Week of June 13, 2001

Critical People
But it's fun! Just because you don't like a piece of art isn't a reason to pan an entire project [Eddie Silva, "Tedious People," RFT, June 6]. There are many museums full of things that I don't enjoy looking at. I stay away from them. There are many artists who produce pieces which don't thrill me. I don't buy them.

But the People Project is fun. Whether I like an individual piece or not, it has involved many people in producing and displaying public art who would otherwise not have had an opportunity to do so. And, as a great bonus, some of the people are enjoyable to look at. And some of them are thought-provoking.

Personally, I'd like to see more of such things in our town. I think that you're way off base this time.
Art Zemon
via the Internet

It could have been worse: The only bad idea is one never attempted. The St. Louis People Project is at the very least a grand idea and a plan mired in mediocrity imposed on it by this city. St. Louis needs to finally wake up from its Anheuser-Busch-induced stupor and realize that there is more to life than sporting events, truck pulls, monster factory-outlet sales and the yearly parade of over-the-hill acts at Riverport. I, for one, applaud the Regional Arts Commission for its commitment to the People Project.

The original idea called for mules as the base object. Can you imagine St. Louis being recognized for artistic interpretations of an ass?
Matthew Foster
St. Louis

I am surprised by your attitude: During a recent visit to St. Louis, I had an opportunity to see some of the work. I found it new and intriguing and therefore exciting. I do not expect all the world to enjoy art in the same way. Thus I am surprised at your attitude. I hope you'll re-examine your position and embrace any expression of art. Your personal tastes, like mine, are just that -- personal. Another's does not deserve to be attacked -- critiqued, yes, but not attacked.
John H. Krickbaum
McAllen, Texas

He's the culture czar: Eddie Silva's piece on the People Project reads more like an adolescent diatribe than a critical review of the works created for the project. Perhaps the dog days of summer are early this year for Eddie: Nothing tantalizing to write about. A good time to rant about something. What shall it be? Why not those weird sculptures? After all, they are fouling up the "sober contemplation of history" which one naturally does when one is near the Old Court House. They are an easy target.

Eddie begins to instruct us about the "conceptual foundation to contain meaning," but, alas, he only teases and fails to follow through. He mentions a mural in the Bay Area, but to what point? He insults this area by labeling it "tight-fisted St. Louis." He even brings in the race issue, a popular topic these days, accusing the art of racial insensitivity.

Eddie tell us that nothing was done right. He should know. He's the culture czar here in this burg. Pity those poor sucker artists.
Rick Fischer
via the Internet

Waking up to public art: Eddie Silva's commentary reflects a common RFT attitude that St. Louis is "behind" most other cities and should just get perfectly hip overnight. This attitude lacks an appreciation for the process of getting from A to B, and I believe it to be very discouraging for our artists and forward-thinking people.

I find many of the figures intriguing, if not enjoyable, but, more so, I absolutely applaud the People Project's adventurous effort. This is a very good move for St. Louis, and I say good is good enough.

For a guy who grew up in a St. Louis neighborhood full of concrete statues of black jockeys, Blessed Virgins sheltered by half-buried vertical bathtubs, and kissing Dutch kids, I welcome the People Project and believe this effort is waking St. Louisans up to the notion of public art.

Whether viewers are delighted, disappointed, disgusted or just unimpressed, folks throughout our area are seeing that one may color outside of the lines -- that art does not have to be in museums or in front of our government buildings.

Art can be at the nearest intersection.
Tim Auer
St. Louis

The Goddess René
I was hoping for a fresh approach: Again my hopes are dashed by the drivel of yet another God complex spewing forth profanity, insults and an uneducated view of the St. Louis music scene [René Spencer Saller, "Radar Station," RFT, June 6].

After years of touring, it never ceases to amaze me how poorly St. Louis' music community is represented. I was looking forward to a fresh approach by a new writer in your "Radar Station" column, but you appointed someone who chooses, once again, to take the adversarial role with local musicians. Sure, you are inundated by "poorly" written, "poorly" recorded offerings. The technology allows for anyone with a couple of bucks and three chords to produce inferior products, but rather than focus on the many great players in the region, you wallow in the nondescript shallow masses. As a result, great players move on down the road to markets that recognize solid play and the "left-behinds" flourish in the pathetic local club scene.
Ron Medley
Maryland Heights

Strange Bedfellows
Look at what they propose, not oppose: Labeling the anti-public-funding-for-ballpark people a "motley crew" and building your article along party affiliations shortchanges their makeup, intent and strength [D.J. Wilson, "Short Cuts," RFT, June 6]. This is not about political parties or memberships or nonmemberships in same. Their power will come forth as much in what they propose as what they oppose, and in how they grow. It already has -- the owners declined "public debate." Observe a true coalition at work and report on what they do rather than who they are.
Ed Golterman
via the Internet

No Room for Ray
God won't let him into heaven: I strongly disagree with your article about abortion [Ray Hartmann, "Misplaced Morality," RFT, June 6]. You are severely misguided, and I am sorry for you. You say that pro-life people do not have morals. The issue is not morals so much as it is the sanctity of life. People, even religious people, have weaknesses and will have illicit sex. That is human nature; we are sinful, but that is no reason to kill the baby. Distributing condoms would simply say, "Go ahead and have sex; don't worry." We are saying that the sex should never have happened. If it does, and a baby comes from it, the baby must live. I don't think this will make sense to you, because your are so clouded with your own self-serving beliefs. I fear for you when you are dead and you meet your Maker. You will have almighty God looking down at you, asking, "Why should I let you in here?" And what are you going to say to him? "I supported the killing of babies!"? I don't think so.
Caleb Bassett
via the Internet

Boyle is No Benito
No good deed goes unpunished: I found Jason Toon's article on the Grand Boulevard dilemma interesting but profoundly unfair to Tim Boyle ["Grand Funk," RFT, May 23]. My wife and I are longtime residents of the Central West End, frequent shoppers at the Market in the Loop and a customer of Botanicals on the Park. I agree with Boyle that each of these neighborhoods is different and each offers its own charms and challenges.

I was Boyle's development consultant during his efforts to get St. Louis Square started and had an opportunity to come to know him and his entire family during the difficult and time-consuming days leading up to the project's completion and successful lease-up. Boyle's personal commitment to develop the project overcame each and every obstacle thrown in his way. As an aside, I never once heard Boyle espouse a "suburban perspective." At that time, South Grand did not have the many success stories that you documented in your story, and the project was viewed by many as a real stretch.

Boyle's investment in South Grand is not a speculation, and I have never seen him waver from his commitment to the neighborhood. I know that your reference to Mussolini makes for great rhetoric, and I also know how it must have hurt his family. Maybe it's the case that no good deed (read: effort) goes unpunished. I hope not, because entrepreneurs like Boyle get their heads bashed in daily just by the nature of the work.
Ron Silverman
St. Louis

Get real, folks: It's easy to be a critic; it takes effort to effect positive change. If Brian Marston wants to turn South Grand into an imitation of U. City's Loop, he'll need more than a pipe dream and a fistful of complaints. He should get off his ass and find developers who share his vision rather than bash Tim Boyle for revitalizing a dying daytime retail commercial strip. Constituents must be delighted that Ald. Florida wants to import loud, puking college students who will trash their neighborhood at 3 a.m. to patronize Marston's nightclubs. Velvet Freeze (the old ice-cream parlor) was family-friendly; Velvet (the nightclub) is not.

Get real, folks. South Grand cannot be everything to everybody. Rather than blaming a proactive force in the neighborhoods for its shortcomings, a better story would have been investigating why no other developers are willing to take the risks that Tim Boyle has.
Bates Childress

Discipline the Board
School board should be removed: I am an outraged parent. I recently read the article "Caught in the Middle" [Laura Higgins, RFT, May 30]. I am encouraged by the teacher who spoke out against the inappropriate behavior that has occurred at the Normandy Middle School. I am sorry that her job was terminated, but she should continue fighting for her rights. She did the right thing. I would like to encourage her and let her know that God is with her. He will open doors for her. She will be able to teach again.

I believe the Normandy School Board should be removed. The members of that board couldn't possibly care about the education of the children they serve. In the article, the board's president stated that the information that this teacher shared with them at the board meeting was not news to the board. Does this mean that they knew and just wouldn't do anything about the problems, couldn't do anything about the problems or just didn't care about the problems at Normandy Middle School? This teacher also stated that other staff members are afraid to speak up. I believe she is correct.

We must stop talking about failed schools and begin to take action. The school district needs to be held accountable. The young lady who was fired took action.
Name withheld by request

Teachers should evaluate administrators: The need for change in how discipline problems are handled in schools goes far beyond the Normandy School District.

I am also a middle-school teacher, with more than 20 years of experience but in a large West County district. The administrator who handles the discipline problems on my team also evaluates my performance, as well as that of my teammates. Needless to say, a teacher risks a negative evaluation if he or she sends too many unruly students to their administrator, because, unfortunately, these discipline problems add to the same administrator's workload. Most teachers who I work with are young and nontenured and, fearing a negative evaluation, will often tolerate behavior problems in the classroom. This kind of system hurts the many well-behaved students, whose learning is impaired by their unruly classmates.

Administrators must evaluate the teachers serving under them, but teachers need to deal with discipline problems without fear of repercussions. A system that allows teachers to evaluate the effectiveness of administrators in matters of discipline would also help our schools.
Name withheld by request

Big Mac Attack
Charities can act destructively: The Laclede/West Pine Neighborhood Association officers are to be commended for their efforts to save the Winkelmeyer house [Najeeb Hasan, "Tearing Down the House," RFT, May 30]. They acted with dedication and honor to represent the will of our neighborhood's residents against a charitable corporation that does business on one of our blocks.

Everyone is too nice to criticize a charity that does indeed do important work. But put aside the Ronald McDonald House's charitable work and you will see a well-heeled Chicago-based corporation that places no value on being a good neighbor. In my opinion, their goal in this case was to establish a precedent for demolishing residential properties. When they need to expand their apartment block to the east, how hard will it be to convince the city to authorize the demolition of the completely renovated residence that stands in their way?

We'd all like to believe that charitable corporations only do charitable things. But Ronald McDonald House's actions in the Laclede/West Pine neighborhood prove that charitable corporations can behave brutally and destructively. The residents of our neighborhood, the Planning Commission and the city of St. Louis have been mao-maoed by a nonlocal, nontaxpaying corporation with the means to work the legal system. Where neighborhood preservation is concerned, when will the voices of individual citizens again be heard?
Maud Essen
St. Louis

Sticking it to the Animals
What about the agriculture commissioner? Thank you for printing "Critter Lovers" [D.J. Wilson, RFT, May 30]. Missouri lawmakers really "stuck it to the animals" in more than one way this year. Even in the wake of national and local media coverage of our disgusting puppy mills, legislators passed over proposed laws to clean up our act.

To add to Missouri's Deliverance-esque reputation, the new director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Lowell Mohler (who promised to make a difference) reappointed and appointed two members to the Animal Care Facilities Act Committee, one a lobbyist who spends hours each year blocking humane legislation and one who runs a profitable puppy mill that some say could be featured in a horror show. Further, Mohler failed to appoint even one applicant endorsed by the animal-welfare community.

Maybe these issues are just too ugly to discuss on the Senate floor, Sen. Betty Sims, but the reality is even uglier.
Amy Levin
St. Louis

Rowdy Houses
Just one drug house can wreak havoc: I am sorry that Annette Green died, but let's not blame the police [Bruce Rushton, "Who's Next?" RFT, May 23]. She was involved in illegal activities. Does Bruce Rushton have any idea of the havoc that a drug house brings to a block and a neighborhood, even if the quantity of drugs sold is small? Increased car and foot traffic, excessive noise and more crime (such as burglary, auto theft and vandalism, loitering and robbery), as well as children's exposure to criminal activity, are all part of one small-time drug house on one block.
Jan Simons
St. Louis

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