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Art League of Lincoln’s comments regarding The News Messenger March 21 column on page 4, “Art league needs to consider Lincoln residents"

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TO ALL OUR VALUED ART LEAGUE OF LINCOLN MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS:

This letter was written by our President, Paul Apfel, to be shared with all of you:

I read the Thursday, March 21, 2013 edition of the Lincoln News Messenger with mixed reactions. Carol Percy’s article on ClayFest on the front page was accurate, fair and balanced. However, Editor Carol Feineman’s editorial on page A4 was inaccurate, misleading and misrepresented the issues.

In a riff from Feineman’s introductory paragraphs: The News Messenger’s editor needs to research and comprehend the issues more clearly before presuming to inform Lincoln readers about local art activities. If she doesn’t, the editor will lose her integrity, and consequently, support of Lincoln residents.

So, here is a rebuttal to Feineman’s scold. And, I won’t need four columns and several column inches to explain the issues.

First, the issues. We had two. First we had to find a venue to hold America’s ClayFest. We had 79 ceramic art pieces selected by our juror from over 300 submitted to display in some setting. And, that setting had to be large enough for the art show and a reception of some 200-400 patrons to introduce the art.

In past years, the former Feats of Clay show could rely on Gladding McBean for use of the factory’s third floor as well as an unused clay firing kiln on the first floor. But, this year, Gladding McBean pulled the plug and denied public access effective in late January, citing their concerns over American’s With Disabilities Act exposure and potential litigation as the reason. With the loss of that display space, we had to find a large venue.

The old Lincoln Arts building at 580 Sixth Street was offered by the city. But, we had explained clearly to them in a letter Executive Director Jean Cross sent them, that the building was simply too small for an art show and reception of our size. We needed more room and we asked for the 2d floor of the old city hall. So, Feineman’s characterization that “The council offered the art league an extremely fair deal on February 14 to occupy 580 Sixth St...” is just wrong. It was too small and we told the city that at least 2-3 weeks earlier.

Regarding our request for the old city hall space, the city ignored our January letter as well as another sent in February just before Jean Cross’ presentation to the council sitting in public session. Jean told the council we needed a decision not later than March 1. We set this deadline because the show begins in May and the art was due to begin arriving in March; we needed a place to accept it and store it. Moreover, we had a commitment regarding our plan B. We had agreed to notify Blue Line Arts in Roseville of an acceptance or non-acceptance of an offer to partner with them for the show if the city didn’t come through. Our deadline for confirming the commitment with Blue Line was March 1.

Well the city didn’t come through, so we accepted Blue Line’s generous offer. To not do so meant cancellation of the show.

Now, for the second issue, which is finding a permanent home. Feineman opines in her piece that the city’s “extremely fair deal...” included a month-to-month rental agreement after the show concluded. “The cost to the league: utilities and $1 for rent.” I’ll concede the accuracy of that last statement. But fair?

Left unsaid was the fact that the city was negotiating a sale of that same structure with a private party and has been doing so for at least the last two closed city council sessions. You can check the publicly available city council agenda for proof of that. And then the editor asserts, “It’s all about good faith.” That’s good faith?

Furthermore, the old Lincoln Arts building at 580 Sixth St. has been vacant since last February. Even if we had agreed to occupy it as an office and gallery - not for the America’s ClayFest - but for uses after that, it likely would have required our resources in terms of money and sweat to prepare it for use. So, we fix it up and then the city retains the right to sell it out from under us...and they were negotiating with a private party to do just that. Good faith? Indeed!

So, we’re still looking for a permanent space. But, we’ve settled the issue of where to hold America’s ClayFest, thus preserving the integrity of the show.

The editor asserts “For the Art League of Lincoln to become a respected non-profit organization here, its members should rethink their actions in taking the show elsewhere.” And where in Lincoln would Ms. Feineman suggest we hold the show? We have looked at every possible venue in Lincoln, and none other than the old city hall’s second floor meet the test. As we have stated, the 580 Sixth St location is too small, and we told the city just that...repeatedly.

Editor Feineman continues: “The art league needs to cooperate with the Lincoln community.” I’ll agree with her on that. And we are doing so by preserving the America’s ClayFest show. Lincoln residents have only to travel a few miles south on Highway 65 to Roseville to see the show from May 10-June 1.

By preserving the show, we provide promise that perhaps next year we can produce it in Lincoln, if we can find a space large enough for the exhibit. We’re doing that for the benefit of Lincoln residents. That’s our challenge and we’re meeting it the best way we can.

I found Feineman’s penultimate paragraph insulting. She states: “The art league, though, acted like a spoiled kid, threatening to take their business elsewhere.” She’s wrong. We didn’t threaten anyone; we were direct in stating our need, its urgency and a possible alternative. And the spoiled kid comment? A responsible journalist should know better.

Finally, the editor states “That move only hurts their credibility at a time the group should be proving themselves.” Well, we are proving ourselves as responsible stewards of a show with a long-running tradition. And we are doing so without the cooperation of the city council or, in this case, the editor of the Lincoln News Messenger.

With your support, we will continue to grow and provide more art opportunities for Lincoln. Check out our website at www.all4art.net for just a few of the activities we have coming up for the rest of the year.

Believe me when I say we are considering Lincoln residents in everything we do. It’s unfortunate some public commentators cannot say the same.

If you feel as I do about the issues, please feel free to share your thoughts with the Lincoln News Messenger.

s/Paul Apfel

President, Art League of Lincoln

 

Lincoln Mayor Stan Nader’s response to Art League


It is unfortunate that there has been so much misinformation and dialogue regarding the issue of the Art League of Lincoln having a home in Lincoln. The City had attempted to provide what we could with available resources.
On the two matters to which Paul Apfel refers, first, by the time a possible solution for the Art League to use the second floor of the old City Hall for the art show was presented, the League told us it was too late and that they had already made arrangements with another venue. This is partially due to the time necessary to prepare the second floor for a show of that scale as it is presently unoccupied and in general disrepair. The City would also need to determine the maximum occupancy allowed on the second floor, given it was not designed for that purpose. Finally, the elevator in the building would require approximately $5,000 for inspection and repairs before it could be used for the event.
Second, Paul Apfel stated that the City was not negotiating in good faith, which is not true. The League was told up front that the old Lincoln Arts building was available, however, if there was a party wanting to purchase or lease the building at the going rate, we would entertain those offers. This is the same condition the Lincoln Archives was given when they chose to move into the old City Hall building.

It’s unfortunate that the late notice regarding the unavailability of Gladding, McBean as a venue for the art show has caused it to be moved out of Lincoln this year. We share the Art League’s desire to have it return to Lincoln in 2014.

Lincoln Mayor Stan Nader