Last week’s Hard Candy dealt with the delays in the Clymer Park art project. In short, after covering the project from its inception and watching the delays, I wrote a column in which I suggested several things. One was that the city could have managed the project better; another was that the two artists who had yet to deliver (one of whom supposedly curated the project) should be ashamed of themselves.
This upset the artists. I get that. It’s embarrassing to be called out on something. One artist decided to put out a call to arms to his Facebook fans to write hate mail to me and the paper. I know this because several of you texted and messaged me to tell me there was some ugliness.
The letters I received, by and large, aren’t from locals, and it appears none of them had ever heard of Hard Candy or the Gabber before the artist’s post online; they certainly hadn’t read any of our news coverage of the public art project to understand the opinion column followed a series of the articles containing the very information they accused me of not reporting. Some letters were angry, others were condescending. Many illustrated the failure of our public school system to educate people about homonyms, the proper use of a plural possessive or critical thinking. Most, aside from one comment under the online version of the article whereby the writer verbally “flings poo” at the column, were lengthy.
This blog post isn’t to defend what I did. However, I do want to share with you the communication I received from one of the two artists I mentioned.
You are a hack. Eat shit.
The Gabber’s spam filters grabbed this, so I didn’t see it until the next night, when I received my daily spam report. While I don’t have time to respond to everyone I upset as part of my job, I did think it was important I answer him, as he was mentioned in the column. Here’s the email I sent to him the next night:
I would have seen this sooner, but for some reason our spam filters caught this. Odd.
I am assuming you are speaking of my recent opinion column, as it does mention you. I appreciate you getting in touch. I do regret that you’re hurt; I would be, too, in the same situation, regardless of whether or not the opinion columnist had any valid points.
You must have missed the edition of the Gabber where I interviewed the curator of the project, Owen Pach, for a news article (not the opinion piece that followed several weeks later). Owen told me you would not finish on time because you were out of town. Here’s the link to the August article online:
The city manager, Jim O’Reilly, has not, in more than five conversations, indicated you and he had any agreement to extend your deadline, nor has any other such artist had an agreement. I specifically asked him if he had changed the terms and he said no. It was, in fact, my understanding that all artists (except Susanne) received an email indicating that should delivery not be made of the art in the agreed-upon fashion, the city would request the deposits returned.
Frank, if you recall, I write a feature about you several years back. I love your art and thoroughly enjoyed interviewing you and relaying bits of your process to our readers. However, in this opinion piece – and please remember, this is an opinion piece, not a feature or a news article – I spoke to several points, including what I perceived as poor foresight on the city’s part and a lack of respect for the taxpayers on the part of some artists. I don’t need to belabor this now, but I do hope, at some point, you can see where a taxpayer in a city that has to borrow money to fix its sewers might be upset by promises not kept by the city and the artists it hired for a project that cost us $100,000 in total. Finally, I’d like you to understand that I am not speaking just for me, hoping to fill a regular column. I’ve heard complaints from other people. My concern is that this negative experience – and my column didn’t make it so, it merely reflected what I’d heard from people and city staff – will damage the city’s foray into public art.
For what I assume are obvious reasons to you and I both, we cannot print the email you sent me, and I suspect you do not want us to do so. However, I would encourage you to elaborate on the sentiment and send that to News@theGabber.com
(you can also simply “reply all” to this email); I feel certain my editor would respect such a letter and want to print it.
Again, I regret the situation. I do enjoy your work, and although you may not have warm feelings about me at this point, I am eagerly awaiting its placement in Clymer Park.
Please contact me again if you wish to discuss this further. And I strongly suggest you read the news article that preceded the column.
All the best,