Past Comments

March Issue 2008
by Tom Starland

Misinformation Everywhere

During this highly charged political season I guess we should be used to people feeding us information which does not tell the whole story. Info is given (by the party involved or their agents) in a manner to look favorable upon one person, group or policy. Sometimes it's delivered by the "free" press.

On Jan. 27, 2008, Jeffrey Day, arts reporter for The State newspaper in Columbia, SC, offered, in celebration of the SC Arts Commission's 40th anniversary - 40 things we might not know about the Arts Commission.

I have to say, at times I find it hard to figure if The State is truly a statewide newspaper or just a local newspaper since most of Day's 40 things involved nothing more than names of local Columbia area people who have received one thing or another from the Arts Commission or were connected to one of the Commission's programs.

The rest of the list often presented a less than complete picture of the current facts about the Arts Commission - unless Day was talking in a historical manner including the last 40 years as a whole - which he may have been doing.

Item #8 mentioned the Commission's annual budget of about $3.7 million, of which about $2.4 million goes to funded programs. That leaves $1.3 million in overhead - more than a third of the budget goes to overhead. It would be nice to see a detailed description of where that money goes.

Items #10, #11 & #20 - Day mentions the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Awards, The State Art Collection, and Artists' Fellowship Awards, but does not mention that these programs are done in partnership with the SC Arts Foundation - the Arts Commission's "identical" twin agency. I still can't find any difference between the two, except one doesn't have to answer to anyone. Day was giving the Arts Commission a lot of credit for things the Foundation does. The Foundation puts on the Verner Awards, buys the art for the State Collections and provides money for the Fellowships. At least that's the way I read it - on the SC Arts Commission's website (as of this writing). You see the Foundation doesn't have their own website, office or staff. That's all provided by the Commission, but they are completely "different" and "independent" of each other - right. So let's give credit where credit is due.

Also in Item #20 - Day mentions that the Commission gives awards to individual artists "up" to $7,500 for its Fellowships. Now that's a case of remembering the good old days. It's been some time since those awards were $7,500. They were just increased from $2,500 to $5,000 in 2006 and have been as low as $2,000 in 2005.

I found it interesting that Day offered not one ounce of criticism of the Arts Commission on their 40th anniversary - he just offered a piece to put them in a good light and to show the readers in Columbia that they're getting their fair share from the Commission - pork. It seems as far as he's concerned - they're doing a bang-up job.

I'm still trying to figure out what we in the visual arts community have to celebrate - other than the fact that we have survived the SC Arts Commission for 40 years. Of course many didn't.

If you're looking for a different view, an alternative opinion, or just something to chew on - I've offered 40 "substantial" things I think the SC Arts Commission should be doing to serve our visual art community better. You can find the list on our website ( under Feature Articles in Jan. 08 and Mar. 08.

You'll see I'm not satisfied at all with the job the Commission has been doing over the last 40 years. And, I often speak with a lot of other people who are not satisfied either, but there's no list being compiled at the Arts Commission asking people to offer suggestions or complaints. I wonder why?

I'd like to see the Commission members - all nine of them - tour SC without the Commission staff in tow to hold their hands, hold public meetings to find out how well the people around this state think they are doing - 40 year later. They just might hear a different point of view. But then again, you'd have to be really interested in what people think to do something like that.

Dare I Dream Again?

My political voting record has not been the most successful. I started out voting for Richard Millhouse Nixon, because he promised to end the war in Vietnam. A few months after that election we learned about Watergate. That was my first lesson in how corrupt our political system could be. And, I never voted for a Republican again - except in open primaries where I could help the people I really wanted to be elected have the "best" opponents.

Hope returned with Jimmy Carter, but again, I learned how a corrupt system could bring a good man down.

I continue to vote Democratic because I believe it's at least the party which carries my views the most, although I hold some fairly conservative views on several subjects. But here again, more times than not I find myself disappointed in what the results are compared to the promise.

I hoped that Al Gore would turn this country's attention towards the issues of the environment, but again corrupt political forces in Florida and at the Supreme Court dashed those hopes. And, it's been a long seven years without any hope at all and I'm beginning to think Nixon wasn't so bad after all.

No, Nixon was bad, I just didn't think it could get any worse, but it can - and it will.

Now, I have hope again and I'm looking for real change.

My "experience" has taught me that the political system has been broken for some time and I don't want to look back anymore.

I want to move forward. I want the world to respect us again. I want every American to have a chance at the Dream. I want a government that is not based on fear. I want justice that is not politically motivated. I want an environment that will be useful to generations. I want America to open its arms again to the world as well as our neighbors. I want Obama.

Yes, I'm one of those with Obama fever.

Now, my experience has taught me that where I place my hope is not a good sign of the future. It seems that my hopes are doomed or usually crushed by the system. But, I'm not giving up on hope. And, when someone gives me hope - that's something.

I'm a pessimist! But, I've got hope!

Website Extra - only offered here!

Pessimist or Realist?

My wife Linda and I had a debate about whether I was really tagging myself correctly as a pessimist. And, I guess I decided I'm a pessimist when it comes to our political system, but I'm more a realist when it comes to my overall outlook on life. At times I swear I must be an optimist or why would I have spent 20 years doing an arts newspaper? I mean really, how can't you be an optimist working in the arts.

It's a rule of thumb that it's not good to inject politics into anything you do much less mixing it with business, but I just had to voice my opinion. It's not the first or last time I'll buck convention.

What really gets my goat is that here we may have another election process where the person who gets the most votes from the people of this country loses to those who think they know what's best for us again - whether they be the Secretary of State of Florida, Supreme Court members, or a bunch of Super Delegates who once slept in the White House. Is this how a democracy works? Is this the standard we hold up to other countries around the world?


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