Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Reply to criticism

Below is my emailed reply to the criticism that has been raised against Saturday's paint jam. I'd like to thank, once again, everyone who took part and everyone who has sent messages of support to North Somerset Council.


I'm quite disappointed that you feel this way. As in any situation,
those who don't like something are going to be the first and most
vocal commmenters. During the painting, we had almost unanimous praise
for the project, for the art, and for the Council's amazing foresight
in finally allowing the Trop to be painted.

There will always be detractors from any artistic project. We've
already seen this in the mere discussion of the Sea Change project.
(I'm sure as a fellow member of the steering committee, you've gotten
as many or more enquiries than I have!)

From the start, I had indicated that I would be getting sketches and
would ensure that the pieces followed your guidelines for appropriate
seafront content. As per our phone conversation, this was defined as
no nudity or vulgarity. I had described several of the pieces and you
had no problems with them, and said you didn't need to see the
preliminary sketches. I also assured you that if there were any
problems, we would address them ASAP. Should there have been any
complaints on the day, I could have quickly worked with the artists to
engage the concerns and rectify the situation.

It seems, however, that the criticism being levied against the pieces
isn't about the content but rather the mode of painting, which is a
shame. If there are problems with the specific content, that is
something the artists and I are happy to address. When it becomes an
attack on aerosol art, regardless of content, it is a debate that
will, inevitably, go nowhere.

As to the reference to the 'Banksy fiasco' in Bristol, I think it
should be noted that the Banksy vs Bristol Museum exhibit
significantly boosted the Museum's revenue and profile, and added to a
measurable increase in Bristol's tourism economy. While there will
always be those who are opposed to art and increased tourism in the
area in which they live, isn't it the responsiblity of the Council to
look after the greater good? As North Somerset and Weston, in
particular, are looking for new ways to boost the local economy and
tourism of the area, isn't it in the best interest to support a
project that brings in a demographic that would otherwise stay far
clear of the area?

As organiser of the event, I spent the day chatting to people who had
come down to watch the painting. Many had fond memories from years
past of time at the Tropicana and not-so-fond recent memories of the
Trop. I heard, over and over again, that they would never have come
down to Weston, let alone the Trop, if this painting hadn't been going
on. The artists all brought families -- ranging from one artist's
81-year-old grandmother (who, as a resident of Worle since WW2, was
thrilled to see art on the Tropicana) to another artist's 3-year-old
son (who helped his father apply emulsion to weather-beaten boards
that had been covered in tagging over the years). It was a family
event, and the crowds that were gathered through the day saw it as
such. They also saw it as a vibrant change to a building they
considered an eyesore.

Every artist involved -- and several dozen others -- began contacting
me Saturday night saying that, if we ever do this again, they want to
be a part of it. They want to be involved not just in having an
amazing place to paint, but in bringing art to Weston's seafront. They
used their own paint -- which is no small investment for artists who
were as young as 15 -- and are willing to do it again just for the
hope that they can be a part of Weston's artistic regeneration.

Saturday night I also began getting messages from some people who had
come down for the day. They repeatedly said that they would never have
come down to Weston otherwise, and having come down, they really
enjoyed it. The art gave parents something to watch, and they were
able to give their children the seaside experience of donkey rides and
sandcastles. Every such message said that I should let them know when
it was happening again; they would definitely come back for it, and
possibly make a weekend break of it.

I do hope that you don't allow a few people who are so quick to
criticise any artistic endeavour in Weston to overshadow an event that
can, will, and has brought so much positive attention to Weston's



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