Saturday, April 23, 2016

Curiosity Shop: Plein Air Art "Task Force" by Merchants? Tsk, Tsk.

So "merchants" want to lobby the City, with City Commissioner ROXANNE HORVATH, on plein air painting?  HORVATH and other Commissioners would not even support Mayor Shaver's request for a workshop on the issue after attorney Thomas Elijah Cushman spoke to Commissioners. This led to yet another lawsuit, and yet another court order finding the City of St. Augustine violated artists' First Amendment rights.

The wimpy putative Cultural Council, a/k/a "Cult Council," with ex-City Attorney RONALD WAYNE BROWN on its board, refuses to take a stand.

Neither the "Task Force" nor The Record contacted actual, living breathing plein air artists, or their counsel.

This stinks.

Will Ethics Commission complaints be filed?

Will the "Task Force" be in the Sunshine?

En plein air: St. Augustine group forming to focus on the art form
Posted: April 22, 2016 - 11:38pm | Updated: April 23, 2016 - 7:20am


A task force is forming in St. Augustine to focus on plein air painting in the city.

While the task force will be made up of residents, St. Augustine City Manager John Regan and Vice Mayor Roxanne Horvath plan to serve as liaisons.

It’s in the early stages, so the group hasn’t had its first meeting or outlined its focus areas.

However, Regan said, “There’s only one point of this type of committee, and that would be to effect public policy.”

The issue is related to the city’s Vision Plan, which makes art, history and culture a priority. Plein air art is created in the outdoors with the subject in view.

The plein air group is being organized by Aviles Street businessman and goldsmith Joel Bagnal, and Regan said the idea for the task force was born out of discussion among Aviles Street merchants.

Regan said he suggested the formation of the group because people showed an interest in plein air painting, and he said one of his roles as city manager is to get people involved.

Regan said it’s up to the committee to establish its goals, but he thinks one goal is open communication with the city about its policies — and for the city to listen to how those policies affect plein air artists.

St. Augustine has run into issues with painters as part of a tug-of-war between the city and street performers. That tension has led to litigation and reshaping of the city’s policies over the years.

The city is currently involved in litigation with four artists who sued it over its rules regarding the sale of art. That case is ongoing.

Painting is considered a performance under city code, and performing is prohibited on St. George Street and some side streets. Painting is not allowed in the Plaza de la Constitucion. Selling art is restricted in those areas, too.

However, artists can paint in other public areas within the city.

Mary Hubley, a plein air painter in St. Augustine, has agreed to serve on the plein air task force. She paints throughout the city and with a group of plein air painters, and hasn’t had an issue, she said. However, she avoids restricted areas, she said.

Getting more information out about the city’s rules is one topic she plans to bring to the group.

“Artists coming from out of town have no idea [about the] rules,” she said.

The discussion comes alongside the Find Your Park Plein Air event, which focuses on plein air painting in national parks through Sunday. That event arose from a collaboration between the National Park Service and the St. Johns Cultural Council.

Also, Aviles Street will host plein air painting and sketching on May 7 as part of the Romanza Festivale of the Arts.

Bagnal, who is not a plein air painter but is an Aviles Street merchant, said he’s been in the area for about 15 years. He’s seen the changes in St. Augustine and how plein air artists have been restricted from St. George Street and parts of some side streets. He said he thinks some regulation allowing them back could coexist with other regulations.

“What I really am interested in doing is taking as broad of view as possible,” he said about the task force. “And to take a patient attitude toward this activity.”

Roger Bansemer is an artist who lives in St. Augustine with his wife. They are featured in the PBS television series called, “Painting & Travel with Roger & Sarah Bansemer.” Some episodes feature St. Augustine.

Some artists want to be able to paint anywhere and “set up shop” and display and sell paintings, which Bansemer said he’s opposed to. Allowing sales like that is not fair to store owners, but plein air painting alone can draw customers, he indicated.

Bansemer said he is in favor of the city opening currently restricted areas to plein air artists, but limiting artists to working on one painting and no sales.

“Something needs to be done, and I think it’s one artist, one painting,” he said.

Through his television series, he receives emails regularly from people who ask whether it’s true that “you can’t paint in St. Augustine,” he said. So he explains the rules.

“It’s a big issue,” Bansemer said. “And I think the city is losing out at least publicity-wise because they’re getting a bad name, and I know this because I get these emails from artists.”

1 comment:

Bruce Kevin Bates said...

The Merchants want more people to visit Aviles St., and they recognize that PleinAir painters would draw more people down the street. But, in my humble opinion, they are only thinking of themselves and not the artists. Back in the day, the St. Augustine Chamber of Commerce used to take up a collection from the Merchants and pay the PleinAir artists to setup and paint in front of their businesses. They recognized that it added charm and ambiance to the streets and drew in hundreds of visitors.

But today's merchants don't want to pay the artists to setup and attract visitors to their shops, nor will they allow them to make a livable wage by allowing them to sell their art on the streets.

Perhaps if the Merchants tried putting themselves in the shoes of the full-time artists, they would recognize that the majority of artists make well below the poverty level. Perhaps if the PleinAir artists turned over to the Merchants all the money they make selling their art on the streets, perhaps then the Merchants would allow the PleinAir artists to paint and sell their art on the streets. What do you think? Should PleinAir artists be allowed to make a poverty level wage selling their art on the streets, or should they have to give up all the money they make from their paintings to the Merchants?