News and Notes
Volunteers, clients and supporters are cordially invited to our annual "thank you" celebration on Thursday, Dec. 12, 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar. More info and raffle ticket order form here.
Street Performer Case Update
Oct. 23 update: The Board of Aldermen passed the bill repealing the ordinance, and the Mayor has signed it. Riverfront Times story here.
Oct. 4 update: The bill to repeal the city's street performer ordinance is making its way through the Board of Aldermen's approval process. Meanwhile, the scheduled court ordered mediation session between the city and the American Civil Libertiies Union (ACLU), which has been leading the legal challenge, was cancelled.
Sept. 13 update: Alderman Phyllis Young has introduced Board Bill No. 181, which repeals the city's street performer ordinance. Generally, bills are sent to a committee for study and recommendation then back to the full Board for a second reading and vote.
Sept. 10 update: During a productive meeting co-hosted by the ACLU and St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts on Sept. 9, street performers discussed permits and common sense approaches to noise, hours and other concerns. Their comments will inform upcoming negotiations with the city. Meeting minutes
July 31 update: Citing the First Amendment, Judge Catherine D. Perry has granted a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of the city's overly restrictive street performance ordinance. She sent the case to mediation, ordering the city and the American Civil Liberties Union to resolve the dispute before Sept. 30. The likely outcomes are the elimination of the permit process, which includes excessive fees and "auditions" conducted by a street department employee, and location restrictions that are unconstitutionally vague. Or, should the permit be retained, its main function would be to ensure compliance with the city's existing noise and public safety regulations.
Daniel Primm, a SLU Law 2L and VLAA summer associate, wrote this article about the case. The Economist ran this article, which mentions St. Louis.
From the Land of Bad Ideas
With all due respect, I’ve been wondering if the St. Louis city street officials who conduct mandatory auditions for street performers seeking permits missed their 8th grade social studies classes. If they passed their Bill of Rights exam, they wouldn’t be defending this blatantly unconstitutional practice. The American Civil Liberties Union-Eastern Missouri is suing St. Louis over the way the city approves and regulates street performers. As staunch advocates not only of freedom of expression but also of the benefits street performances bring to the artists, their audiences and our region’s rich cultural fabric, St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts wholeheartedly supports the ACLU’s lawsuit. (Nick Pence and Frederick Walker v. City of Saint Louis)
Street performing, also known as busking, is a constitutional right. Federal courts have given buskers First Amendment protection since 1979, when the “Troubadour of Nantucket” challenged his town’s transient vendor law. There are many more court cases where playing music, juggling, dancing or doing magic tricks on sidewalks, subway platforms or in parks were determined to be public forums, protected by the First Amendment. In fact, we are unaware of any busking case in which the government prevailed. That’s because the First Amendment applies to artistic expression, verbal as well as non-verbal, just as it applies to political and other speech. It is a shield that protects against government restriction or punishment of expression, particularly when the government discriminates on the basis of content. So, public employees — however well meaning — should not be judging an artist’s message or virtuosity. Simply put, a guitar player with just one chord has the same rights as acclaimed classical violinist Joshua Bell, who appeared incognito on a Metro platform in Washington, D.C. one cold January morning and played his heart out for tips.
Still, the constitutional guarantee does not confer absolute protection from government regulation. Traditional public forums are places that have historically been more or less free speech zones, such as streets, sidewalks and parks. The government cannot ban expression in this kind of forum, but it may impose regulations on time, place, and manner when the regulation is content-neutral and narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest. Examples of reasonable restrictions include limiting volume so it is consistent with other noise ordinances or forbidding performances after 9:00 p.m. on weekdays. Ensuring that buskers understand these and other common sense rules is good reason to require a permit.
But the 2012 annual fee increase — from $25 to $100 — was excessive. U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry agrees. On May 28, she entered a limited preliminary injunction that, for now, reduces the license fee from $100 per individual to no more than $50 for an individual and no more than $100 for a group of up to nine individuals.
The city’s street performance ordinance also prohibits busking in several attractive performance spots, including MetroLink platforms and stations, and seemingly arbitrary prohibitions in five wards. A hearing on this issue and the auditions is set for July 12.
I hate bad mimes as much as you do. But I’ll always defend their right to annoy me. It’s a shame that it is taking court action to make the city do the right thing. — Sue Greenberg
Celebrating 30 Years of Service in 2012
More than 130 guests celebrated our 30th anniversary at the Metropolitan Artist Lofts on Dec. 6. Located in Grand Center, the newly renovated building, which was developed Dominium of Minneapolis, features 72 units specifically designed as affordable housing to suit the needs of artists. Ten tenants graciously opened their lofts for tours. Executive Director Sue Greenberg’s toast recognizing the Regional Arts Commission and Associate Director Ken Konchel was preceded by Board President Steven Korenblat’s shout out to former board members and volunteers. Co-founder Marvin Nodiff reminisced about our early days, and Rene Dimanche Jr., a recipient of legal pro bono assistance and a Metropolitan Artist Loft resident, thanked our organization for making the region more artist-friendly. The Thin Dimes, a blues/folk band led by Nick Pence, provided musical entertainment. Guests received 30th anniversary note cards that were designed and hand printed by The Firecracker Press, a former client. We will return to Metropolitan Artist Lofts in the spring to offer tenants free tax preparation services and a walk-in legal clinic.
photos: Top (Ray Marklin); Marvin Nodiff (L.D. Ingrum Gallery & Studio); Steven Korenblat (RM); First Row: Rene Dimache Jr., "Mike" Ochonicky and Adelia Parker (LDI); Alex Kersting, Hannah Castellano and Amy Altholz (LDI); Second Row: Roseann Weiss and Terry Good (LDI); Dee Coleman and Mark Pappas (LDI); Third Row: The Thin Dimes -- Paul Rhodes, Nick Pence and Hannah Satterwhite (RM); 30th anniversary note cards (The Firecracker Press)
VLAA Wins 2012 Kick Ass Award
You gotta love the name. We are the delighted recipients of a 2012 Kick Ass Award, complete with the exquisite trophy. Begun in 2004 by Thomas Crone and Stefene Russell, editors of the late culture and literature magazine 52nd City, the awards recognize individuals, businesses, organizations and projects that contribute to the health and vitality of the region, especially the city of St. Louis. During the award event, held on Oct. 25 at the Heavy Anchor in the Bevo neighborhood, we had the pleasure of congratulating the other winners: Juan William Chavez and Kiersten Torrez of NorthSide Workshop, a community center dedicated to cultural and community issues; Emily Piro, founder of St. Lou Fringe Festival; Turner Center for the Arts, a multi-use art studio space offering programming for adults and children with disabilities (and former VLAA client); Minerva Lopez, owner of Gooolll Soccer Apparel and organizer of the Cherokee Street Latino Business Owners Association and the Mexican Cultural Center; Aaron Pritchard, vice president of the Killer Blues Headstone Project, which is providing headstones for blues musicians in unmarked graves; Nicole Hudson Hollway, general manager of the St. Louis Beacon and force behind the St. Louis for the love Facebook page; Tabari Coleman, project director of the Anti-Defamation League’s A World of Difference Institute; Christy Augustin and Pint Size Bakery; Amanda E. Doyle, author, and her husband Brian H. Martson, whose latest is project is Codesteader, a startup for web development education; volunteer extraordinaire Julie Hageman; and Pam Ross, who has spent a lifetime defending the rights of women. The lively awards program began with a special presentation by Holly Schroeder, president, St. Louis Office of Good Deeds, and ended with the presentation of the 2012 Kick Ass Mystery Award to Amy Rome, principal, The Rome Group, which provides consulting services to nonprofit organizations.
Don't say "action" yet!
We couldn’t say "no" to this opportunity. While Daniel R’bibo, president of LA-based Liberty Entertainment Insurance Services, was in St. Louis to speak at Webster University on Sept. 12, he stopped by the Loop to speak to St. Louis-based filmmakers. His overview of film production insurance included general liability, auto, workers' compensation and E&O. While the insurance needs of major productions are more complex than those of low-budget films, R’bibo’s presentation and the lively discussion that followed, touched on several practical issues. For example, everyone agreed that it is important to determine who is an employee and who is an independent contractor both for workers’ compensation and tax purposes. When shooting on location, R’bibo said, pre- and post- walkthroughs with the owner — documented by photographs — will help avoid misunderstandings and facilitate the insurance claim process. He also recommended hiring stunt and pyrotechnic experts...then listening to their advice! The free "What You Should Know About Film Production Insurance" workshop included screenings of three short films provided by our friends at KDHX Community Media: International Documentary Challenge, 2012 Finalist Venom & Fire, directed by Brandon Faris; National Film Challenge, 2011 Best Film Click. Flash, directed by Hannah Macpherson; and 48 Hour Film Project St. Louis 2012 Best Film Imagined Slights, directed by Jake Houvenagle.
More practical information for filmmakers
Sophisticated Charitable Giving CLE/CPE and Rooftop Reception
More than 50 attorneys and accountants attended our fourth annual CLE/CPE and rooftop reception on May 15. Nationally recognized expert Larry Katzenstein (above left), Thompson Coburn LLP, provided an overview of the rules relating to deductibility of charitable contributions, including works of art, and discussed giving vehicles techniques that can be particularly attractive to donors when interest rates are low. Steven Rosenblum, director of planned gifts at the Saint Louis Zoo, provided the nonprofit perspective — with great humor — and described Will to Give, the region’s only community-wide initiative designed to educate donors about the importance of charitable bequest giving. The event was co-sponsored by the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation, now under the leadership of Amelia Bond (above right).
The weather was perfect. Mike Kahn (top left), Lisa Thorp (top right) and Corge Umlauf (above left), were among the volunteers who attended the reception. Silk Pajamas (above right) provided the classy jazz music.
Reaching Beyond St. Louis
When spring approaches, I always look forward to connecting with the members of the Missouri Association of Community Arts Agencies (MACAA), who meet each March in Columbia. A few days later, I also had the pleasure of attending the Best of Missouri Hands conference in Lake of the Ozarks.
MACAA is a statewide network of more than 70 organizations that enrich rural communities and small cities with arts programming. During their annual conference, these dedicated arts leaders share challenges and go home reinvigorated with new ideas. For the second year, our session was co-presented by Dani Merrick (right), executive director of the Kansas City Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts. She discussed artist-gallery consignment contracts. My topics were internal controls and document retention and destruction policies. “The VLAA legal and accounting issues session consistently receives the highest scores in our post-retreat evaluations, not only because the information provided is current and practical, but also for its ‘we get it’ delivery,” said MACAA Executive Director Michael Gaines
(left). “Countless community arts agencies and arts administrators are now more equipped, knowledgeable and able to serve their communities better. VLAA helps us raise the bar!”
Founded in 1989, Best of Missouri Hands educates the public about Missouri’s arts and crafts and supports members by providing professional development and networking opportunities. The organization’s three-day ARTsmart conference featured nationally known speaker, Don Casper; how-to workshops; an exhibit; and several social gatherings. My presentation touched on contracts, copyright and business entities. “Some artists attending the conference are from smaller rural areas, such as Ava and Daisy, so the session was a rare opportunity for them to learn about arts-related legal matters,” said Executive Director Martha Greer (above). “The only complaint was that there was another session at the same time and that the discussion was so valuable that it should have been scheduled all alone.”
— Sue Greenberg
Annual Holiday Reception 2011
Networking, food, drink, music, silent auction and raffle. Board Members Linda Paradis, Dana Lasley and Rebecca Thomas were among the 85 volunteers, clients and other friends who attended our annual holiday reception on Dec. 6. Thanks to the many arts organizations, individual artists and authors who donated raffle prizes. Our silent auction raised nearly $1,000 thanks to the generosity of Evan Benn and area microbreweries (Civil Life Brewing Company, Perennial Artisan Ales, Six Row and Urban Chestnut), Susan Bostwick, Dennis DeToye and Artmart, The Muny and Lindy Hop St. Louis. The event was held in the Regional Arts Commission’s gallery, where guests also enjoyed hearing Curt Landes on keyboard and seeing Exploring the Figure: Photographs by Jerry Levy and Stan Strembicki.
Woods Added to Artist-Speaker Roster
We are pleased to announce that Eric Woods, founder and owner of The Firecracker Press, has joined our No Artist Left Behind artist-speaker roster. The artists visit area colleges and universities to discuss their experiences and careers, show samples of their work, provide a basic introduction to copyright, contracts and financial matters, and describe our services. Located on Cherokee Street, The Firecracker Press combines antique printing technology with new thinking to design and produce event posters, business cards, party invitations, advertising and other materials. Matty Kleinberg, shop manager, also is making presentations. No Artist Left Behind is funded, in part, by a generous grant from Boeing.
Meet Will and Stephanie Zorn. As far as we know, they are our only “his and her” volunteers. Both have been on our roster for more than 15 years. Stephanie works for Energizer Holdings, where she is the senior employee benefits and labor counsel. Will is a sole practitioner; his firm is The Zorn Law Firm, LLC. He also plays guitar with Johnny Vancouver, a post-rock, instrumental band, and bass with Pedestrians, a cover band. While a student at Saint Louis University School of Law he assisted with our case management and briefly held the title of associate director. The Zorns live in Soulard with their son, Ted.