street artist PROTEST: Cooper Union, NYC 5/27/98 8PM FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 18 May 1998 22:54:15 -0700 (PDT)


=46WD  CC Replies to author ARTISTpres <ARTISTpres@aol.com>

Join the City=EDs artists to protest Mayor
Giuliani=EDs speech at Cooper Union Art
and Engineering School 5/27/98 8 P.M.
St. Marks Place and 3rd Ave. N.Y.C.

SUNDAY NEW YORK POST EDITORIAL ON STREET ARTIST PROTESTS/A.R.T.I.S.T.


[see editorial following letter]

Dear Editor,

The N.Y. Post=EDs 5/17/98 editorial =ECThe ARTIST
Hustle=EE about artists=ED rights, the group A.R.T.I.S.T.
and our lawsuit against Mayor Giuliani was filled
with factual errors. The most notable error was the
idea that only book and newspaper vendors are
exempted from the City=EDs vending licensing
requirement. Since 1996, when we defeated the
Mayor in Federal Court, all visual artists are
exempted from the licensing requirement. In June of
1997 the U.S. Supreme Court denied Mayor
Giuliani=EDs appeal and affirmed the 2nd circuit=EDs
ruling that street artists and their works are as
protected by the First Amendment as newspapers and
books. The Parks Department was a named defendant
in that suit.

Despite winning our court case the City continues to
routinely harass and arrest artists and confiscate their
works throughout New York, not just in Central
Park. Most of the arrests during our protest outside
the Metropolitan Museum were not for vending
without a Parks permit but were for demonstrating,
public speaking or displaying portraits critical of
Mayor Giuliani. I=EDm sure the Post recognizes that
such activities are also fully protected by First
Amendment freedom of speech. That the Mayor
keeps having my paintings likening him to Hitler
confiscated and having me arrested on false charges
[32 arrests to date; no convictions], seems to prove
the very point I=EDm trying to make.

Wei Zhang, the A.R.T.I.S.T. member who, =EClikened
himself to the Tianamen Square democracy
protesters=EE was in fact a Tianimen Square protester.
He had his art destroyed there by Chinese
Communist Police although he was never arrested
until he attempted to show an unflattering picture of
Giuliani outside the Leica Gallery during the
Mayor=EDs recent art opening.

Contrary to your assertion, parks are not, =ECdifferent
from other public spaces=EE. The U.S. Supreme Court
has repeatedly cited them as public forums. It is
Mayor Giuliani and the Parks Department, not street
artists, that are commercializing the City=EDs parks.
Since the Mayor turned numerous City parks over to
corporate interests like the Grand Central
Partnership and the Central Park Conservancy,
Disney, Nike and Sony are turning our parks into an
advertising, music business and film production
venue unique in the U.S.

Street artists are not seeking =ECunfair breaks at the
public=EDs expense=EE. All the Parks Department or the
City has to do to protect the public from sidewalk
congestion is to enforce the existing rules about how
large and exactly where on the sidewalk an artist
display can be set up. A permit or license is neither
necessary nor constitutionally valid for materials that
are protected by the First Amendment. The Parks
Department admits in it=EDs response to our lawsuit
that it allowed an unlimited number of artists to sell
there, without permits, for the past 100 years without
any problem.

One might ask why the works of street artists need
=46irst Amendment protection in the first place. The
reason is to prevent the exact pattern of censorship,
harassment and false arrest the Mayor and the Parks
Department are practicing against myself and the
other artist/activists in our lawsuit.

Lastly, your editorial makes references to our art as,
=ECdaubings and scratchings=EE, =ECstuff they call art=EE and
to us as, =ECtalentless troublemakers=EE and
=ECself-described artists=EE. Many of the A.R.T.I.S.T.
members who show on New York City streets have
art degrees from U.S. or foreign universities and have
had shows in galleries. Our art is as diverse in
subject, style and quality as the art on display in
New York City=EDs galleries and museums. Quality of
content has nothing to do with First Amendment
protection. Materials that express ideas, feelings or
an opinion, however misguided or inspired, are
protected by the constitution. That places both your
numerous editorials defending Giuliani=EDs police state
and my paintings and leaflets satirizing the Mayor as
a dictator on a constitutionally equal footing. For
every American=EDs sakes, let=EDs hope we can keep it
that way.

Robert Lederman
President of A.R.T.I.S.T.
255 13th Street
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215
(718) 369-2111
A.R.T.I.S.T. web site:
http://www.openair.org/alerts/artist/nyc.html

Read the Post=EDs Editorial at:
http://www.nypostonline.com/051798/editorial/2695
=2Ehtm

--------------------------------------------------------
EDITORIAL

NY POST 5/17/98

THE ARTIST HUSTLE
----------------------------------------------------------------
By one count there are more self-described "artists"
living in New York City than the entire population
of Renaissance Florence. This is hardly surprising
given post-war New York's acknowledged status as
the capital of the Art World.

But it is a statistic that should shed some light on the
outrageous claims of persecution by "artists" who
bitterly resent having to get a permit to sell their
wares on the plaza outside the Metropolitan Museum
of Art.
The city imposes strict limits on anyone who sells
anything on the streets of New York. The only
exceptions to these limits - because of the free
speech guaranteed by the First Amendment - apply to
vendors of printed matter like books and magazines.
The city can still regulate such vendors, but only in a
reasonable, content-neutral manner.

The so-called artists who have been demonstrating
outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art believe that
their daubings and scratchings should be treated in
the same way books are. Fair enough. But they also
want an unlimited right to sell their product outside
the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on a plaza that
belongs to the Parks Department.

Now, parks are obviously different from other public
spaces. The Parks Department and the Police
Department have finally managed to make Central
Park once again a safe, clean, green oasis for the
public. And the extraordinary irony is that the
artist-activists are screaming because the city won't
let them commercialize a corner of it!

They think that because they are selling stuff that
they call "art" (and today, art can mean literally
anything) the normal rules don't apply. But the last
thing a plaza that abuts Fifth Avenue and Central
Park needs is to be turned into a honky-tonk flea
market.

Elsewhere in the city, in Battery Park, Washington
Square and at the West 4th Street Courts, the Parks
Department has run a monthly lottery to parcel out
spots where artists can set up stalls.

The Artist Vendor Permit system, which, incidently,
was suggested by the ACLU, has been going since
1995. Every month 85 percent of applicants get a
license, and both congestion and scuffles between
rival artist-vendors are avoided.

But when the Parks Department extended this
reasonable system to the Metropolitan plaza earlier
this year, a bunch of artist-activists who call
themselves "Artists' Response to Illegal State
Tactics" (yes, the acronym is ARTIST) went beserk.

They held noisy demonstrations, displayed drawings
of the mayor as Adolf Hitler, and made other
ludicrous and offensive comparisons - including
likening themselves to the democracy protesters in
Tiananmen Square. Then they defied the permit
system and were accordingly arrested.

In April, ARTIST failed to get a temporary Federal
injuction against the permit system. Now these
whining prima donnas are suing the City, the mayor,
the police commisioner, the parks commissioner, the
court administration, various individual officers and
the Parks Department for harassment, wrongful
arrest, etc.

They will fail, and they deserve to. Too many
talentless troublemakers believe that being an "artist"
entitles them to some kind of waiver from the rules
that bind ordinary folk - in the way that medieval
priests enjoyed "benefit of clergy." But in New York,
the home of the world's most spectacular artistic
success stories, artists don't need unfair breaks at the
public's expense.
-----------------------------------------------------------

Copyright (c) 1998, N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All rights
reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any
form or medium without express written permission
of the New York Post is prohibited.

Used in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine

Join the City=EDs artists to protest Mayor
Giuliani=EDs speech at Cooper Union Art
and Engineering School 5/27/98 8 P.M.
St. Marks Place and 3rd Ave. N.Y.C.

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