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Week of May 2-8, 2001

It's Just Business
Catch up with the rest of the nation: All across this country, new stadiums are being built, some with taxpayers' help, others without. What's the big damn deal? Illinois is proposing $50 million dollars in tax incentives to help Boeing relocate to Chicago. It's business. The Cardinals' stadium plan should be reviewed as a business proposition as well.

You asked, "Why would people suddenly be falling all over themselves to live next to a stadium?" [Ray Hartmann, "Ballpark Village Idiots?" RFT, April 18]. I've lived in Houston for 15 years, but I will be moving back to St. Louis in the near future. I've seen Enron Field in Houston spark other development around the stadium. Hell, they are building a 30-story apartment building named Ballpark Place. It wasn't even a part of the plan for Enron Field. Other condo high-rises will go up, as well as a convention hotel, an expanded convention-center hotel and new office towers. Enron Field helped spark or speed up this development. I would be one of the people who would rent or buy a unit in the condo building next to the new Cardinals stadium. Some people are adventurous and find these sorts of things exciting.

Your article is as stodgy as St. Louis was 15 years ago. Catch up with the rest of the nation.
Terrence McCreight

Grow up or get the hell out of my country: I am outraged that there are programs that discriminate due to race or gender. This program and Percy Green speak about these so-called "white-owned" companies as if they are owned by Satan [Peter Downs, "Certifiably Mad," RFT, April 25]. The year is 2001 -- wake up, America! We are still living like it is 1951. Racial tension is at an all-time high; "white America" is feeling neglected and persecuted. I believe everyone is equal and deserves the same thing. When we write laws that discriminate, we spit in the face of people who fought for equality in this country.

If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were still alive, he would speak up and abolish any law or program that discriminates due to race or gender. It is going to take a minority leader to speak out about this, because any white male that does is automatically labeled a racist.

We are all brothers and sisters in this country, and until we start seeing each other as simply Americans, things will never get better. Grow up or get the hell out of my country; if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
Greg Smith
St. Louis

Progress Report
His pettiness hurts the public schools: My daughter attends Central Visual and Performing Arts High School. She corroborates the story's findings [Jeannette Batz, "The Jerk," RFT, April 18]. Apparently Stevenson didn't order materials for several art projects that the art teacher had requisitioned. The teacher asked repeatedly what happened to them and received no answer. Stevenson's pettiness impacts more than the students at Central at the present time. Last night, at a party, some of us were discussing the article. A woman said to me, "That's just another reason why I'd never put my children in public schools."
Terry Bilheimer
St. Louis

The board should take charge: I am outraged, and my heart goes out to Cheryl Burns and to all the students who have lost a good teacher. No one should have to put up with such abuse, and no one should be allowed to inflict others with such reprehensible behavior, especially in the teaching profession, where we have an obligation to model good and decent behavior for the students in our care. I would like to encourage Ms. Burns to apply for a teaching position in a school where her talents will be appreciated and where colleagues will support each other in a professional manner. I implore the St. Louis school district's administration to take charge and correct this travesty, for the good of their teachers and their students.
Mary Garrett
St. Peters

Where are the art supplies? I attend Central, [and] there is one other big issue concerning Gary Stevenson and John Niemeyer -- all the school's budget for the past year has just disappeared. We are an art school, but shouldn't an art school have art supplies? The photography department is out of film and almost out of chemicals, but orders from September still haven't even been ordered. The art classes are running very low on paints and paper, and still our orders haven't been placed. I love my school, but if we have no supplies, why are we going to an art school?
Name withheld by request
via the Internet

What can I do? No prior RFT story has prompted me to pick up the phone. This one did. Is there anything constructive I can do? Keep up your good work.
Joel Slotnikoff
St. Louis

Petition drive was blocked: My son attends Central, so I had heard some of this before your article was published. [After] reading your article, not only am I not going to enroll my daughter, but I am now seriously considering removing my son from that environment! My son said that some of the students tried to get a petition to try and have Mr. Stevenson removed from the school and that other teachers snatched the papers from the hands of the children who were collecting signatures. What happened to the rights of the students and teachers being harassed by this man?
Virginia Vaughn
via the Internet

Burns sounds like a great teacher: I recently left the city schools to take another position and wholeheartedly agree with every instance [Burns] pointed out. When you mentioned [Stevenson] was put in charge of the spending and purchasing for several teachers, I knew exactly what would happen before I read the next few paragraphs. If possible, please let Ms. Burns know she sounds like a great teacher [and that she should] apply everywhere else possible and show that man how wrong he was about her.
Donna Dupske
via the Internet

This is the tip of the iceberg: Cheryl Burns was one of the greatest teachers Central ever had to offer. She was nurturing and inspiring. I am fortunate to have been her student during her first year of teaching, before she was driven out like so many great instructors before her. Please continue to cover this story. This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you spoke to more teachers, and especially the students, I know you would find much more.
K. Knoll
St. Louis

Central was a good school: I spent four years dealing with Mr. Stevenson and his inappropriate behavior. I have seen firsthand how he handles both the students and the faculty at Central. When I graduated from Central, it was a good school, but it will cease to remain a good school if Stevenson is repeatedly allowed to destroy the lives of students and faculty. Good job, RFT, for bringing this issue to the attention of the public!
Christy Schaufert

Silva, Rendered
Almost everything doesn't look like a prison: There is an interesting debate that needs to occur around questions of how we get the kind of buildings we do, in St. Louis or any city. Eddie Silva's slanderous attack on HOK and Gyo Obata does nothing to advance these important questions ["HOK-Dokey," RFT, April 18].

Architecture is a practical art. It is fundamentally different from any other arts inasmuch as it is brought into being in order to satisfy purpose. As such, it does not belong in the speculative realm but belongs to the practical world. Architectural knowledge is not produced as an end in itself. It is within this realm that the ethical dimension of architecture exists. It is produced to satisfy purpose and, in so doing, produces something of value, which aims at some kind of social good. We believe fundamentally that architecture can and should aim at making the world a better place for people to live in.

How do we define architecture? The most useful way of dealing with this issue comes from the English philosopher Roger Scruton, who says that the essential character of architecture lies in the difference that exists between architecture and the other arts. These differences are function, publicness, structure, technique and structural articulation. HOK is a huge practice that has produced numerous buildings. In any practice of this scale, the quality of the work will vary. Silva ignores buildings such as the extensions to the History Museum in Forest Park in favor of tired rhetoric attacking big, easy targets.

Buildings are places where people live, work and worship, and it could be said that certain forms are imposed on them from the very outset by the needs they are required to fulfill. While it is possible to compose a piece of music or to paint without intending that the work in question be listened to or looked at and thus appreciated, it is certainly not possible to design a building without explicitly intending that it can be seen. This applies very strongly to the "prison" in Clayton and allows Silva to develop an alarming non sequitur -- "If you can so fluidly make a prison look like an office building -- the St. Louis County Justice Center in downtown Clayton, for example -- then what doesn't look like a prison?" The answer, as a moment's reflection will show, is: Almost everything doesn't look like a prison.

Buildings are important features of the built and natural landscape and cannot be reproduced willfully without very serious effects. The impact of many buildings depends almost entirely upon their locations. Other forms of art do not have to rely on a specific site location for their impact.

Architecture is public. It takes up space, either by crushing out of existence what has gone before or attempting to blend with what is existing. It is in this sense the most political of all art forms in that it imposes a vision of man and his purposes on those who experience it, independent of choice. That choice is made jointly by a citizenry, by the clients, by economics -- and also by architects.

There isn't time or space here to go into every specific example of the many gratuitous personal, ageist insults for which Eddie Silva owes Gyo Obata a heartfelt apology. Silva will go some way to restoring his shattered personal and professional credibility if he publicly does the right thing.
Jo and Gill Noero
St. Louis

See The Music
This town is not dead: Steve Pick writes, "Face it: Rock music doesn't always draw the big crowds in 2001, especially not rock music played by local bands performing original music" ["Little Rock," RFT, April 18]. He adds, "Few consistently draw an audience large enough to fill Mississippi Nights, the Pageant or even the Hi-Pointe." My response?

You and your fellow RFT scribes are oblivious to a huge chunk of the local music scene. I suppose you were all busy as my band, five feeler, played to 400 local rock-music fans at the Hard Rock Cafe on April 13. Just guessing you were all at the Dr. Zhivegas show on the night Somnia and five feeler rang in their CD release in front of 250 at the Galaxy in December. Perhaps you got lost on the way to the Firehouse (you certainly found it in time to trumpet its closing) in July when we played to 400 at the new-music showcase?

This town is not dead, [so] instead of moaning about the imminent demise of the St. Louis music scene, why not get out there and see some bands? Perhaps instead of giving your cover to a disco-cover band, you throw some ink toward one of St. Louis' original rock bands, bands that are working their asses off, only be repeatedly snubbed by the RFT and other lackluster media outlets in town? You're letting us down.

We show up at the venue; why don't you? We do our part. Unless you're going to hold up your end of the bargain, quit your bitchin'.
Christopher Potsos
St. Louis

People Person
Don't worry, be happy: The People Project means jobs, opportunity and a renewed sense of how we value human beings [Eddie Silva, "Street People," RFT, April 4]. As an artist and arts administrator, I have heard from critics and supporters of this project. The wide variety of comments is amazing. Most see it as an opportunity to tie a dysfunctional region somewhat together through the arts, and then others just see it as a nice thing, but whom does it help?

Let me let you in on a secret. It has been an opportunity for me as an artist to grow and to expand my personal abilities. It allowed me to set a course of self-study in the realm of sculpture. Not only did I have to seek information, but I had to draw down deep inside of the artist to make myself meet deadlines, be a businessman, a purchasing agent, a proposal-writer, an illustrator, a deliveryman, construction worker and, in a sense, a one-man band.

This project is multifaceted. It is about celebrating the region, the people, through the eyes and creative talents of artists. Artists are not being paid a high price for their work; however, it is all up to the artists how much they put into the work. Some wanting exposure put in hundreds of hours, and others get the job done faster. As the producer of five sculptures, I log my working times including delivery, proposal-writing and production. The most I have invested in one sculpture so far is 65 hours. Do the math: Even that is over $23 per hour. I am fortunate to be a person who can supplement my arts from being an arts administrator. I have started a fund to put a down payment on a studio for myself and, potentially, other artists. I have helped the St. Louis economy by renting studio space, purchasing supplies, hiring support personnel and buying gas, food and equipment from all over the region.

This is a good thing. People need to be inspired. Artists and art supporters can be heroes that can be the inspiration for a renewed sense of community. This project makes sense to me. A mass of sculptures around the entire 15 county region will be great. These are interactive sculptures, ones you can touch. Most are inviting and captivating. They create exposure for artists and create jobs. It is one of those small economic boons that we all want for St. Louis.

Celebrate the people, the diversity and the potential for the region. Be positive people. Good news is good news. Celebrate the People Project for the good news it is.
Rich Brooks
St. Peters

Meriwether's is located at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. The restaurant's name and location were incorrect in the RFT's "Restaurants 2001" special section, published April 18. Meriwether's fifth-place ranking in the "Restaurant with a View" category remained unchanged. However, a retabulation of readers' poll entries in this category showed that restaurants at the Mount Pleasant Winery and the Art Museum tied at seventh place.

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