done. This is the new hotspot for downtown!

*Note in the upper right hand photo: There's always one poor schlub who insists on walking his bicycle through the crowd.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

We Should Do This

The painting above La Reve was due to be sold in 2006 for 139 million dollars when the owner, Steve Wynn accidentally poked a small hole in it with his elbow. After a 90,000 dollar repair, the painting was appraised at 85 million dollars ...Whoops!

Picasso in St. Augustine

The City of St. Augustine's representatives ,on their last visit to Spain received a very tangible result by having the Museo de Picasso in Malaga, Spain offer to give St. Augustine a Picasso exhibit for the 450th anniversary celebration. This is a major gift. This collection, directly from the Picasso heirs, has never been in the U.S. before. This is a world class event!.

The naysayers are already starting up. "Why Picasso?" someone asked , unfamiliar with both art and our city's origin. "Oh, the cost!" say others , not realizing that this exhibit is a grand coup for us. Art lovers will travel from a great distance to see his works. Non art lovers will just want to see what 30 million dollar paintings look like in person.

Yes ,there are expenses. Shipping, security, insurance, not to mention that we need a location for such an exhibit. It requires more than four walls and a roof. City Manager John Regan suggests that the under utilized Visitor Information Center on San Marco Blvd be "beefed up" with a 1.5 million dollar addition. We agree that this would be a good thing and the addition will make this an excellent place for weddings, banquets and further exhibits. A six month or 12 month (even better) Picasso exhibit will more than cover costs to the community.

Vision is what is required. We are lucky to have this invitation. Our former City Manager Bill Harris. stated in 2008 that he thinks "Art is Foo-Foo". It is fortunate for us that he retired recently and we have people is the city who recognize that this is an event that is perfectly aligned with our 450th anniversary in five years.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Downtown Rally On A Misty Eve.

                                                   Last Night   Story Here

Monday, September 27, 2010

Suvo at Large

You can see on the left a ghostly image. This is a photo of local racist tough guys beating on the future U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young at that precise location in 1964

After spending time on the corner of St. George and King St. (from 3 pm to 9pm Saturday) I did some sketching and answered questions to only one person who showed any interest.That's OK, it was a pleasant day............until.

It turns out that though I am not in the Plaza which is prohibited to artists ,I was in violation of a different recently passed ordinance that prohibits him from being where I was and quoting a price. Display seems to be OK as previous tickets were dropped cause they didn't catch me selling (I do not sell very much, lately). It's interesting to note that my citation states that I was in the "West Plaza de la Constitucion". Again, the city or the police officer is creating new language for one of the oldest spots in this city. Loring Park is named after a one armed Confederate general whose remains are buried there.The officer is saying that I was in the "West Plaza de la Constitucion" aka Loring Park, when in actuality, I was across the street and half a block east as anyone who knows downtown St. Augustine can tell you from the picture above.

The one person who showed interest in my art happened to have been sent undercover as a tourist( Officer B. Ganmon) to get me to quote a price for my work......I did....., and the "paddy wagon "came as I was closing up at 9 pm. Two police officers, one uniformed and one in street clothes told me that I "may be under arrest and going to jail". I asked them to make up their mind cause I wanted to go home if they were not going to arrest me.After almost twenty minutes of the two consulting on the phone, in their car I was given a ticket for $100  if I pay it, or up to 500 dollars and 90 days in jail if I lose in court. I have yet been able out of 15 tickets to have this in county court.All previous tickets for the same offense have been dropped, though I've been jailed overnight four times out of those 15 tickets..I appaarently became a "safety hazard" after I quoted a price to the undercover lady.I was safe and not at all a safety problem.until I said "For you?,Twenty dollars" ......Suvo

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ray Charles - St. Augustine

Ray Charles was born eighty years ago today in Albany, Georgia. His family moved to Greenville, Florida (near Tallahassee) when Ray was just an infant. Ray started to go blind when he was five years old and was totally blind by age seven. He attended the St. Augustine School for the Deaf & Blind from 1937 to 1945.

Charles played piano at the School and also worked a couple of summer breaks with relatives in Frenchtown, in Tallahassee. After his mother died and at the ripe age of 15, Charles also lived for awhile in Jacksonville and for over a year, he played the piano for bands at the Ritz Theatre in LaVilla, earning $4 a night.

Charles then moved to Orlando and later Tampa, where he played with a southern band called The Florida Playboys. This is where he began his habit of always wearing sunglasses, made by designer Billy Stickles.

Ray Charles left Florida and moved to Seattle and the rest is history. Ray Charles went on to pioneer soul music and rhythym and blues and also was instrumental in breaking down racial barriers not only in music but in theatres and concert halls across the South. For years his own homestate of Georgia banned him from performing there because he refused to play desegregated venues.

Ray Charles played music right up to the end of his life until he died June 10, 2004 from liver cancer at the age of 73.Thank You , Ray Charles.

Note: In the clip ...that looks like Chet Atkins on guitar behind Ray. Also notice the "white boys" in the audience just sittin' there, in the presence of musical genius, some with their arms folded, while the girls in the audience are boogying away.

"I'm not one to interpret my own songs, but if you can't figure out 'What I Say', then something's wrong. Either that, or you're not accustomed to the sweet sounds of love."—Ray Charles

"What'd I Say" was banned by many black and white radio stations because of, as one critic noted, "the dialogue between himself and his backing singers that started in church and ended up in the bedroom".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Little History and a Lotta Baloney

12 Castillo Drive preparations for the Pirate Place, Pat Croce, owner

Workers are getting the St.Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum together for the November opening. Entrepreneur Pat Croce has relocated the museum here from Key West. Croce is not the shy retiring type as you can see from his website, "Pat Croce, Man or Myth!". Former part owner of basketball team , the Philadelphia 76ers, Croce is also the author of "My Pop-Pop is a Pirate", and "Lead or Get Off the Pot!" The advance press refers to St. Augustine as a former "pirate stronghold".(??!!) Me thinks not!

Croce decided to  leave Key West for  St.Augustine because he wanted a more family friendly atmosphere.
Your kids can come see and learn about the adventurous life of syphilitic, vagabond, cutthroat sociopaths who burned down our city twice. Eat some pirate grub and have a kiddie toddy on the.....and the kids will like this........on the Poop Deck , (snicker, snicker)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Put The Brush Down!

On October 4 -10, thirty miles north in Jacksonville Florida, artists will meet in various points around the city to capture the scene in oils, acrylics and watercolor. This type of event for plein air artists happens all across the country. Unfortunately, St. Augustine chooses not only to ignore the aesthetic enhancement that this event provides but to ignore and prohibit artist's First Amendment rights.

Here in St. Augustine most of the historical district has been declared off limits to artists with the criminal penalties being up sixty days in jail and a five hundred dollar fine.Link

This Was A Confederate State

We have tour guides and trolley drivers pointing out that the structure (pictured above) that was once closer to the bay front before dredge fill,  was "Never a slave market". Historian Geoff Dobson contends that this is the fact, while historian David Nolan states that it occurred numerous times under the roof of what we call "The Slave Market".
Here are both sides :   Dobson Never A Slave Market            
                   Nolan Slaves Traded Here

It is interesting to note that some feel that acknowledgement that this trading of human chattel may have occurred here is somehow not politically correct. Author/historian Karen Harvey was quoted by the St. Augustine Record that  she was "appalled to think anyone would use a term I believed to be derogatory to the African-American population " Karen Harvey's take on the Slave Market

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Our Yankee Friends

In New York City the Bloomberg administration proposed new public park rules for Union Square, High Line, Columbus Circle and Central Park. The new rules would reduce the number of art vendors by 75%. The Federal Court has issued a temporary injunction against the city from enacting these ordinances.The previous final Federal courts have always upheld the First Amendment rights of artists. The Bloomberg administration for City of New York cites safety though the majority of the locations are loaded "legal vendors" taking up most of the space. Last year alone concessions generated more than $43 million in revenue for the city, according to recent testimony from the Parks Department.

Here in St. Augustine we have the nation's oldest park established by Spanish Royal decree 133 years before a bowling green was set up in what is now Central Park. The City of St. Augustine does not permit artists to show and sell their wares in most of the historic district particularly the ironically named Plaza of the Constitution. Cited is the bogus argument of "health and safety".

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Constitution Week

Photos by J.D. Pleasant, L to R: Roger Jolley and Scott Raimondo R: Charles Dickinson, Bottom Left: Suvo burning his city citations, Lower Right: Kate Merrick and grandchildren

Our U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 213 years ago. City Commissioner Erroll Jones spoke yesterday to the women of the D.A.R. He referenced the Spanish Constitutional Monument of 1812 in our Plaza named after the Spanish Constitution. With a little more research Mr. Jones would not have stated that Generalissimo Franco ordered the monuments to that 1812 document destroyed. The dictator General had not reached power in Spain until 1939 making him long unborn in 1814 when Ferdinand VII ordered the Constitution as void and all monuments torn down.(Thank you very much, Catholic Church) Apparently here in St. Augustine they felt slighted as an insignificant outpost and they had put in a lot of work on their monument."Al Diablo Con Esso" (The devil with that!) they might have said and left the monument here in the Plaza. It may be the only remaining monument to the Spanish 1812 Constitution. Of course they have had six Constitutions since that time. Things change.

Come on Commissioner, you were in Cadiz two weeks ago on the taxpayer's dollar where the history of that 1812.Constitution is most important to the Spanish. Were you listening to your private tour guides! Take notes the next time (Will that be your third or fourth trip?)

Clueless Bobbleheads!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

City Control

Dr. King in St. Augustine, 1964

Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed here during the 1964 civil rights demonstrations. He was charged with trespass and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, like the kid in the photo, standing up for his rights and his family's rights.

It was during that time that the St. Augustine City Commission and Mayor Shelley removed all public water fountains and passed this ordinance:

Sec. 22-4. Parks; holding public meetings.

It shall be unlawful for any person to hold any public meeting of any character whatsoever in any of the parks of the city without permission of the city manager.

(Code 1964, § 17-46)

This "law" is still on the books. The artists (at least one) will be meeting in the Plaza soon. The public is invited. We have not asked for "permission".

Our Kids Are Somewhat "Just Average"

On November 13 "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor" will be at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. The show will start at 5:45 Pm to allow the senior audience time to get home for bedtime.

We find it interesting that local activist (some say gadfly) Ed Slavin bears a remarkable resemblance to the spooky voiced Keillor. Put a fright wig on Garrison and you would see the similarities right off. With both of these personalities, we find that we can take them in small doses only and the City Commission obliges by giving Ed his three minutes to present his opinions while they sit stone faced behind their communal desk. Ed sometimes throws in a colloquial, Y'all reckon"!, but other than that the oral delivery by these two men is quite different

Keillor, on the other hand presents his folksy show that is leaning more and more toward presenting Appalachian based musicians with more tales of Lake Woebegon than we can handle. Many of us would have moved from Lake Woebegon years before. A description of a boring town with it's "colorful" characters like the guy who can't find the ingredients to Moo Goo Gai Ding anywhere in Woebegon can only go so far. We give him credit for coming up with mildly fun stories and sometimes even serious tales with a moralistic viewpoint. He and his crew have been doing this for 36 years.

We can predict that the crowd will be very polite, well dressed and reefer use will be down compared to the "The Flaming Lips" concert. Security can relax a little but keep the defibrillator handy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vice Mayor of Florida

Tonight at the City of St. Augustine City Commission Commissioner Erroll Jones gave his report on the city's delegation to three cities in Spain. His delivery and "facts" were just plain embarassing. He had a slide show of  places the delegation visited. City Manager Regan who was also on the trip had to interrupt him numerous times to either correct the commissioners pronunciation or to correct Jones's facts.

We are interested in the offer of a Picasso exhibit from Northern Spain. Though Jones confuses Picasso with Dali it is hoped that someone follows up on this offer.

Our grade for your presentation, Commissioner..............D minus

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Artist at Union Square, Manhattan

Our artist friends in NYC have successfully defended their first amendment rights over and over again. In preparation for the usual Holiday Market over the Xmas season, the Bloomberg administration wants to curtail First Amendment art activity in Union Square. A Federal Judge has interrupted their plans by issuing a temporary injunction against the city's enforcement. It is interesting to note that the city attorney quoted at the end of this article relies on the same bogus arguments and overturned lower court decisions that are used  by the St. Augustine administrators.

Thursday, September 09, 2010



I once had a girlfriend whose birthday was on Pearl Harbor Day December 7 when, in 1941, over 1200 Americans died out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I could always recall her birthday by this event. My birthday is on 9-11 and yes, I believe that more of my friends now remember my date of birth because of the horrendous event of 9-11-01. 

As years pass and Pearl Harbor survivors reach old age start we tend to think of the attack on Pearl Harbor in the abstract, as just another date in the history books.The September 11 2001 attack on the World Trade Center has taken it's place as the touchstone example of physical foreign intrusion on our nation. Over 2900 lives ended on that spot, on that day. We all were changed by that event. One day it will be another date in the history books but not for awhile.

We all remember where we were when we heard about this terrorist act. Live TV coverage put us there as it was happening. The whole east coast of the U.S. was cloudless and  beautiful blue skies was the rule. If the day was overcast and cloudy, history may have recorded another different  unthinkable happening (shudder)....a large jet skidding into the midst of 6th Avenue. These were not well trained seasoned pilots.

On September 11, 2001 I had recently returned to my hometown after a 26 year absence. My father's health was failing and I was the only one of the family who could devote time to ease him into what was most likely, imminent death ( it turned out that dad spent four more years with his Parkinson's Disease) Feeling like a stranger in my hometown , I was grateful when my youngest sister invited me for a birthday lunch in St. Louis, 20 minutes away by light rail. My father was still ambulatory and could be left alone. After an hour of watching the television coverage of the Twin Towers falling, I recalled my time in New York City. The plaza between the two Towers was one of my favorite people watching spots. On a clear September day I might be found sitting in the plaza near Fritz Koenig's sculpture "The Sphere," with  a brown bag lunch from Balducci's. This was what was later referred to as "Ground Zero". 

Taking the train into St. Louis, all passenger conversations were regarding the N.Y.C. terrorist attack. I almost teared up as one woman told her that she heard that over 12,000 people were dead. I knew that the Trade Center certainly held that many people and more. The lady said this so "matter of factly" as if she were recounting the score of a Cardinals game. At lunch with my sister, in a popular midtown restaurant/bar, all eyes were on the large screen television (especially brought in?) St. Louis is a long way from N.Y.C. but there was a tangible feeling of  anger and pain in the comments around our table. I do not recall any of the lighthearted laughter that you would find in a lunchtime crowd. After lunch, my sister had to return to her job at nearby Washington University and I walked to the St. Louis Art Museum. The museum was closed for "security reasons". The trains were still running and I returned to my father's apartment.

I remember a man from the former Soviet Union who set up his vendor's cart in the world Trade Center Plaza selling  those little hollow wooden dolls (matryoshkas) that nested inside each other. He was the epitome of the American Dream. Ivan was almost 70 and loved America and had a house in Queens. He told me of his time in the Gulag during the Khruschev era. I never asked him why he was punished, it seemed rude to do so. He would've been setting up his stand at 8 am that morning and I realized that he would be a survivor since he was at ground level and the buildings did not fall right away. I remembered a visit to the Trade Center three years prior to the terrorism. I was looking for an acquaintance on the 40th floor.He worked in a brokerage house. Not only did I find the whole floor of offices empty, I wandered through the eiree atmosphere, scraps of memos and old phonebooks littered the floor that sprouted spaghetti like electrical lines where the desks were formerly located. Out of business...gone and abandoned . The bedroom sized elevator still stopped at that floor returning me to ground level.

From my apartment on River Street in Hoboken across the Hudson River, I could see Manhattan Island as a shimmering diorama with the  Empire State building in the middle and the Twin Towers at the ocean end on the right. Not having lived there before the Towers were erected, it was to me, a symbol of that great wonderful metropolis. A year after the terrorist attack I returned on a visit and stood on the New Jersey bank of the Hudson and saw.....a blank spot where the towers were. Crossing over by ferry I was astonished to see an old friend.......a survivor of the calamity. Crushed, bruised and relocated ,I found the "The Sphere"  in Battery Park. Bouquets of flowers were placed around the metal artwork and handwritten notes to lost loved ones were pinned to the greenery. A welder was inside the ball working to repair only some of the damage with most of the dents and dings remaining as a memory of the disaster. His welding torch made sparks come out of the holes in the big metal ball.

It was then...a year after the catastrophe that I cried a little, there on a park bench.

by Dr. Cora Angier Sowa

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Trip to Spain

click on to enlarge

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Do as We say, not as We do

City barricade left on the sidewalk during Labor Day weekend. Thursday,Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday

Preamble (paraphrased) to Ordinance 22-6 prohibiting artists in the Plaza........(The artist vendors) block sidewalks impeding pedestrian traffic and prohibiting orderly passage through the Plaza.

First Amendment in the Plaza

Krishna Consciousness chant along in the Plaza.

 "The city said we could do this because we are a religious group"

Monday, September 06, 2010

Life in St. Augustine

While waiting at the bar for a food order to go this big sweaty guy thrust a camera toward me and said "These two want their picture taken!" I obliged. The guy ( Call me, "FishMan !") jumped next to them and threw his arm around them and said "Say Sushi!". They happen to be Chinese.

If you are in your late (or early) 50's and hanging out in tourist bars, forcing your way into their snapshots, give the following some thought:

1. We know that they have never heard your really filthy rendition of "The Aristocrats", but leave it be.

2. Yes, you are knowledgible about St. Augustine history except that the Yankees did NOT burn down the city during the Civil War and Ponce de Leon was not an hermaphrodite. (He wasn't, was he?)

3. You are almost 60, perhaps the too short running shorts and T shirt are more fitting for a 14 year old boy.

4. You say "Young chicks dig older men". Don't kid yourself. You just might be the "creepy old guy at the end of the bar". Remember that guy from the past?....well now it is YOU!

5. Perhaps now is the time to start pursuing a more healthy lifestyle. SlimJims, beer and nachos will kill you.

6. Stop calling yourself "middle aged" No one lives to be 120 years old.


7. Finally. Be yourself........ you've earned it .....and if you are that guy who really, really loves being the old guy in the bar, then I take back everything. Forget it all. Embrace life on your own terms.The exception being the "shirt rule".