The Politics of Art

It was a great idea that has gone sour.  I wrote about the proposed Amsterdam Center for the Arts back in March of this year, when the city then realized it owned the building that formerly housed a mental health outreach Center for St. Mary’s Hospital at 305 East Main Street. Before that it was a furniture store and a church prior to that. Until last year, it was the polling place for two sections of the 5th Ward. The city had paid the utility bills for the building for years and did not realize that either.  No wonder the Controller is having such a hard time with the budget!

Mayor Thane proposed the space be used for an Art Center. I attended the meetings as I thought this would be great for our community.  As a published photographer who has had a few gallery showings of fine art prints, I realized there was no gallery space anywhere around here.  I decided I would support this effort and attended the planning meetings, made suggestions offered my help with photography and marketing. I had a lot of time and committee experience to give to the effort, until politics got in my way.

After a few meetings with the public, the Mayor decided to hand-pick an advisory committee headed by her former Administrative Aide Thom Georgia. The rests of the committee were women, many who did not take part in any of the planning meetings, but were personal friends of the Mayor.  The newly formed group met privately and would not answer any email inquiries.  They held one public meeting on June 7th where the committee members Thom Georgia, Julia Caro, Jessica Murray, Gail Talmage and Janet Tanguay introduced themselves and presented a mission statement. That is all they had for the interested public who had waited for some sign of progress from the group.  I had many questions, but they were not readily answered.  I asked what role the advisory board played and if the Amsterdam Common Council had approved of this endeavor. Georgia snidely stated, “We only answer to the Mayor.” Prior to establishing an advisory board, the Mayor contracted with an Urban Hip-Hop Dance group to use the center for dance lessons, without Council approval.

Today the advisory board announced they were now an incorporated private entity calling themselves, the Amsterdam Creative Canvas Foundation. The advisory board members were now trustees and another woman, Patrice Vivorito was also named a trustee. I do not know her as she has not attended any of the meetings.

It seems to me that the correct process is for the city’s legislative body to negotiate and approve contracts and use of city property with the Mayor acting as executive to sign the contracts.  I don’t see where this now private corporation has any authority to make decisions about the disposition or use of city property without the approval of the Amsterdam Common Council.

I was a big advocate of creating a community art center for the City of Amsterdam, as you can see in this earlier article, but I can no longer support this tainted effort. The public no longer has any input and micro-management has destroyed what should have been an inclusive democratic process.

I really thought Ann Thane could put party politics aside for the betterment of the community, but I was wrong. It was made very clear when she mistakenly sent me a copy of an email intended for Roberto Milan in which she labels me a looser.

Sour Grapes?

Update:

A newly elected member of the school board for the Amsterdam School District, a former City of Amsterdam Councilman and former Corporation Counsel agree with my assessment of this unsavory situation. The discussion of the Art Center takes place at 18:30 in the video.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Art, Human Rights, Law, Photography, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

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5 thoughts on “The Politics of Art

  1. diane

    Jerry, Personally I would write a letter to the editor and copy to the other blogs and the aldermen. I have mentioned in passing that she has not requested any authority to use this property. Since they are already up and running I guess they can start paying the electric bills too. Also send a copy of the letter to the city controller, Ron Weirsbicki, so he knows who to bill for the utilities. The city cannot afford this. I also agree with you, that there should have been a more open selection of board members. Funny how some people just come out of the woodwork when it is time for a committee position. What is Thom Georgia’s qualifications for this artsy project?

    • Diane,
      I did send a copy to the Aldermen and the link to WCSS and WVTL. I depend on the readers of the blog to help spread the word. My thanks to Bob Going for reading this blog entry on TSWNN.

      I do expect the Aldermen to weigh in on this issue, they have given away too much control of the city.

  2. diane

    I listened to Bob’s post cast last night. And I have spoke with alderman Leggiero. I expect it to be brought up on Tuesday night. I will try and call the radio show on Tuesday and bring it up. I am leaving for Fl in the early AM for 2 and half weeks, but will be on FB and the blogs daily. What the mayor doing is not right and there needs to be a stop put to it.

  3. diane

    What the mayor is doing is not right. (need to go back to school and learn how to speak again.)

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