Archive for Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Letter: Artists ripped off

December 28, 2005

To the Editor:

The Shawnee Dispatch is to be commended for its extraordinary support of the Shawnee 150 calendar, including the major profiles of the participating artists. But it is incorrect for the paper or the Sesquicentennial Committee to cast these works as "contributions." The artists were commissioned -- these are not donations.

When the artists signed up and chose their scenes, they were all promised a 50 percent commission with a $500 minimum at a well-promoted auction. Charles Goslin requested $1,000 minimum for his work, and rightly so.

But when the Sesquicentennial Committee took over the project from its initiator, Inge Huston, the committee issued contracts which mysteriously deleted the promised minimums or copyright protections. As one committee member said in the public meeting when I accused her of being sneaky with the contract wording, "Oh, we did that on purpose."

Instead of a good auction date, a grand hall and prosperous audience, Huston was told the artists had no choice -- they must auction their work on Feb. 17. Because that's when the committee could get a free auctioneer. This is all designed on the cheap.

So instead of an auction before 350 of the richest Shawnee business types, all liquored up and holding their checkbooks at the Chamber dinner Jan. 25; the poor artists will be relegated to some small, poorly lit, donated room after Valentine's Day -- thus minimizing impulse buys. A tiny audience. No minimums. The artists told me they'll be lucky to cover their framing costs. And they'll be cheated of profits from card sales because their copyrights were ripped off.

It's an abuse of artists. Shawnee's history mirrors America's. We took advantage of the Indians. Broke treaties, agreements and intentions. Now the city is treating our town's professional artists as the Indians of 2006.

As the first former intern for the National Endowment for the Arts, the co-founder of the Kansas City Artists Coalition and former arts administrator for both Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., I can tell you, this is a rip-off. Inge Huston's inspiration and the Dispatch's remarkable support of our history have been besmirched by a committee driven by controlling egos and disrespect for artists.

Tracy Thomas


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