RiseMagazine | Sarasota

The Premier Lifestyle Magazine of Florida's Black Communities

The Art Of War?

It’s A Matter of Perspective

by Michael Paragon

After sitting through a City Hall meeting and hearing the mural controversy rear its head again, I had to question the motivations of a man who appears to be on a mission. I’m speaking of Scott Gerber, owner and creator of “The Tube Dude” fad! His apparent defiance over what seems to be a “no brainer” may be the result of a differing in backgrounds than the rebel without a cause act.

In an interview with Tim Jaeger of Sarasota Visual Arts, Gerber described himself as being “one of those guys that would rather fight than ask “how can I help?”. He goes on to recall his first emotional charges from anonymously placing random Tube Dudes around the city. Each bearing some form of positive message like : “SMILE”, “BE NICE” or “SAY THANK YOU”. Whatever the message, the euphoric feeling that he got was enough to convince him that TD was his calling!

After opening shop in March, he’s gone on to make TD available through a distributor network covering 28 states as well as Paris. Not bad for what could have been considered littering!

The Tube Dude facility is located within Sarasota’s HUB (Historically Under-used Business) district. As such, there are certain guidelines that must be adhered to and certain objectives that the City would like to encourage from businesses within the zone. Gerber is proud of his latest accomplishment, the securing of a $100K EDC (Economic Development Grant) grant for the business and speaks of his plans to create jobs for 44 people within the community. All very ambitious endeavors that seem to have garnered the support of many around him. Among those supporters would be Ms. Denise Kowal.

Denise is the organizer responsible for the Sarasota Chalk Festival. Understandably, the intentions to increase awareness of the Rosemary District through art and artful displays may be a valid one. The Sarasota Chalk Festival (which ran from November 1 – 7, 2011) was successfully orchestrated into an event that turned the eyes of the art world towards Sarasota’s Burns Court and Pineapple Business District for a week and made an artform easily mistaken for graffiti something much more wonderful!

Speaking of graffiti, the artist responsible for this work, MTO, is the same individual responsible for the “Berlin Street Fighters Graffiti Contest”. MTO (his actual name is Mateo) hails from Berlin, Germany and has been working in spray since 2008. He was invited to the Sarasota Chalk Festival among 250 other artists. Typically, his works are of celebrities from the music and film industries and are genuine works of art. MTO has gained a global following and is actually considered the best in the genre.

But, the question here is whether the “artwork” displayed on the walls of the Tube Dude building should be considered artwork or eyesore. Many would consider this proof positive that there’s no such thing as “bad” publicity. More alarming are the joint plans between Gerber and Kowal to expand this type of display to other properties within the business zone! Gerber hopes that this type of artistic presentation will serve to attract other artists…or other taggers.

As the City has plans in motion to officially request that the mural be painted over, the message should be clear; when personal displays of “art” cross the line of offense to the viewing public, it’s no longer considered art. Consequently, the wall painting that you see above was not the original finished product. After initial complaint began coming in, it was enhanced with text that makes the image read “It’s a FAST LIFE let love express it!

Seriously…what does that even mean?

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47 comments on “The Art Of War?

  1. Pingback: Goofball Tagger MTO Slams Sarasota and Tube Dude Factory With Dr. Robin Mural, Chalk Festival Founder Denise Kowal Defends MTO, Again. « Bill Warner P.I. Private Investigator Crime & Terrorism Blog Sarasota FL ph 941-926-1926

    • Michael Paragon
      05/04/2012

      One would assume that this would be a good point to insert a sharp, pointed “I told you so!” but, it’s not. At this point, it’s pretty upsetting that MTO, an artist whom I genuinely had respect for regarding his talents, couldn’t use any better judgement than to follow-up the “Fast Life” mural with THIS?!? As professionals, we learn to choose the battles that we engage in and if there were any bad blood between Scott Gerber and MTO then that should have been handled in a more appropriate forum, not on the facade of another business-owner’s property. I doubt if this new piece reflects what was agreed upon between the building owner (a neighbor to the Tube Dude business) and MTO. That opens up the conversation to varying degrees of breach of contract, property vandalism and malicious intent as well as slander.

      To clarify – you as an artist, have your work painted over because it was not accepted by the community, because the business owner who allowed you to use his business as a canvas (especially if this was a paid gig!) allowed it to be painted over due to negative feedback, because you merely chose the wrong venue to do this particular piece – you choose to then insult the previous business, further dirty up your own name and reputation and basically slap every supporter that you’ve had in the face in the process?!? That’s REAL professional! Especially if the check cleared!

      What this exemplifies to me is that artistic ability and artistic maturity are in no ways mutually connected! Whether Denise was elated or disappointed with my previous stories on this issue has no bearing on me whatsoever…I doubt if I could seriously care any less. My goal was to present the issues from a neutral standpoint and I did the best that I could to do so. Did I talk to Denise? Nope. Did I speak with Scott? Yes, very briefly. And I relayed his sentiments about the controversial issue as they were told to me. If that was found to be disappointing, oh well. It was the truth.

      Now MTO seals his own fate with this! Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to speak with Denise on RiseRadio.

      • Lori Escalera
        05/04/2012

        What are you complaining about? Actually….you are aren’t journalizing you are whining like a child who didn’t get his way. Your opinion isn’t shared by everyone. Even if you believe it to be that way because the mural came off, this circumstance does not equate in the least to the last one. Whose being immature here? I congratulate MTO and the Kowal’s for not giving up. The TRUTH will always find a way. LOVE will always find a way.

      • Michael Paragon
        05/04/2012

        Lori, I don’t have any problems with your comments but, I have to ask you what are you reading?!? I’m NOT complaining about much of anything here. “A child who didn’t get his way.”?!? As for my opinion being shared by everyone, that’s not my point here nor previously. Whether you, or anyone else agrees with me, doesn’t matter. That the best interests of this community are respected and honored is the point. If this were a matter of the most votes for one side or the other, unfortunately, this small community would be consistently out-voted by the rest of the city – that’s just the reality of the numbers involved. So, if you’re point here is that the majority should rule, then I’m thankful that YOU’RE the one who isn’t getting their way! And BTW, I wanted the mural down so, how did I NOT get “my way”?

        I don’t want MTO to stop striving to contribute the the artwork here but, as long as he continues to deliver pieces that stir up negative controversy, he will only be the architect of his own demise in the end.

        As for TRUTH and LOVE always finding a way…you’re kinda coming off as some kind of peace-symbol toting, idealistic hippie! If there’s any Love to be shown here, let’s show it to the community that these works are being created in and towards the residents who should be proud to embrace those same works of art with pride. Maybe you can find the TRUTH in explaining to one of the neighborhood 6 year-olds what bullsh** means.

      • Lori Escalera
        05/04/2012

        Michael, you seem a little touchy about all of this. You’ve insulted MTO by calling him immature and now casting aspersions that I’m some kinda flower child. 😉 Your point: “that the best interests of this community are respected and honored” is entirely narrow minded, provincial, and lacking in emancipated thinking. Uh, excuse me, but what ever happened to embracing DIVERSITY and the ARTS? Maybe we should go back to slave owning, women not voting, unequal rights, and jean only Fridays?

        I think THIS time the artwork is going to be placed in a place where no one has right to make it go away because of freedom of speech and lack of ordinance provisions. The mural will go up, the bullies will get tired and go away and Sarasota will go about its business until the next “art crisis” comes to someone’s attention.

        In the entire time the mural was up no one was shot or killed because of it, no one was negatively influenced by it and everyone went about their business except for those on the bandwagon of fear and irrationality.

        You guys need to get out of Sarasota once in awhile and visit some of the bigger avant guard art cities of our country or other countries….this really is not an issue for dynamic communities. It WAS executed out of LOVE for art and people and the TRUTH is that you and all the rest the nay sayers can’t kill an idea no matter how much you all want to complain and whine about this.

      • Michael Paragon
        05/04/2012

        Lori, I may come across as touchy on this subject but, that’s far from the truth. What I AM sensitive about is your attempts to describe me as a spoiled child in regards to this, or for the matter, any issue. If you would believe for a moment that I would attempt to hold my “tongue” with someone who won’t show me the same courtesy, I have no problem in proving you wrong. As for the allusions to being a “flower child”, I’m still at a loss as to why you felt to introduce “Truth” and “Love” into this conversation. I found it to be rather narrow-minded that no one, including yourself, seemed willing to embrace the idea of this type of artwork being done in the more affluent areas of Sarasota. I composed mock-up images of the Fast Life mural on the side of Lakewood Ranch Hospital, as well as the Longboat Key Yacht Club and the Saint Armand’s Club as well. No one said “Yes! I would LOVE to see this done here as an expression of our embracing diversity and the arts!” Speaking of, what ever happened to artistic expression that was welcomed? If diversity is the goal, then you invite artists into YOUR communities to do something THERE that displayed that concept. Don’t FORCE them upon communities that may not be ready or willing to have them there and then label those communities in any derogatory fashion. Who determined that you, Denise Kowal, MTO or anyone else could enforce that type of change? Are you even in Sarasota?

        As for any criminal activities related to the artwork, it’s silly to even suggest that anyone on the SPD would ask a criminal what artwork influenced them to commit their crime! I can’t prove that it didn’t happen just as you can’t prove that it did. BTW, it’s almost insulting to insinuate that the people within these communities in question haven’t ventured outside of Sarasota. I can only speak for myself but, I’ve been exposed to more than enough art outside of Sarasota, to have a grip on what’s apt and what’s not. If the issue here is a lack of dynamicism within Sarasota, then maybe you’re right…it doesn’t belong here! Which doesn’t label this community as lacking the dynamics needed but that, not all communities that ARE dynamic have always been that way!

        Just as an observation of inverse balance, if I nor the “nay sayers” like me can’t kill an idea, what makes you or your cohorts believe that you can give those ideas life where they’re not welcomed? The truth be told Lori, I’ve got just as much skin in this game as you or anyone else does and as long as it goes against the grain of those directly effected, I will continue to stand on their behalf. These communities have had more than their fair share of things done TO them. It’s time that they have things done that would advance their efforts and be recognized as being done FOR them!

        If you can’t understand that, it’s ok. Really. I will always be here.

      • Lori Escalera
        05/04/2012

        I’m sorry, maybe I am misunderstanding something. Let me back up and ask…”what is the “THIS” you refer to in your post today. I was assuming that there is a followup mural on an alternate building that has given its permission for an MTO mural. Is this correct?

  2. Virginia Hoffman
    02/14/2012

    From the standpoint of ‘Netiquette‘ (Internet usage ethical issues) — it is absolutely considered a breach of ethics to take a private email and repost it (publish it) to a list or a blog (weblog) without obtaining the writer’s permission in advance.

    The issues of law are not so direct and straightforward.

    There is copyright protection under US law for everything someone writes or creates. Copyright protection under the law automatically attaches at the moment the writing becomes tangible in ‘fixed’ form (which is satisfied by writing an email on your computer, just as it would be if you had used a pen and a pad of paper). Just because someone receives a copyrighted work from a writer of that work via email, does not give them the legal right to do anything they want with that legal work. Reproducing the work without permission (ie, without a license) is a violation of US copyright law.
    http://arborlaw.biz/blog/2007/07/17/legal-issues-in-forwarding-email/

    • Michael Paragon
      02/14/2012

      Thank you for the enlightenment Virginia, and I also appreciate you bringing this to my attention in such a public venue (considering that you have all the contact information to address this elsewise!). It should’ve been readily obvious from my initial reply that publishing/posting the message as it was sent to me was strictly a matter of course. Had you asked for any other level of discretion, it would have been happily adhered to…you did not. In looking at the content of the email, there’s nothing sensitive or inflammatory within its wording either so, I have to question your concern. If you recall, you had previously asked that I remove your private email address from the message, to which I complied without any hesitation.

      Yet, you still found the grounds to insinuate that I may be operating on unethical terms??? Fortunately, I conduct business as business and, as anyone can attest to, your allegations have no merit.

      For future reference, if you’d like something sent to Rise Magazine to remain private or discreet, please use an alternative method of delivery. Unless you’ve stated in the body of your message that “reproduction by any means without the expressed permission of the author…” then you can expect that it will be published without fear of any liability.

    • Denise
      02/14/2012

      Really Virginia – you are now going to teach MTO about ethics? First you call Lori a troll and accuse HER of getting off subject and then you accuse MTO of a ‘netiquette’ breach? Who knew a columnist could claim their questions of a subject copyrighted work? Which makes me wonder… wasn’t your column quoting MTO’s response when he refused to answer your questions a ‘netiquette’ breach or more seriously a violation of US copyright law as he never gave YOU permission to publish anything he wrote? You even censored his comment and added your own snipped of callous snobbery, “Glad we can entrain you”. I could be wrong but something appears quite hypocritical with this M.O.

  3. Lori Escalera
    02/11/2012

    In Defense of Due Process:
    Do you think the Commissioners would have voted to write Miss Rosa Parks “because of sensitivity issues” that she move to the back of the bus?

    I wonder if Scott Gerber (Tube Dude) would just like to get off that bus and finds it easier to yield to the pressure of provincial attitudes, irrational fears, and misdirected influences. How daring of the Commissioners to write a letter of intimidation to this local business/ building owner to remove the Fast Life Mural Art created by an internationally recognized artist; a mural that is on private property and not created or sustained with public funds. To be clear, this is not public art, but rather art that is in the public view.

    What basis do they have to pressure him? If there is a genuine reason to infringe on Mr. Gerber’s right to have the artwork, then they can certainly create an ordinance to protect public welfare or “control appearance” for buildings. But, they cannot. WHY? Because there is only irrational fear this is at the foundation of the complaints. Rather than to do the job for which they are elected, they are permitted hysteria to cloud good judgment.

    In rational terms: What is are the consequence of the mural? Will it affect the life of a gang member to incite gang behavior? With the words: “It’s a Fast Life Let Love Express it,” this seems improbable. Some would like to say that the mural is no longer art and diminish the inherent worth of the mural because those words were added as an afterthought. Consider the famous painting “Madame X” by John Singer Sargent. Sargent yielded to public pressure, revising the risqué strapless shoulder to something more palatable for public consumption. The artwork still lives as priceless world-class art and a significant piece of Art History.

    Some would say that the “style” of the artwork is not acceptable. Consider the Impressionists. They were outcast at their beginnings. They were considered “appalling” by all accounts from art world authority figures to the public purview; yet, today, it is the most popular art style worldwide. The Fast Life Mural may simply be visionary and a bit ahead of the community; but, not the nation or the world, where it is right on time.
    Some would say the mural image throwing the gang sign is provoking. This is the exact area considered antithetical to the word “provincial.” The artwork is provocative. It challenges us to take a symbol that may have a negative perception and TRANSFORM the symbolism to something that is equated with a positive force: a message of love. The reality is, there are two choices, either: 1) the gang member (if he even considers the art) will now have his symbolism be equated with love, or 2) he gives up the symbolism because it is being hijacked into the mainstream. Either way, the mural art becomes a POSITIVE influence in the community; doing the job that ART asks: transformation of the viewer.

    “Due Process,” a bed-rock of our country, must not be denied. And community leaders should not elicit an improper response by using their authority to intimidate in a backwoods manner. This is a topic that the Community should discuss and come to resolution.

    When the press conference is held on February 10th, Scott Gerber will consider where it is that he really wants to be on that bus. He has two choices: He can choose to sit freely which may offend some – who in time will come to change their mind, or he can be pushed to the back, suffering the consequence of fear from his local community.

  4. Virginia Hoffman
    02/09/2012

    Forgive me, I was actually making a joke because this dialog has been getting so far off of the topic of the commentary which was how people are perceiving this stereotypical image. Apologies if I offended anyone.
    I hope as RISE grows there will be more diversity among those who visit this blog.

  5. Pingback: Public Art Committee Meeting – TODAY! « RiseMagazine | Weekly

  6. Pingback: LA “West Side Crips” Gang Sign Mural On Tube Dude Building Divides Sarasota Community, Tagging Courtesy of MTO « Bill Warner Private Investigator Crime Blog Sarasota to Panama City FL ph 866-755-8453

  7. Denise Kowal
    02/02/2012

    The simplistic assessments of our (Chalk Festival) process and proposed solutions to include more community would not guarantee that another 50% would not be upset over something else and request removal. Your article on Fred ‘Glossie’ Atkins Park proves that ‘process’ is not necessarily a certainty for acceptable art. Atkins Park selection took months and included a professional consultant, the city, black community leaders and residents, public art committee, sub-committees, commissioners, about $100,000 and with all that input and scrutiny still turned out a sculpture that the ‘general public’ does not like. You and others say the figures seem angry and at odds with one another and hard to tell if they’re helping other up or being pulled back down. You also requested this sculpture be removed.

    I do agree that areas can set goals… not demands. Goals are something we would respect but that does not mean 50% of the community will not like what we do. If goals for murals in this part of town are created as a result of the current discussion they should not victimize the current mural because those goals were not established prior. There are options moving forward that would not jeopardize our city’s reputation as a culturally rich community or hinder our opportunity to grow socially mature. Can we discuss options?

    At this point though, Scott, MTO and the festival are not to blame that the 50% have not come forward in a positive way to work with us. You have to admit there is little room for positive change or compromise that would advance our community socially when the goal of the 50% survey takers was to win its removal over any other options (even though they asked for it not to be taken down when Scott was scheduled to do it). Campaigning commissioners to threaten and force removal without accountability, infringing on freedom of speech, drawing in media for hype by speaking half truths to win only sets Sarasota on a course that is way more dangerous and scary than any artwork in our community.

    • Michael Paragon
      02/02/2012

      The request for more community involvement on projects such as this is genuinely one designed to engage the community in the process as a whole. Sarasota, as divided as it may be, falls under one, all-inclusive title: “SARASOTA”! Though there are geographic differentiations, most people view the city as a complete entity. With that in mind, displays such as the mural reflect on the city as a whole and that area specifically.

      With respect to the statue in F.A. Park, that process was broken in application. The request for artists went out nationally, three artists were selected from the respondent pool, strike one. With the local talent available, why was the search nation-wide in the first place? Had anyone considered starting locally FIRST, then expanding nationally if the local response was insufficient? Another artist for consideration wanted her work to be done in bronze, which would have been more expensive and therefore smaller in consideration of the funds available. I believe the public would’ve accepted a smaller, more tasteful piece being done with enhanced seating, landscaping and reflection areas vs a collection of distorted, writhing, angry nudes that delivers an incongruous message. And, as for the final artwork itself, it would appear as though this was done as he went, judging from the video footage that I’ve seen. Was a mock-up ever presented to the advisory board? If so, would they be willing to admit that they agreed that this statue was the best possible fit? Had it been given a more vague physical representation of the human body, such as the statuary installed around the City Hall building, that would’ve been a vast improvement. But, the attempt at realism only comes off as amateurish and this opens the door to harsher criticisms. The fault here was NOT the process!

      I would gladly welcome a discussion of options, I feel it’s crucial to be as transparent as possible in the future installation of public works of art, whether they’re on privately-owned properties or not.

      Hopefully, over the weeks ahead, we can determine an appropriate venue to table options that are mutually satisfying to everyone involved. At least that’s the type of discussion that I would like to see happen from all of this.

      • Denise Kowal
        02/02/2012

        I look forward to it Michael. Maybe we can plan a workshop in a week or so? Would you be willing to assist?

  8. Lori Escalera
    02/01/2012

    I don’t understand why as moderator would have allowed Hoffman to post a direct insult, void of ANY RELEVANT substance and then refused to allow my rebuttal. To allow her to hurl insults and deflect, instead of staying on base and logically addressing the subject matter at hand, reduces your credibility. To allow her to say somethings so spiteful and ridiculous, not to mention untrue, says just as much about you, the editor as she. To me, this means you are not a serious journalist. You have allowed her comment to remain without response, when I submitted a response within minutes. You also chose not to notify me about your decision to not allow my post and avoided any discussion of what is considered appropriate or in appropriate. I am sorry, but I don’t play the game you are intending to play. If you remove my comment in two hours and leave hers, I will make my voice known about the conversation publicly anyway. Your choice. I didn’t write anything that wasn’t deserved by her manipulative, underhanded insult. You are admonishing the wrong person.

    • Michael Paragon
      02/01/2012

      Lori, in all honesty, I had no expectation that this would become such a back and forth debate, especially in how I choose to handle/moderate the conversation in order to remain focused on the issue. One comment was posted and I chose to not allow any others along those lines. Now you would choose to set your sights on how I handled that?!? Contrary to what you may assume, I don’t sit here awaiting the next comment or any follow-up responses so there may be delays on my end…allowing a comment to remain? No, addressing other issues.
      I have little time for games, including this one. Up to this point, your input has been welcome. Needless to say, you’re wearing that thin by attacking me in my own front yard. Feel free to project your voice to whom ever will entertain you just bear in mind, I offered the previous explanation, and this one, to only make my intentions clear…not to admonish.

      • Denise Kowal
        02/04/2012

        Michael, I have to admit that I too was confused why you posted the comment by Hoffman that attacked Lori by calling her names – Thank you for removing it. We have all been having a conversation and debate about something that we all feel passionately about and this article called “The Art Of War?” certainly struck a cord in some of us. The thread is not a game either because civil rights and freedom of speech that are being hindered because of bullying is quite serious – to me, more serious than the bias survey concluding that 50% of Central/Coconut residents do not like the mural. I am really tired of hearing everyone does not want it too – 50% is not everyone. I look forward to continuing our dialogue.

  9. MTO
    02/01/2012

    Troll example :

    > Subject: Sarasota Mural
    > Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2011 12:08:55 -0500
    > To: graff.mto@hotmail.com
    >
    > Hello MTO,
    >
    > I am writing a commentary on the wall painting you executed in Sarasota.
    >
    > As you know there is quite a bit of controversy over it.
    >
    > The Chalk Festival founder considers painting over it suppression of freedom of
    > speech. But yet she altered the image.
    >
    > Did you give permission for your painting to be altered, thus effecting the message?
    >
    > Do you feel altering the image degrades the message and artistic integrity of your painting?
    >
    > Do you consider the accusations of gang culture influence on the painting justified?
    >
    > Did you have a message in mind or were you merely painting what you were asked to paint?
    >
    > Why do you choose to not to reveal your identity?
    >
    > Thank you,
    >
    > Virginia Hoffman

    • Virginia Hoffman
      02/11/2012

      This is a private email I sent directly to MTO so he would have the oppurtunity to comment
      on his art for a commentary I wrote for SRQ magazine. It was posted without my permission.

      • Michael Paragon
        02/11/2012

        What email are you referring to? I did post a message exchange to MTO earlier, is that the one that you’re referring to? If so, you made no mention of that remaining “private content” and what was the purpose of sending it to me? That exchange came to me through the comment stream of this article and as such, was submitted to me voluntarily…not at my request.

      • Denise
        02/11/2012

        Michael, MTO does not need Virginia’s permission to post an email he receives from her as a columnist and I could be wrong but by anyone for any reason. I think he may have had a point that was relevant to the thread and the conversations surrounding his art and the hypocrisy of others.

      • Lori Escalera
        02/14/2012

        Yes, there seems to be “implied license” at work. Since Virginia reproduced MTO’s mural in Parody and MTO’s “action in kind” would probably be a “tacit agreement” that turnabout is FairPlay. They both may wish to call on the use of allowable parody to “transform” people’s ideas – a basis for non infringement of copyright law – and could probably save both their butts. LOL

  10. Denise Kowal
    02/01/2012

    Virginia, I do not think Lori was the one off topic. Your first post went off topic. Lori was on topic and you entered the conversation to justify how you defaced MTO’s art by saying it was ‘parody’. That could have been plausible but you have been attacking MTO for a few months now. Your so called ‘parody’ when considering your actions appears to be to do harm and create controversy. Your guest column appears racist about MTO in SRQ Daily insinuated he was the artist Alias, a German, his art was ‘bombing’ of sorts – which are all false accusations and factually incorrect. Your constant public questioning of MTO not giving his full name and hired by the city should be question for the city and stop harassing MTO. Your intentions appear hypocritical when you even have a photo of one of your best friends ‘bombing’ and make a joke about it on Facebook.

    As well as your multiple attacks on the added wording next to MTO’s art, accusing me of pious blather in a guest column when it was someone from the Central/Coconut neighborhood who requested it – oops not sure you would have accused a black man of something you so fluently rolled off your fingers at me. You have been speaking/writing about things knowing you do not have knowledge about them and that carelessness has added to the bad reputation being given to MTO’s work of art. It is also a well known fact that you have attacked Scott and Scott’s business multiple times over the past year too.

    I do not know why but you even stated things you know nothing about – such as your comment that Scott should “stick to the plan”? You were not even purvey to any plan so how can you even profess to know of one? You also were not purvey to know what his “word” was. Your assumptions are well… assumptions and in my view should not be spoken as truths.

    All the above are totally ON TOPIC because it is pointing out how rumors, bullying, misinformation and harassment can added to the misconception of MTO’s good intentions and great artwork. They also make the likelihood of higher learning and social change almost impossible – because a martyr position requires less emotional effort than deep introspection by putting ones own beliefs to the test.

  11. Virginia Hoffman
    01/30/2012

    Lori the smiley faces were a parody reacting to Facebook buzz on a photo provided by a photographer who gave me permission to use the image. Not a copy write issue as I understand the law however I would be interested to find out how a Foreign National work operates under an alias would do that or even acquire a legal work permit.

    Aside from all of that I do like MTOs work in its boldness and feel its quite exciting as implemented in Berlin but in this historical minority community the reaction is understandable and I agree with the perception that it has a gang message. But its just an opinion. You do not live in Sarasota and do not have the benefit of knowing how concerned we all are about the violence a few blocks north. There have been quite a few murders that are gang related so please have a little empathy for the concerns of the residents who are protesting. SCOPE is helping the youth group from the neighborhood who has been working to fight crime. They are a great group of role model students.

    Beyond all that this is an unfortunate controversy that could have been avoided by just sticking to the plan, this was supposed to be temporary and Scott Gerber gave his word, he should keep his word. That is all thats being asked of him.

    Michael thank you for putting this blog together, its so exciting to have this for the black community and to hear that voice in Sarasota. Bravo to you for your efforts and excellent writing.

    • Michael Paragon
      01/30/2012

      While this particular piece has drawn more than its fair share of attention to the political aspects and the issues of freedom of speech and expression, the bottom-line here is that this artwork is simply not appropriate for the community at which it borders. True enough, Scott could have connected with city officials to confirm that a project of this nature was not only fit to be commissioned but, also in keeping with the long-term goals of the community. Sarasota is evolving and growing in directions that may require a collective mindset to avoid infringing on the individuals involved. If Scott wasn’t aware of the mixed message this artwork presents, he may have been made aware of it during a brainstorming session regarding the overall project. Had the community, with representation from Sarasota as a whole, been brought into the equation, we would surely have ended up with something that EVERYONE could have been proud of…not another topic of debate.

      The future of Sarasota will be hugely dependent upon the dissemination of information in as responsible and consistent a manner as possible. Rise Magazine strives to be a platform of public awareness and edification. As such, coverage of topics and events such as this, will continue and I encourage readers to spread the word and share what’s presented here…not for my sake but for the advancement of Sarasota.

      • Virginia Hoffman
        01/30/2012

        Yes, I will certainly do this Michael, I had heard about the good work of the youth group in Central Coconut
        long before this controversy broke out. People in my Arlington Park neighborhood are talking about it.

    • Lori Escalera
      01/30/2012

      Hello Virginia,
      although you have permission of the photographer you do not have the permission of the artist to deface his work. Additionally, nothing that you offered in terms of foreign, lacking work permit, or anything else is relevant when defacing the Artist’s Artwork…even on a copy. There is a very good legal case under Artists Rights (Intellectual property) and copyright infringement. The photo is a direct and literal depiction of the artist’s work and you have defaced it. Period. You can read some info at this site and see if it relevant:
      http://www.lib.purdue.edu/uco/CopyrightBasics/fair_use.html
      http://www.redbubble.com/people/stephentrepreneur/writing/19032-laws-against-defacing-art
      also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work
      http://www.redbubble.com/people/stephentrepreneur/writing/19032-laws-against-defacing-art
      It is a complicated issue, but even if your happy faces are supported under the “transformative”clause of Fair Use in Parody – you have RIDICULED MTO’s Artwork and I find that a distasteful behavior, and one that lacks in integrity. Using ridicule by an individual who pro ports taking the high road in community affairs, lacks in credibility and authority as a moral leader.

      About the “gang” problem. I entirely understand the concern. However, there may be absolutely no connection in reality to what you are asserting. Did anyone poll gang members to see what they think? The obvious message is what it says. The interruption is left to what others would like to believe. My being in Sarasota has absolutely nothing to do with defending “Due Process” and being unsupportive of Censorship.

      It does not matter how anyone feels if Scott Gerber has a right to do this. And you don’t understand my position if you react by saying “the neighborhood hates it.” If the neighborhood hates it let the neighborhood create an ordinance that bans it. It is that simple. Why do you Ms. Viriginia need to make fun of the artwork? If it is so great as you say, then why belittle it publicly with happy-faces. That is not a credible thing to do in a serious conversation about artists rights, community rights and free of speech issues. That is just immature and hateful.

      Additionally, I read your thank you to Michael. I didn’t know this blog is for the “Black Community.” Maybe I am commenting at the wrong blog spot then. My comments were meant for ALL community, those interested in protecting everyone’s rights and those who support Freedom of Expression. From what I understand, much of the hullabaloo is being made from mostly white people in power in the community. And maybe that is another area that needs to be discussed. Who really is pushing the hate here.

      If I was a gang member I wouldn’t give the mural any time. I would think its cool art, but I would think the message is not what I stand for. Yet, if I were a gang member, thinking that the message is cool, and being that the mural has a TRANSFORMATIVE and inspirational message, it could be – possibly could be a point of behavior change. A point of connection to being attached to something that has a positive influence! Do you think this mural is going to make anyone a gang member, carry a gun, rob a liquor store, take drugs or sell drugs? I’ve never heard a single person state what bad thing can happen from this mural being there. What is the real consequence?

      I think if you take the fear factor out and looked at the large picture in all of this, you’d come to realize and so would the people who are fighting against this out of fear, that it doesn’t have the power you think it does. It might be helpful to look at what those who are living the “fast life” may actually represent:

      http://www.thefastlife.com/blog.php
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fastlife
      http://www.amazon.com/Fastlife-Joe-Jonas/dp/B0055PL5JK
      http://www.yesbutnobutyes.com/archives/2009/04/white_people_ga.html
      http://www.thedailyrash.com/study-finds-use-of-gang-signs-by-middle-class-whites-on-the-rise

      As far as Michael’s comment about the “bottom line” – No, Michael – Scott Gerber does NOT have to consider anything That is the whole point about censorship and freedom of speech issues. This is simply ridiculous. The bottom line is that if the neighborhood has a grievance they must use “due process” and not intimidate, humiliate and railroad this man and his business. They must use the legal tools provided them as members of society. And since the people who seem to be LEADING the stink about this whole situation don’t live in “the hood” either, neither is it relevant as to where I live.

      I just want to see due process happen and people’s rights protected, not only for the advancement of Sarasota, but to protect our rights as Americans to due process and civil rights.

  12. Lori Escalera
    01/28/2012

    And actually it is not art for arts sake as you suggest but my responsibility towards elevating social welfare that makes me invest my time into writing you. I see value in the art on many levels. This is not Piss Christ 1987 Andres Serrano. There was some crazy shit! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ I actually see this piece creating evolution with good intention. And the symbolism represents many different ideas about the idea of symbolism.

    • Michael Paragon
      01/28/2012

      Lori, looking at this with as open a mind as possible, I’m having a hard time making the connection between a piece of art which strikes its controversial chord based on subject and medium and a piece of art represented in contrast to the intentions of a community intent on maintaining a crime-free status??? Once again, the difference in a patron’s choice to view Piss Christ or not vs a lack of choice in dealing with MTO’s piece.
      The issue at hand here is not the method it’s the message of the image. It may be a matter of perspective but art is inherently perception vs intention anyway. We may all see a particular piece in our own unique way until the artist himself defines the limits of the work and his/her motives for its creation.
      Are you seriously asserting that the residents have that little to say about this piece? Even though Scott has admitted that he doesn’t like the artwork himself? Strangely enough, you seem to be emphatically supportive of the controversy! Scott doesn’t like it, the community doesn’t like it. No one is debating that it’s art. The mixed message is its placement. Move it to Longboat Key or Siesta Key…maybe Lakewood Ranch would entertain placing it on the side of City Hall?
      Actually, all those who are hugely accepting of the image, regardless of any mis-construed messages that it may convey, should rally to have it moved into their communities! It would be well-received and welcome! As for the residents of the neighborhood bordering its current placement, upon further inspection, they would prefer to not have it there.

      • Lori Escalera
        01/28/2012

        Great! Open minded is good. It is really about everyone’s interest. Timing may be wrong, location may be wrong; maybe not. I am about avoiding controversy when possible. I am also about Freedom’s guaranteed protection under our US constitution and Bill of Rights. And, that is why I am supporting “controversy” as you see it….because it is a way of bringing “due process.” I don’t think everyone has had their voice heard yet. And I think a certain type of abuse and mis use of power invaded due process. Now it is time for the process to allow the highest good to come out of this.

        I am never invested in the outcome unless it is a job for which I am contracted. Otherwise, it is all about the process. People mistake the emphasis to be on the art. But, really this about so many other things and the art became a focal point.

        As far as the “residents of the neighborhood” I was told this is an industrial strip and in your own words the closest residents are “bordering” its current placement. So were the actual businesses poled? Were other residences bordering its placement surveyed? But Michael…this argument is STILL a red herring! (another fallacious argument) because we may be talking about the rights being violated of the building owner. We just can’t walk around undercutting or removing his right to do something that is not have a sanction/ordinance in place for its removal. If he wants it there, if it is art, and if it does no harm….
        ….then why yield to the illusion of fear and narrow thinking?!

        There is absolutely no evidence or proof that this is something destructive. If I remember correctly the original hullabaloo did NOT substantiate the mural as art. You say that there is no question this is art. But, I think there are some that think differently. Virginia Hoffman has drawn happy-faces on the Mural on her FB page and does not consider it art. There is a case that she has committed an act of desecration by which MTO, could sue her at a minimum, to stop her defacement of his artwork using copyright protection laws/Intellectual Rights protections.

        There may be no genuine case to remove it. We have to wait and see what happens next!

  13. Pingback: Resident’s Tattooed Hands Inspired Controversial Mural

  14. Lori Escalera
    01/28/2012

    Michael, I perceive your assertion as another fallacious argument. For example….if you have a community that is bigoted, hateful, prejudiced or whatever….do you allow THEM to control the conversation? Sometimes that happens, and we ALL lose. And, the basis for your whole argument that because people don’t “like something” that it should be removed, I find is misguided. If the Impressionists took their art down because the authorities, the institutions and the people did not like it, understand it, or hated it….we would not have the art form today. Period.
    Art IS controversial. Especially when there is a change of direction or movement in art history. Communities, small community sectors are NOTORIOUS for stogy, provincial, and small minded thinking. They are not recognized for their cosmopolitan, sophisticated, avant guard tastes in art.

    Really the question boils down to 1) violations of freedom of speech and censorship. Once that is resolved either the art stays or goes. If the art needs to go, hopefully the advocates can raise the funds to move the art as has been done by so many other communities in this situation. I suggest that Kowal (hahaha…I was about to write “Ms. Kowal!” what a hypocrite I am! 😉 call the NEA and see if there is emergency funding that can be acquired. Or even apply through the local art commission for some funding…maybe matched funding to move the art. I think – if they are like other groups, they can be persuaded after a period of time to come on board. But, this is an alternative after Freedom of Speech and Censorship rights have been addressed and resolved.

    • Michael Paragon
      01/28/2012

      Lori, I’m beginning to wonder if your concept of art for the sake of art overshadows consideration and social responsibility? Art, as far as by the definitions to which I’m accustomed to, has had its fair share of controversy. Viewers to “risque” examples of an artist’s expression (and occasional obsession) through their art form of choices have always had the option of choice in viewing that artist’s presentation. Meaning that art was typically experienced in a venue that offered the viewing public choices. If you wanted to see the work, you went where it was being shown, if you didn’t want to see it, you went elsewhere. In either case, the art represented the perspective of the artist and not so much the venue.
      The mural on 10th street is PUBLIC! You have no choice but to see it by default simply because you’re on that street. It may not be your destination but, there it is, like it or not. The impressionists of which you speak had their works publicly displayed in galleries, theatres and viewing halls around the world. All of these venues were destinations in which the patrons were in attendance to see the art of the day. Not driving to the Van Wezel…or returning from the Selby Library.
      As for fallacious arguments…why would you suggest that the community is either bigoted, hateful or prejudiced (all negatives). What if the exact opposite were the case and the community was open-minded, loving, peaceful and sincere? The residents in that area have fought and struggled to create an environment in which drug-related activities aren’t tolerated…in which kids can be allowed to play freely without fear of harm from spill-over violence…one in which gang activities have no proper affiliation and families can grow and thrive.
      Sadly, everyone seems to be rushing to conclusions which should have been the focus initially – not so much as to MOVE the art but, where should it be placed. Had that conversation happened prior to this, we would not be having this discussion. Once again, any plant (be it a rose or dandelion) growing where it’s not wanted is considered a weed…

      • Lori Escalera
        01/28/2012

        First, your reasoning as far as the public’s having “choices” to view the art: you are mixing your argument. To be clear the proposition (the assertion) WOULD BE TRUE if this was a public art project. But it is not. This is about the building owners right to free speech and to do what he wants on his property since this is defined as art and expression as opposed to advertising/signage and there is no ordinance. So the argument is fallacious. (and, we all realize I am talking about using formal logic in a logical debate, right?) The art is located on private property. And even if it is seen by public it is NOT ON PUBLIC PROPERTY and the bldg. owner’s right can not be usurped unless it is by ordinance. Right now he is being bullied and intimidated by angry people driven by fears that may have no grounded basis in reality. This is a real possibly. The artwork requires DUE PROCESS. Everyone has rights. But, make no mistake – this is not “public art” by any stretch. It is factually “art in the public purview.”

        Second, my expert opinion would say your second assertion would be true but as an argument would also be ONE possible context. There are statements such as “appalled admirers,” and the situation is somewhat similar in that an organized body rallied to prevent the art gaining legitimacy. It was similar and words “doing battle” to exhibit impressionistic work, and the artist’s struggled for acceptance and legitimacy. I’m sure this spilled over to controversy similar to this situation when displayed publicly. It took maybe 20 years to accept this art form. Now, we don’t think twice. Many of the impressionists died impoverished. Today their artwork is priceless. I am positive from my reading that the public distain and outcry was the same as this situation. Different time, different place, same story!

        Third, you misread my intention. I did not say the things you claim about the community. Go back and reread. I was asking you to look outside at an “objectively observable” community that behaves in a bigoted, hateful and prejudice way! You can read about this all the time. And then I was asking you to understand that this is why as an outsider the situation can be viewed as unacceptable. And because you might not approve of those particular things (which I am sure you don’t) you would then, understand how the way the people who are against the symbols are doing it out of the same motivation: FEAR. They are interpreting the symbolism like Jews in the holocaust view the swastika, when others view the symbol as an inspiration in the Iron Cross of our U.S. Marine Corp or the Greek Keys Art Symbol of design which exists in global art throughout history. I think this deserves repeating – and should really be considered with some weight: Just because a certain group of people are looking at through provincial glasses and others through fear, does not mean that everyone does.

        FEAR should not be used to DENY Art, Speech, or any more of constructive existence when executed with COMPASSION. I grew up in a time where people were afraid of other people. And messages by Black Leaders like Martin Luther King were argued against, prohibited and denied civil rights. There were ALL KINDS of reasons why minorities should not be entitled to public platforms. The artwork was denied and feared and run out of communities. It was a shameful time and a blemish on our humanity. There is a RIGHT and ENTITLEMENT for this artwork to exist. It preaches a statement and message of love. And it challenges & inspires – even the gang member to change and adopt an attitude of love and compassion. You should watch the silly video on the Huffington Post about white people throwing gang symbols. Here I will copy it for you: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/24/white-people-gang-signs_n_813139.html#s228794&title=HTML5_gang_sign and be sure you check out the Mona Lisa throwing a gang sign. http://asktheebayqueen.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Duck-Face-Mona-Lisa.jpg

        A weed may be a weed but that is only your idea of a weed. For others it may be something to eat, or draw, or smoke! 😉

  15. Denise Kowal
    01/27/2012

    Michael, I was told today that the survey taken by SCOPE came out 50% liked the art and 50% did not like the art? I thought you stated nobody in that zip code like the art? I have also heard some people in that area
    were never asked. You know I also believe the survey was dishonest in stating it was graffiti and not offering the rounded picture of the situation and plans. There was only one side told. It appears that if an honest unbiased survey was taken with the facts that the LIKE side may have been a lot higher than 50%.

    • Michael Paragon
      01/28/2012

      Good morning Denise, I had heard about the survey afterwards. Granted, it was never said that it was the results of the entire community, I’m sure the ratio would probably have remained the same or very close. It would be nice to gather a more complete picture of the community’s mindset and position on this topic though. I had a quick encounter/meeting with Scott at City Hall a couple of days ago. To my surprise he said that even HE didn’t like the image!
      I’ve got mixed emotions on taking a survey of anyone unaffected by the artwork as their input would be slanted. They haven’t fought to get the drug culture out of that community, they haven’t had to deal with the violence, shootings, fear, etc. associated with living in that kind of climate. To them, it’s just art. And the greater reality is that if this survey were opened up to a wider audience, the voting process would become one-sided by sheer population density alone. There would be more votes from outside of the community than within simply due to the relative size of the neighborhood.

  16. Denise Kowal
    01/24/2012

    Hello Michael, there is so much misinformation floating around that it makes a viable conversation about the truths almost impossible.

    On the subject of Scott:

    Scott has been very accommodating to everyone. He hosted SCOPE’s first emergency neighborhood meeting – when Alison & Tim called a HT reporter to the meeting purposefully drawing media to a drama instead of focusing on true and honest community dialogue. Scott was cooperative with SCOPE when they requested he NOT remove the art the morning he was about to – yes, they asked him to STOP. But now that he has his own positive view and has received hundreds of compliments while forming his own opinion you tag him as a fighter and the one out of touch? He is now being bullied to accommodate one viewpoint with fear of being run out of town. And as a reporter you have nothing to say about those who continue to bully and stereotype the art as something it is not? You have nothing to say about those who are intent on holding the art hostage to confirmation biases that undermine the search for truth that give us the opportunity to grow as an artistically mature community? Nothing to report about the history of art and culture and society evolving and developing from great ideas that are sometimes were considered dangerous when they first appeared? You are OK with removing art and relinquishing power to a negative meaning instead of taking back freedom of speech for a positive meaning? Really? You judge our vision to move a program forward in this area without asking us what it is and that is OK?

    At this point I can only imagine a honest dialogue would not have resulted in the current negativity created by SCOPE. I grew up with art colleges as my playground and friends of our family being artists such as one you mentioned in another post, Richard Hunt, where this type of provincial thinking that engenders stereotypes by making it impossible to separate negative connotations from them would be fiercely fought against. I ask why are you not fighting that fight?

    • Michael Paragon
      01/24/2012

      While my ultimate goal is to present this story as it unfolds with as much truth and honesty as I can include, I have to admit that there are questions, motives and reasonings that still remain undiscovered. I should also admit that I truly applaud those who have come to Scott’s side in support of his challenge and what has become his charge. I was hoping to see either you or Scott at last night’s meeting with the “We Love Our Neighborkids” association. They were gathered to disclose the results of neighborhood surveys with regards to the artwork that’s surfaced as well as gauging the interest for artwork that should be installed.
      After watching video footage of Scott saying himself that if too much negative feedback arose, he would take down the mural by Thanksgiving…after speaking with the gentleman responsible for the actual wording that was added afterwards…and after the nearly unanimous survey results showing that this piece isn’t wanted by the residents of the neighborhood that his business borders upon, my only conclusion is that it should have been taken down. Am I missing the fact that the only ones with anything positive to say live outside of those neighborhoods? Take a look at the demographic makeup of your supporters and you’ll find this self-evident. No one in support of this piece lives within the 34234 zip code – to my knowledge.
      I would genuinely welcome a dialogue with either or both of you but, to what end? Maybe to determine why no one considered the peaceful impact of creating these pieces and this artistic environment in cooperation vs by political manipulation? The questionable piece is on Scott’s property and he is protected by freedom of speech as well as expression. So, he leverages and abuses that freedom to gather attention for what??? Anyone who would suggest the creation of an artwalk in the Rosemary District to draw positive traffic to the area must now struggle against the stigma that’s being created. There’s no attempt to stifle his expression of art. What has happened is a risky piece was placed in an area that’s not conducive nor receptive to it. So, let’s see how long the needs and wants of a few can outweigh those of the many.
      I would truly regret to see Scott “run out of town” or even to contemplate the negative impact this type of exposure could have on the future of his business but, I can’t worry about these factors more than the people that it would affect the most.

      • Denise Kowal
        01/24/2012

        I was not invited to the meeting and did not hear about it till after the fact or I would have been happy to attend.

        Second, I am not surprised by the outcome based on the way the survey was conducted in a prejudiced way. That is why I said there is so much misinformation floating around that it makes a viable conversation about the truths almost impossible. The hatred being supported and the attacks on Scott because he had an open mind to a foreign artist is so sad to watch – particular because he was asked to NOT remove it. Did they just want to use him as a pawn for their own agenda to create controversy? Are they just trying to hurt him and rally people to feel they want to run him out of town? How right is that? I do not agree that everyone in the zip code hated the piece but they certainly were rallied to have that opinion now – how sad again. That has not been my experience all the times I was there and speaking to the neighbors. Everyone was happy and joyous showing support of the mural – that happy mood all changed when campaigning against it claimed it was something it was not – creating a negative stigma.

      • Lori Escalera
        01/24/2012

        In response to Michael post, there is truly a dilemma inherent in the negative reaction to the artwork. But additionally, I’d add that MONEY for SCOPE does not come from the local residents, so analogously, neither may opinions about the artwork need come from within the community either. I’m not saying we should dismiss a negative reaction from within a community, all I am saying is that trying to suggest that outside positive pressure be dismissed is not a sufficient argument, for dismissal. The act of putting an artwork on the building increases property value and appearance and may possess untold value the neighborhood is not aware.

        About the survey: I have heard that it was done with petition that was worded in a slanted way. It was done taking an underage sympathetic youth in tow, and these are things which are DISHONEST to the core. If one is going to take a sympathetic character – why not take an equal opposed character at the same time to present the survey in a fair and balanced way? Were property owners interviewed? Or renters? People that pay taxes? Adults of legal age? What ARE the actual statistics of the survey? And how unfair and unbalanced were they?

        You have finally acknowledged that Scott the building owner has a right to freedom of speech. And, yes the community does too. And yes, the objective community does too. The reason, I am writing is because I have seen this kind of controversy before.

        One example was a local area hispanic community that wanted their symbols of Mexico in their murals. This totally offends the outer community, especially at a time when illegal alien issues were at the fore here in Southern California. Does the local community have a right to “privilege their subjectivity?” Does the larger community have a right to dictate what can go into the local culture of this community? This is an issue where a DISCUSSION DOES NEED TO OCCUR – AND IT TAKES TIME – AND NO ONE SHOULD BE INTIMIDATED OUT OF THEIR FAIR SHARE OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH. This is very important, and really is the ultimate issue. A harmony should be reached, understanding fostered and true resolution should be the goal. ART IS CONTROVERSIAL. But should we destroy the best of our humanity because of small stagnant minds?

        Look at symbolism that evokes emotional reactions of many sorts. One example is the Greek Key. The Greek Key is a mainstay of art in antiquity. Yet, throughout time has been altered to mean many things….the Celtic Cross, the Crucifix, The Maltese Cross, The Knights of Templar and finally the THIRD REICH. It is a symbol that means many things to many people. I remember, as a Marine Wife, and an artist, being called upon to draw the Iron Cross on banners for returning USMC from the war in Iraq. As a Jew it brings to mind imagery that is not so positive. As an artist I had to fulfill my commitment. As a reasonable person – I HAD TO REMEMBER CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING…

        When I have done community mural work I implement a program that brings community on-board just to avoid these types of issues between local culture and the larger community. But that didn’t happen here. What I suggest is that IT IS DONE AFTER THE FACT. It should be an ongoing dialog of community meetings over a few months where discussion and education occur and the truth becomes self evident. Where it is seen, in all honesty, what the local community – All of them – on all sides, thinks about the mural, that the local community is educated to the “context” of the symbolism and and the artwork, and that a true resolution takes place so everyone is in agreement whether the artwork should remain, be moved, or be eliminated.

        I’ve tried to be as brief as possible, yet provide complete examples in hopes of communicating that this isn’t as hysterical of a situation as some would think. Due Process should be a basic consideration. This IS America.

  17. Lori Escalera
    01/23/2012

    There are vantage points the journalist of this article takes which are based on his own limited bias and I object.

    First, I object to Denise Kowal being referred to as “Ms.” when the men in the article have no “Mr.” Who cares if she is a “Ms.?” Why did the author need to put that description in at all?

    Second and more importantly – the presumption in the last paragraph as written, is simply NOT TRUE. It is not true that art is no longer art when it is changed to assuage people’s objections! Just look at the most FAMOUS artwork by the most FAMOUS John Singer Sargent! He had to alter the famous painting because of the public out roar! She was originally painted with the strap off the shoulder and Sargent changed it to appease. http://jssgallery.org/paintings/Madame_X.htm

    Third, I don’t think the core of the article – whether MTO’s artwork should be considered “artwork or eyesore” is the question at all! No one can deny whether you like MTO or not – that he is an internationally recognized ARTIST. ARTISTS create ART. HE CREATED ARTWORK. On a building. The question – the real question – is the controversy caused by the artwork going to cause it to be removed by provincial attitudes and uneducated societal pressures. That is the real question. ….oh, and, if there is no code infraction….whether freedom of speech and one’s right to do what he chooses under property rights, dead or alive in Sarasota? Because it IS artwork. About that, there is no question.

    Some people may not “like” the artwork, but that is their right, too. However, are they entitled to privilege their cultural subjectivity and bias?

    • Michael Paragon
      01/23/2012

      I truly appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time to read and digest the article from as many varied points as possible. As for the use of a title with reference to a woman and not the men, that was a very personal choice as I consider myself a gentleman. As such, I have and will always defer to a chivalrous posture, regardless of your objections. I do my best to keep societally accepted standards such as that alive and well…or at least on life-support…for the younger generations to understand how to interact accordingly. Thanks for sharing.
      Back to the matter at hand. From a relative standpoint, the issue here is the viewpoint of bystanders and the message this image projects. There’s a time and place for everything and this art is akin to any plant growing where it’s not wanted – it’s called a weed! This isn’t being said to detract from the obvious talents of the artist.
      Is this a compromise on freedom of speech and expression? No, unless it was done on a personal note to begin with. It obviously wasn’t Gerber’s intentions as the wording was added in hindsight. I agree that some people may not like what they see on his building, that was the feedback that I received from drivers as I photographed the building. I guess they should just find another street to use. Recognize that art on public display will always be met with compromise. If that were a nude painting, it would be better to consider placing it on a side of the building that didn’t face the street vs. removing it or not doing it at all. But Gerber, by his own admission, was the guy to fight before asking how can I help you. And that too, was the gist of the article. Consider the perspective of the person putting the artwork out there in the first place.

      • Lori Escalera
        01/23/2012

        You are obviously a gentleman! 😉

        However, I would like you to understand the “chivalry” denotes/connotes a time period of inequality and “weakness” in effectiveness of the female gender in society – separation of power in society. Today, chivalry can better be defined as “civility” which leaves out the connotation of a strong man in power. Because honestly? I was offended. “Miss” has its own connotations, Mrs. will have its own, and without ASKING Denise Kowal which is her pleasure, her power and authority were effectively reduced beneath the stature of the men in the article. There is no proper place for Chivalry is journalism today. I hope you will understand what I am trying to confer.

        Now about your second paragraph. I see the argument of people’s objection to “weeds” is a fallacious logical argument and not an appropriate analogy. You have already made a judgement call on what the thing is inherently. To some, some weeds can be desirable and a means for sustenance and not all people view weeds as objectionable. Your misunderstanding would leave people to think if its not a beautiful flower (which equals art) then it is a weed and must be eliminated from the garden. The GARDEN of PROVINCIAL THINKING! But, lordie, lordie, if you go to the CA Anza Borrego desert in the spring the valleys and hillsides are ablaze with gorgeous wildflowers! (AKA WEEDS!) People go there every year to photograph the WEEDS. And, they simply don’t think of them AS weeds. But, here…some misunderstanding community members think that MTO’s art is a weed. And they are offended. But the guy who owns the building thinks of the wildflowers not as weeds but as wonderful products of nature and art and he has a RIGHT to grow them. What is more, is that just because people want to run around and CALL them WEEDS with a perforative sense, does not mean that they get to bully what others happen to like.

        So, this gets back to “due process.” In your article you said it was not art. Now you say its art but its somehow not wanted like weeds are not wanted. But, this is only for a MINORITY OF VOCAL PEOPLE.

        This is very important what I am about to say: Art is not created to appease the lowest common denominator. Art is created to CHANGE PEOPLE, to inspire them to think differently, to challenge their beliefs, to raise people up and call them to attention. What you are suggesting is that the lowest common denominator be in control of what art can be created and displayed. That is kinda the definition of “provincial” right there. Gone is the innovation, the challenge, the exploration, the cutting edge work. You are asking for some mamby pamby wallpaper to go up on that wall that nobody cares to explore or learn form – OR BE CHANGED. You are asking for a sleepy little town that never does anything exciting or different, cutting edge or controversial. You are asking for something that “EVERYONE” can find acceptable. Well, my friend THAT is NOT art.

        Even if he building owner put up something everyone COULD agree was beautiful and artistic – if it was a nude than SOMEONE would have something to say! A NUDE is not a WEED! It is art and in all of the museums. IT IS family viewing in all museums. So, what you are saying again, is that you just don’t want what it is you don’t agree with….even if others like it! You don’t just allow it to exist because the people who don’t like it carry “fears” about the artwork. Should that be a problem for the rest of us?! Not if there are NO CIVIL CODES in place, it should not! If a person wants to grow a cultivated weed garden on their property who is to say they can’t?

        About the guy who would rather fight than ask if he can help…I am not from Sarasota, so I actually don’t understand that part of the article. If you would like to explain that would be nice.

        Oh, and I did want to mention, this is not an unusual situation. Just about all art on the planet in public spaces is controversial to SOMEONE. I can’t tell you how many totally innocuous public things I’ve done where someone is offended by something. There is a process for protecting EVERYONE’S civil rights. And, that is what this case sounds like it is if there is no civil code. This is a remarkable work on that building. I hope it is resolved that project gets to stay. It will go along way towards changing the stereotypes people hold about many things. In another 20 years no one will remember that it was unusual. It will just be a nice piece of provincial art. 😉

  18. Denise Kowal
    01/23/2012

    Well, since I am the chair of the Chalk Festival then I can let you know that it is not graffiti because it is a part of an event that was with permission. Scott did not remove the piece because he is learning his own path with art and was asked by SCOPE to not remove it the day he was about to. The added wording was suggested by Gerald Green who has lived in that neighborhood his whole life – so ask him what he thought of when he suggested it. In all my years in Sarasota I can say the determination by a few to stereotype this piece negatively, attack the artist, ridicule a businessman who is trying to make a living and myself for standing up for artists and the freedoms they should be allowed feels like the most drastic example of prejudices that I have witnessed in a long time. Nobody that is ‘against’ this piece has taken the time to meet with Scott or myself to hear anything about our goals and visions forward – except Dr. Lisa Merritt who would like to coordinate a collaboration with the arts and health into a student program with us in this area because we work with hundreds of students and thousands of children. There are a few posturing and willing to throw out opinions yet I am seeing very little volunteering, support or collaboration going on to rise above to something positive for all.

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This entry was posted on 01/22/2012 by in Culture, Local Interest and tagged , , , , , , .

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