To the Editor:
Your story on Grand Center ("Grand Illusion," RFT, April 21) clarifies for me why this organization has been fighting efforts to reopen the Kiel Opera House.
Grand Center has been at best marginally successful at encouraging the arts to grow and for its own selfish reasons it blocks other efforts around town to blossom. It's far easier to block and interfere with the work of others than to get Grand Center going.
Powell Symphony Hall is losing its subscriber base for various reasons. All entertainment venues and properties will suffer unless Grand Center becomes a destination for people after and before events and not just a destination for wasted arts funding. This organization has delivered very little for $80,000,000 other than parking lots and sparkling sidewalks. As a brand, Grand Center will suffer unless it can deliver like the brand Craftsman delivers for tools.
Anthony H. Spranaitis
To the Editor:
Regarding the article by Eddie Silva on Grand Center: I found it an ironic contrast with the glowing report about Chattanooga, Tenn., in the April 25 Parade magazine. It seemed to me that Mr. Silva started out with a negative thesis in which he would concede the positives in only a few well-hidden sections of the article. The Parade article started out with a positive thesis and conceded only a few negatives near the end of the article. One can prove what one wants. Is it helpful and encouraging to those who are struggling in the face of our suburban flight and lack of good funding since the Reagan years to contend that they are just creating an illusion? I found the photos interesting also. The photographer had to find a moment during which there was neither vehicular nor pedestrian traffic on April 18 to snap those desolate shots. One block up at Symphony Hall that day, I was part of such a huge crowd in the lobby that it was almost impossible to move. The following Wednesday, I led a group of St. Louis University international students on a walking tour of the district after we ate at Vito's. I have done the same on a number of occasions, especially when we have eaten at the Best Steak House, a popular establishment that got no mention or credit in the article despite the long-standing commitment to the area of its Greek proprietors.
Phyllis Jacobson Mithen
To the Editor:
I would like to comment on the April 14 "Short Cuts" regarding the closing of 17 National Supermarkets.
One reason for the dramatic decline in sales after the '95 Schnucks buyout may have been the example set by stores when they reopened as Nationals. If you have an unpleasant experience at one location, you'd be inclined to believe that you might not fare any better at another.
The National store on the South Grand end of Magnolia was an atrocity. Many times shelves sat unstocked while employees stood by chatting. Seldom did the sale prices displayed on the shelves ring up correctly at the register. On more than one occasion I saw moldy bakery goods, expired dairy products and rotten meat on sale.
As for the staff, aside from a gracious lady named Yvette and a couple of others, it would be difficult to find a more discourteous, surly, apathetic and lethargic group outside of a '50s prison movie.
The inconvenience of having to walk the extra distance to either of the Schnucks in the neighborhood was minor measured against the feeling of dread I had when necessity forced me to shop at National.
If this store was any example of the way the National chain was running its operation, then I am not astonished that they closed -- I am in awe of how long they managed to stay in business!
To the Editor:
I read Thomas Crone's account of the recent controversy at the Midtown Arts Center ("Hit Parade," RFT, April 14) and found it short of the truth and unfair. Oddly, the RFT recently condemned the Post-Dispatch for a similar offense. Now the RFT presents a few facts, then sculpts a great story, but not the whole story. Crone did a good enough job interviewing the artist and presenting her feelings, but he failed to be accurate and fair when presenting the other side. Good journalism should present both sides thoroughly, and this is where Crone failed.
Jet Apperson, owner of Art Attack Gallery (which has not failed twice but moved twice, expanding both times), has been involved in creating opportunity for artists for nearly five years in St. Louis. Apperson was executive director of Midtown Arts Center, until she resigned, and owns Art Attack, but her work didn't stop there. She wanted to give everybody an opportunity to see and be a part of art. Art Attack offered many young artists a chance to be shown in a gallery for the first time; it offered classes and opportunities for artists, actors and musicians that never existed before. Her goal was to provide the outlet from which all these artists could work.
Censorship? Unbelievable. According to Apperson, both Kristen Blinne, the artist of "Female Genital Mutilation," and Mallarie Zimmer, curator of the gallery where it is displayed at Midtown Arts Center, agreed to leave the disputed piece out of the show until moments before the scheduled event that evening -- then changed their minds! They displayed it despite their previous agreement with Apperson. But you missed this crucial piece of information, Thomas -- how ironic that accusations of censorship from an artist (who violated her contract) would be the weapon that destroys the vehicle for its own expression. You also failed to clarify in your article that the "couple of folks" who were asked to leave the Midtown by the police were disruptive, threatening and offensive and were Blinne's friends. You also wrote, "Lost in the hubbub are a variety of points. For one thing, Blinne's piece had already been sold, with the money going to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network." That's great, but guess who bought the piece? Zimmer's mother. A donation is a donation, but let's have all the facts clearly exposed. And your opinion that "such an uproar may actually focus some positive attention on the site" -- again, great, but your article has done irreparable damage to the reputation of Jet Apperson and, due to your poor reporting, has turned her into an enemy of the artist, which is a gross misrepresentation.
I would be surprised if the Midtown could find a new director who would give so much for so little. Art Attack, on the other hand, may not be able to hold up under the strain. Now that Apperson is out of the picture, I think things may just gradually fade away, and that includes Art Attack, the funkiest, most eclectic gallery in town. Nice job, Thomas.
To the Editor:
I just wanted to take the opportunity to say, "Thank God for print media!"
Don't get me wrong; we at the Midtown Arts Center appreciated the attention and coverage we received from the local TV stations. Yet I do feel sorry for those who caught our story in sound bites. With opening lines like "A sexually explicit photograph ignites controversy at a local art gallery," one can only imagine an exhibit like the Mapplethorpe retrospective in Cincinnati. The reality of the situation was too mundane for the late-night news, I suppose. Nevertheless, the publicity is certainly appreciated. A wealth of talented artists have come and gone through the Midtown. Unfortunately, the Midtown has never received the press it deserves, until now. Therefore many people could perceive my actions during this event as a publicity stunt. This was hardly the case. I felt powerless as gallery director as I was forced to challenge the opinions and behavior of the executive director. When I told her I was going to contact the media if she shut the doors of the gallery, I was acting instinctively. I was offering her the opportunity to resolve the conflict in-house. She declined. I had no other choice.
I thank Andrew Cutraro, Jeff Daniels, Jennifer Silverberg and Thomas Crone for covering the story with reserve, comprehensiveness and style. I also want to thank those who appeared at the Midtown to support our position and me personally. I thank the board of directors for handling the situation rationally and for supporting their mission statement. Finally, I thank the local news reporters for sensationalizing what was merely a growing pain for the St. Louis visual-arts community. Undoubtedly this event has brought St. Louis closer to Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, whether anybody likes it or not.
Mallarie N. Zimmer
Editor in Chief, Intermission
Gallery Director, Midtown Contemporary