Lincoln Arts says petition a 'vendetta'

Signers refute claim
By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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A July 29 article (front page, “Lincoln Arts asked for audits”) in The News Messenger about Lincoln Arts has resulted in online comments by katmakes5, saying Kathy Dorsey, her friends have a vendetta to take over Feats of Clay. Plus Lincoln Arts and Cultural Foundation president June Reeves had a similar comment in a letter to the editor in the Aug. 5 News Messenger (“Lincoln Arts responds to audit petition,” page A7). The article mentions 200 arts supporters who signed a petition, asking that Lincoln Arts and Cultural Foundation undergo independent annual financial and management audits. “It has come to my attention that the petition circulated is motivated by a group of persons wishing to see Lincoln Arts disappear so they can take over the “Feats of Clay” annual reception and tours as a for-profit making enterprise,” Reeves wrote in last week’s letter. On Tuesday, The News Messenger asked Reeves outside of Lincoln Arts on Sixth Street where she got her information from and if she believes it to be true. Reeves said she’d heard the rumor about the individuals “from a reliable source” but wouldn’t say from whom. Reeves said she “believes the rumor to be true.” “We don’t know what precipitated the audit request. I have no idea what this is all for,” Reeves said. “If they want to privatize Feats of Clay, it makes sense.” Reeves is referring to “the group of persons wishing to see Lincoln Arts disappear.” Reeves said it makes sense because “it’s (Feats of Clay) one of the best, most lucrative events the city of Lincoln has.” She also said Lincoln Arts “makes very little money from the event.” The News Messenger asked Reeves how much money Feats of Clay made this year. She responded, “I don’t know.” She told The News Messenger she’d call Wednesday morning with that number. Reeves called The News Messenger Wednesday morning. She said the gross income from this year’s Feats of Clay was $103,000, with expenses being $24,000, netting Lincoln Arts $74,000. “The $74,000 will be put towards keeping the gallery open for the rest of the year, salaries and operating expenses,” Reeves said. The News Messenger also placed several calls and left several messages for the person believed to be the online commenter katmakes5 and that person did not call The News Messenger back. While at Lincoln Arts Tuesday, The News Messenger asked office manager Michelle Renati if Lincoln Arts Executive Director Claudia Renati was available for comment. Michelle Renati said Claudia Renati was busy writing a grant and deferred The News Messenger to Reeves for comment. “I have been a volunteer and supporter of Feats of Clay myself for seven or eight years and through my husband, Dan Cross of Gladding McBean for 17 years,” said Jean Cross, who is a partner in The Place! arts gallery/store with Dorsey. “It (Feats of Clay) was started by and for Lincoln Arts and Culture Foundation. I know of no one who is interested in taking it away from them.” The News Messenger asked Dorsey if the comments made by katmakes5 and Reeves are true. “The comments that were made are untrue. Individuals who make those kinds of comments not only diminish themselves, but by extension, the Lincoln Arts and Culture Foundation,” Dorsey said. “I hope Feats of Clay and Lincoln Arts continue to remain an important part of the downtown equation.” Dorsey also addressed Reeves comment about privatizing Feats of Clay. “With respects to any suggestion about Feats of Clay being privatized, the only comments I have read in the newspaper are that Claudia and her daughter were talking about forming a special events committee,” Dorsey said. “Beyond that, I have no knowledge of any other movement to privatize Feats of Clay and I believe that would be a mistake. Feats of Clay started with Lincoln Arts and should stay with Lincoln Arts.” Beth McMurtrie, one of the petition signers, said the petition goal is not to take over Feats of Clay. “That, I’m sure, is the furthest thing from anybody’s mind. It (the petition) strictly was looking at a public institution that some people felt there had been some discrepancies with funds that weren’t being shared with the public,” McMurtrie said. “I can’t speak for everyone who signed the petition but it is a concern of mine when an institution like that has three family members that are paid employees.” Those family members are Claudia, Michelle and John Renati, according to previous News Messenger reports.