Sunday, April 3, 2011

Letter from Waterfall Arts

The Arts in Maine have been an essential business sector for literally hundreds of years because of what Maine is. The Creative Economy generates a significant amount of business for the state, tens of millions of dollars each year in taxes and visitor spending. Working artists and their art are real business leaders.
The saga of Governor LePage’s supremely wrongheaded removal of the Labor Department mural by Maine artist Judy Taylor just goes on and on. Every day brings a new wrinkle in the mutual outrage.
Mr. LePage and his influential “secret admirer” are outraged at the notion that the history of labor should be seen at the Department of Labor. This camp is also outraged that Department of Labor conference rooms should be named for historical leaders of labor. They want to change all that unpleasant context stuff where one thing fits smoothly with another; to them it seems terribly unfair to businessmen who might walk by, see this and wind up in a little huff.
Protesters, on the other hand, are outraged at the Governor’s high-handed, unilateral, unconstitutional and potentially illegal secret removal of the work to an undisclosed location. As if anonymous secret admirers should run policy in one of the United States.
You can see right away where I am on this. I’m a protester. Funny, how trying to rub out art makes it famous.
Many of the most important points have already been made in this ‘Muralgate‘ incident. The mural was federally funded and installed in 2008 through a public process. That’s standard behavior for a constitutional democracy.
They were secretly removed this past weekend by executive order of our Governor, who would like to replace it with his personal choice of d├ęcor: neutral colors, names and images of mountains, moose and ponds. Now, I respect the subject of those traditional Maine images, but they were not chosen by a public process. And I don’t respect the way the mural was removed and the reasons why. That’s standard behavior for a corporate oligarchy, a corporatocracy.
Don’t Maine citizens deserve free pubic debate, whether worker or entrepreneur or established business leader? I believe they do.
Aren’t we all mature enough to do this, respectful of opposing points of view? I believe we are.
Art is powerful, and art’s authenticity and honesty simply can’t be erased. Even thousands of years don’t dim the impact of a work of art, small or large. I suppose that also makes art scary to some who don’t like the light of day or who want it all their way.
Maybe the whole thing is a ham-fisted smoke screen meant to distract people from other affronts, like rolling back child labor laws, just one affront of many.
Unnecessarily denigrating opponents by name-calling, belittling, pushing and dirty tricks is the mark of a playground bully, not a statesman.
Mr. LePage, change your ways, sir. Be an honorable statesman, listen to the people and return the murals to the Department of Labor.
Alan Crichton, Board President
On behalf of the Board of Directors of Waterfall Arts,
Elaine Bielenberg, Brenda Bonneville, Lorna Crichton, Jay Davis, Valery Doody, Erin Herbig, John Jamieson, Jana McQuilkin, Matthew O’Malia, Jessica Porter, Tammy Lacher Scully, Abbie Read, Simon van der Ven, Lisa Whittier

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