Buy Local #2: Charlottesville City pursues North Carolina sculpture purchase while urging citizens to buy “local” art

| May 11, 2011 | 11 Comments

It’s an apparent case of déjà vu all over again as Charlottesville city government has been caught afresh violating another of its own preposterous edicts.

In December of last year, Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris publicly endorsed a frivolous city-backed initiative entitled, “Buy Art Give Art Charlottesville,” which was based on a similar program in Providence, Rhode Island. The launch was introduced via official press release from city spokesman, Ric Barrick, in which the initiative was described as:

A partnership between the City of Charlottesville, Piedmont Council for the Arts, and local artists and arts organizations, Buy Art Give Art is designed to increase the visibility and economic support of the visual arts by promoting a compelling message to the general public.

And what is the compelling message? According to the Charlottesville Department of Economic Development there are two:

Message 1: The recent economic downturn has hit our local visual arts community hard.

and

Message 2: A vibrant and healthy visual arts scene is a critical piece of the local and tourism-related economy.

 

And the stated goal for this taxpayer-backed program?

…[To] remind area citizens to consider purchasing one-of-a-kind, locally created artwork – of all sizes and price ranges — from our galleries, studios, and other venues that sell art.

And the proposed method of “reminding” citizens to “buy local art”?

  • Bright green “Buy Art Give Art” bumper stickers
  • Similarly designed “Buy Art Give Art” lapel buttons

And the “key” campaign component in convincing Charlottesvillians to alter their art-purchasing behavior?

Special-edition Buy Art Give Art buttons that display images of local artwork and will be given in gratitude to anyone who buys a piece of art from a participating vendor

The celluloid buttons themselves become the focus of the press release as they are described by artist, Kate Barton:

“The limited edition buttons are each a piece of art themselves. People should take pride in supporting local artists by wearing the buttons on their jackets, totes and messenger bags. It will also encourage others to consider buying local art when shopping for gifts.”

The kickoff publicity and related handouts for Buy Art Give Art cost city taxpayers a cool $2,000. Chump change to Democrat Norris, perhaps, but a needless waste of taxpayer dollars in financially troubled times.

In spite of all the hoopla, the Mayor’s “endorsement,” and the green buttons and stickers, City Hall Democrats apparently did not receive the “buy local art” memo. An internal coterie, spearheaded by Democrat Councilor Satyendra Huja, currently is conspiring to drop valuable tax dollars on an expensive piece of “non-native” art.

At hand is the proposed city purchase of “Azure,” a “stone butterfly” sculpture that has been displayed as part of Charlottesville’s taxpayer-underwritten ArtInPlace program (a privately run, quasi-governmental “non profit” of which Huja is a board member).

Unaware of (or unconcerned with) their own decree to “buy local,” purchase negotiations have been ongoing for months between Charlottesville City Hall and the sculpture’s North Carolina based artist, Philip Kyle Hathcock, who values his masterpiece at $25,000.

No matter the final negotiated price for the City’s proposed “foreign” art purchase, if completed funding likely will come from the Charlottesville’s “percent for art” slush fund—coincidentally contrived by Mr. Huja prior to his council tenure—and currently overflowing with $118,000 surplus taxpayer dollars.

And what of ArtInPlace? The consortium of wealthy Democrat elitists who comprise the “non profit” organization continue to profit from the largess of wealthy Democrat elitists in Charlottesville City Hall, courtesy of hapless and unrepresented Charlottesville taxpayers. In addition to specific “art” purchases, annual city support for ArtInPlace totals $19,000—this for a program that was slated by former Charlottesville City Manager Gary O’Connell to be “self sufficient” and off the city dole more than five years ago.

In an effort to obfuscate, City Hall Democrats have removed ArtInPlace funding as a direct line item in the city’s annual budget document. Instead they’ve cleverly chosen to fund the “non profit” contractually through the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department, thus sparing Councilor Huja—the clandestine ArtInPlace board member—an abstention embarrassment. Council’s side benefit of the reclassification: public discussion and criticism of the program effectively has been abrogated.

Aside from the unnecessary and extravagant ongoing purchases of “public” art for the personal pleasure of Democrat parvenu, hypocrisy abounds in Charlottesville City Hall. The elected and appointed Democrat cabal, led by Mayor Dave Norris, once again has squandered thousands of taxpayer dollars concocting yet another extrinsic “buy local” scheme, which the city itself has freely disregarded.

 

About the Author:

Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA's The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.
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11 Comments on "Buy Local #2: Charlottesville City pursues North Carolina sculpture purchase while urging citizens to buy “local” art"

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  1. Ken says:

    Rob, first of all, there is no contradiction between the city’s encouraging people to buy local and doing so itself by supporting Art in Place, and their buying from outside the community as well. “Buy Only Local” is not the slogan.

    Secondly, you may not have much appreciation for art, and that’s OK, but Democrats and parvenus (big words and insults – the classic Schilling touch) are hardly the only ones who do.

    Finally, spending that $2000 is called investing. It’s called improving the landscape as a way of improving the quality of life. It’s called attracting talented people to move here. I’ve been told Art in Place was the clincher that brought a prominent professional to town, and that she’s not alone. This should not surprise you.

  2. Christina says:

    I agree with Ken that “Buy Locally” doesn’t mean “Buy Only Locally”. If the local artists are selling crap then you buy elsewhere until they learn to do real art.

    However, this is assuming they actually bought ART. Yet most of the “ArtInPlace” pieces consist of large chuncks of trash…rusting trash.

    Although, as far as TrashInPlace goes, the butterfly might be one of the better pieces. It actually looks decent, if contorted as if it’d been hit by a car.

    There is one piece I “like” and that’s the duck on Barracks…only problem with that is they have no clue on placement or design. It’s a nice image that is horridly placed on the overpass, right beside another square of random colors. Again showing that those who buy and place this stuff have not a single eye for beauty among them.

  3. Ken says:

    Christina, that “square of random colors” is actually a representational and not abstract work, as the title, “East Fall Blue Ridge,” makes clear. So the overpass has two works depicting nature.

    Merely being a professional artist is no guarantee of good taste, obviously; then again, the pros do know something. When you disagree with them, you might ask yourself if their taste is actually bad, or yours is just limited.

  4. Ellen Hathaway says:

    I am a local artist and was enthusiastic when fellow artist Kate Barton envisioned a grassroots initiative to promote local art. In an effort to create a unified message she coordinated local artists (citizens), galleries (businesses), Piedmont Council for the Arts (focused interest), and “The City” (government). The city would only endorse if there were a measurable means to monitor the effort, hence the buttons. As I fully believe I am called to use my God-given gifts of time, treasure, and talent for the betterment of the community where I live, I believe in Kate’s idea. Economically speaking I believe the most effective stimuli comes from the ability and willingness of a community to support it’s businesses and those supplying goods. If the artists and businesses who initially endorsed this idea would now actively support it could benefit our community. I agree with Rob 100% that our city could set a better example, and add stimulation locally, by spending the monies collected from local citizens within our own community.This is not a bureaucratic initiative, rather a grassroots. It is in keeping with your Rob’s ideologies and I would love to speak more with Rob about this endeavor!

  5. Christina says:

    Ken, I just went back and looked and you’re right, they are mountains. It’s quite telling that no matter how many times I see that second piece, stare at it and note that it’s a badly drawn mountain scene, I still remember it as random orange hues splashed up there.

    Perhaps, instead of declaring the multitude of “amateurs” who disagree with you “limited” you instead consider that being a professional artist doesn’t mean that this “art” you conned got our gov to pay you large sums of money for is any more than the trash the “amateurs” say it is.

  6. Ken says:

    Christina, if it looked like I was lecturing, as it does even to me now, I sincerely apologize. But my instinct is to respect the professionals and to try to learn from them, and in so doing I’ve broadened my taste considerably. I’ve even learned to love rusted sculpture (http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/serra/)!

    Ellen, I’ve enjoyed your flower paintings at Les Yeux du Monde and the Southern, and would love to hear you on Rob’s show.

  7. GaryW. says:

    Dear Rob and respondents, Has everyone missed the political
    fact that Councillor Huja is running for re-election this
    electoral cycle in the Democratic Party primary? It is
    important to reward his supporters and receive their support in return. I hope he has a green turban to highlight these activities. Of course, this would only underline his environmental intiatives :).

  8. Ellen Hathaway says:

    Ken, thank you!I believe art has such a power for affirmation!If I am able to make it to Rob’s show I simply want to talk about art and the abundance of local talent we have!

  9. Cville Eye says:

    What’s the use of having a “Buy Local” campaign if you are going to buy from all over the world? Does anyone think there are local people who never buy anything locally? Face it, Art in Place is used as a vote-getter. Huja’s being on the Board of Directors is applauded by many because he can champion spending, not investing, from the public trough. Where was the return on the investment for the now dead whale’s tail. I think it went into the mortgage on the creator’s house. This is a good way for Council to control the local artists’ vote by creating yet another welfare class. I have no oppostion is placing local artists’ work on public property for a short period time but I don’t see why the tax payer has to pay for it.

    I agree with Ken that “Buy Locally” doesn’t mean “Buy Only Locally”. Obviously it means absolutely nothing but getting city money. Art in Place may have improved the artists’ quality of life but it certain hasn’t affected mine one way or another. I find it over all neither inspiring nor depressing. I usually don’t pay it any attention even if I do see it.

  10. Ken says:

    Where was the return on the investment for the now dead whale’s tail.

    Would you ask where the return on the investment was for a stand of trees? You’d get the same answer.

  11. James Moore says:

    Every dollar spent promoting local art is a dollar less that the taxpayer has to buy local art.

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