Friday, March 11, 2011

The last time we saw the lions

Next Tuesday, March 15 at 2 AM a flatbed truck will be returning the 1926 Lions back to the bridge entrance after an absence of 2220 days. It'll be nice having these crazy eyed lions back guarding our bridge to Anastasia Island

Monday, March 07, 2011



A report from Steven C. White  Artist / Artist Advocate

After a 7+ year battle in the Federal Court, fighting for the Constitutional Rights of all Fine Artists in America, Shaun Christensen was awarded a unanimous ruling by 12 jurors in a Federal Court case coming out of the U.S. District Court in Utah on Friday March 4th, 2011. This litigation came about after Park City officials arrested Christensen on a cold Saturday in January of 2003 for receiving $15 in compensation for one of his self created 3in.X9in. works of art.

He went up to Park City that day, during the famous Sundance Visual Arts Festival, to protest the extreme restrictions that Park City placed on visual Artists...not allowing ANY outside sales by original artists in that City except during their expensive Park City Arts Festival, with its $400+ participation fees. He went there that day to stand up for the Constitutional Rights of All Artistic Citizens and engage in one of the most sacred activities that is protected at the very Core of the First Amendment. He was engaged in a peaceful political challenge to governmental policies, while standing in a public park.

Park City was quick to demonstrate just how EXTREME those policies were, with regards to visual Artists in their City! They arrested Christensen and through him in jail for 2 days!

Christensen got an attorney, Brian Bernard of Salt Lake City, and filed his First Amendment challenge in a law suit against Park City in the Federal Courts. Bernard seemed to be less than qualified in dealing with the proper legal issues of the case and the Federal Judge through the entire case out upon the first go round. Then Bernard quickly dropped the case, refusing to represent Christensen on the appeal to the 10th Circuit Court in Denver.

That didn't stop Christensen. In a move that should empower Artists across this country, he took on the legal challenge of representing himself, without legal council. That is called "Pro-Se" in legal jargon. So Christensen cited his First, Fourteenth and Fourth Amendment claims in his appeal to the 10th Circuit Court. Well be darned if the higher Court agreed with Christensen on questions of law. The high court granted Christensen's appeal and the case was sent back to the lower Court to be adjudicated under the "proper principles" of Constitutional Law.

Christensen has held out against the top law firms in Utah, hired to represent Park City. He has held out against accepting offers by that City to pay him money to settle. Christensen took on this massive challenge in the Federal Courts because he believes that all Citizens have a Constitutional Right to express themselves through the oldest and most powerful forms of human communication...the Fine Arts. He has held his ground for all these 7+ years, steadfastly refusing to compromise or give up the cause of fighting for all artists.

The Federal Judge in this case seemingly stacked every card against Christensen. Even refusing to adjudicate this case under the proper principles of First Amendment law found in the Bery v City of New York ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court, (1996), the White v Sparks ruling by the 9th Circuit Court, in (2006), or similar rulings by the 6th and 7th Circuit Courts. This Utah Federal Judge instead chose to throw the case under the "O'Briend" standards...which are applied to the sale of commercial merchandise. Treating Christensen and Artists in general as though they are no different than a Hot Dog vendor on public property.

Then the Judge called for a jury of lay people to decide these important matters of Constitutional Law...while ignoring Christensen's requests for summary judgment by this Court. So the fate of all Artists in Utah rested with the decision of 12 jurors. In the heart of Conservative Utah, we all thought Christensen had the proverbial "Fat Chance" of Winning because he had to win a unanimous vote of all the12 order to Win the case. The other side had really stacked every possible card against Christensen's chances of winning.

The jurors deliberated for several hours before rendering their decision The Judge read the ruling first and seemed to grimace at the jury's decision. The tension in the court room could be sliced with a knife as the Jury Foreman read the decision allowed.

It was a unanimous vote by all 12 jurors.

Count number 1; The jury found Park City Did Violate Shaun Christensen's First Amendment Rights on that day they arrested him for selling a $15 picture in their park.

Count number 2; The jury found that Park City Did violate Shaun Christensen's 4th Amendment Right to illegal search and seizure.

Christensen is eager to take this on appeal back up the 10th Circuit on his 14th Amendment challenge that the lower Dist. Judge throughout. Christensen seeks a ruling from the higher Court that places the context of his WIN under the proper Constitutional Principles of Law and awards him a more defined and informative ruling on all three challenges he has brought before the Courts. It sure will feel better this time before the 10th Circuit Court with the winning ruling by 12 jurors under his belt from the lower court.

All Artists across this country own Mr. Shaun Christensen a deeply felt thank you for all that he has endured for these past 7+ years because he believes in the principle of First Amendment Law that all Citizens have the God Given Human Right to express ourselves Artistically on public forums without the threat of arrest hanging over us.

His WIN is a WIN for all Artists and further defines the protections offered under our Constitution for Artists and the Fine Arts... for generations of Artists yet unborn and on into the history of our Nation.

Thanks Shaun and Good On YOU SIR.

Steven C. White
Artist / Artist Advocate

Winning rulings in White v Reno, NV. (2003), U.S. District Fed. Court

Winning ruling in White v City of Sparks, NV., (2007), U.S. Federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, U.S. Supreme Court

Nevada State Assembly Bill 351, "Art in the Parks Bill" passed (2006), opening all public parks for Art and the Humanities to become a permanent part of the recreational experience of the public parks of Nevada.

Coordinator of the Carson City Free Community Fine Art Shows, each weekend all summer, free open to artists of all ages and skill levels.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

An Open Letter to The City of St. Augustine

Peter Guinta's article in today's St. Augustine Record headlined as City: Fairness Vital In Carriage Ordinance quoted Commissioner Bill Leary as saying "Tourists love our carriages. The fundamental thing that sticks in my craw was: This is not how we should treat people." referencing ordinance rules that would drive them out of business." Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman said she also had "an unsettling feeling of unfairness" about the first drafts of the ordinance.

As outdoor artist/vendors we support the Carriages and their drivers. The horses seem healthy and it appears that they are given good care. The carriage rides have been around since Henry Flagler opened his hotels in the 1880's.We would like to see the Carriage industry succeed in the ancient city.

It's easy to draw parallels with the Carriage business in this city and the artist's who sell their works in public space.

Henry Flagler invited artists to this city as a cultural enhancement to the tourist experience .Robert Torcia's book,The Lost Colony illustrates how the city nearly became known as a well known artist's colony. It never came to pass because, as Torcia writes that by 1950,

" Motivated largely by self-interest, St. Augustine's business community generously supported the pragmatic values and aesthetic conservatism began to stifle creativity".We artists a have been at a loss to know just who is the driving force putting the vendors out of business under the color of unconstitutional ordinances.

Unlike the carriage companies who provide a service, we are all registered to collect and forward state sales tax on the artwork sold, There is a misconception that we do not comply. We display our tax certificates.

There is a misconception that alternative spaces are available, other than the 1.The prohibited 120 ft. wide five block swath down the length of the historic Districts HP 2 and Hp3 2.Loring Park and surrounding cross streets, 2. Anderson Circle 3. The Plaza De La Constitucion and all surrounding cross streets.The truth is that most of the remaining streets are in neighborhoods, Flagler property or are unsafe for pedestrian passage. The Plaza as Federal Courts have determined is a park that is not only the quintessential forum for free speech but it is the safest public space to display and sell our art.

Though a license scheme for artists has been well settled as unconstitutional ( the city had refunded thousands of dollars in fees as the result of a challenge) it has been illegally re instituted at 75 dollars a month or 900 dollars annually to stay in one 10 x 10 spot in the slave market. A carriage that utilizes city utilities and travels the streets of the city pays now 50 dollars a year but would be 1000 dollars a year under the proposed ordinance.

The current ordinance prohibits an artist from setting up an easel and doing a painting in the "prohibited area" We are told that it is not being enforced so....why is it there and why did four current commissioners vote for this after it was pointed out to them?

The lottery for spaces is a farce...the rules ridiculous and the police have told us that the licensing is not being enforced.No one will wear the photograph that identifies them as a "street performer".

Four of the current Commissioners voted by resolution in Dec 2009 to declare all property around the parking garage and The Visitor Information Center as no longer public property but is now "City proprietary property". Illegal doublespeak here. The city will claim that this is an acceptable alternative and foster a flea market with absolutely no rules and later declare it as not public property after they utilized the alternative claim in court. The same thing was done when St. George Street was prohibited but the Plaza was held up as a viable alternative. Now the Plaza has been banned for artistic activity.

Mayor Boles has said that he does not want the artists taking up space when a day of celebration is had in 2012 for the Spanish Consitutional Monument. Why not ask us to not set up on special event days, if it interferes with the event? This was the way it was handled in the past with no problems. Grass problems? A revolving location was worked out in years past with no problem.

We have requested numerous times to be able to sit down with city administrators to work out a constitutionally viable ordinance that respects first amendment rights. We have never received the courtesy of a response. It was felt that our new City Manager Mr. Regan would put aside the adversarial attitude of the former City Manager Harriss. We are disappointed.

First amendment activity occurs almost every weekend with Christian or Krishna Consciousness devotees playing music and using megaphones. Our activites as artists has no less first Amendment protection as they do. Thre courts recognize that charging for a first amendment protected item does not remove or diminish First Amendment Rights. There are over eight newspaper vending machine in the Plaza area alone. These are protected just as our art is protected.

Your city attorney's argument that County Judge Tinlin said none or all must be permitted is just plain untrue and would make no logical sense when the first amendment is applied. That same attorney will tell you that Federal Judge Marcia Morales Howard declared the previous ordinance invalid. She did not...she simply stated that it cannot be enforced against visual artists. Merchandise that is not First Amendment protected had already been banned in the ordinance . That's when the city opened up the Plaza to all sorts of merchandizing creating an unregulated situation that they later said needed control , though they actually fostered the chaos.

So Commisioners Leary and Freeman,your statements on unfairness and how to treat people ring false to me. I have never seen a flea market vendor jailed for being on public property nor has a carriage owner been jailed. The City has put the street artists out of business illegally. Three of the artists who remain in the shadows are struggling They have been selling their art outside in St. Augustine for a total of 36 years between them. I can assure you that world wide more people know these artists and their artworks than any other artist in this city. Yes,Commissioner Leary, the tourists love the carriages and they also love the artists. They tell us this every time we are out there.

Next week the city is once again pursuing three of six criminal charges against me for being in the Plaza with my art. These are illegal charges but I have found that as a defendant in a county court I cannot expect constitutionally sound decisions. Regardless of the Court's findings. I will continue to to display and sell my art in the Nation's oldest park as long as I am able.

How about you? Will you continue to disregard the plight of taxpaying entrepeneur artists who ask for nothing but the recognition of their rights?

Gregory Travous aka Suvo

Member at large: The Graphic Artist's Guild (AFLCIO affiliated)
The Florida Artist's Registry
The International Registry of Artists and Artworks
The American Society of Portrait Artists