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STREET ARTISTS COMMITTEE
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70
Members present: Commissioners Alexander Lloyd, Jose Cuellar, P. J. Johnston
Members absent: none
Staff present: Director of Cultural Affairs Richard Newirth, Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar
At the request of Commissioner Lloyd, Commissioner Johnston chaired and called the meeting to order at 3:07 p.m.
1. Street Artists Program Director’s Report
Expression of gratitude for Director of Cultural Affairs Richard Newirth. Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar thanked Director of Cultural Affairs Richard Newirth for “working with me and standing behind me on street artist issues for eleven years; and I have to say this: of all the Directors I’ve worked under at the Arts Commission, he is the only Director who has come to these [Street Artists Committee] meetings with me, and in eleven years, to my memory, he has only missed three of them – a couple of times when he was at home ill and one time when he was out of town. I’ve really enjoyed that luxury of having him here to help me with sometimes enormous issues. Thanks, Rich.”
Commissioner Johnston informed the audience that Mr. Newirth had announced that he was resigning, but that he would remain in office until the end of the month whereupon the Commission would give him a big sendoff at the full Commission meeting in April. The Commissioner invited everyone to attend. He further expressed his appreciation, as a Commissioner on the Street Artists Committee for four years, of Mr. Newirth’s guidance and participation in discussions of the issues.
Introduction of Police officer. Mr. Lazar introduced Officer Noel De Leon, San Francisco Police Department, who took over the Fisherman’s Wharf beat and had become familiar with the licensed street artists as well as the illegal activities of unlicensed vendors in the area. Mr. Lazar had asked the officer to attend today’s meeting to further his understanding of Arts Commission procedures in street artist certification and violation hearings.
Letter to Port Commission. Following the Arts Commission’s March 5, 2007 resolution, Director of Cultural Affairs Newirth wrote to Port Commission Director Monique Moyer requesting the Port to replace the unchecked activities of unlicensed vendors by well-regulated, licensed street artists in designated spaces on Port property, and requesting her staff to meet with Program Director Lazar.
Request for amendment to February 14, 2007 minutes. Mr. Lazar submitted a letter from street artists Bill and Bob Clark requesting an amendment of additional language to the minutes of the Committee’s meeting of February 14, 2007.
Commissioner Cuellar moved that page 4 of the February 14, 2007 minutes of the Street Artists Committee meeting be amended by inserting the following wording (bold print) between the words “… reference to ‘manual labor’ ” and “Secondly, he said …”: “Bob Clark stated further that the particular law on which the City Attorney made his rulings does not define “manual labor,” as Mike Hanley says, as labor that a person was doing preceding their injury. It only says ‘manual labor,’ period. Mr. Clark invited Mr. Hanley to submit the law to scrutiny, since the law that the City Attorney was clarifying does not include Mr. Hanley’s definition of ‘manual labor.’” The motion was seconded by Commissioner Lloyd and unanimously approved.
2. Hearing and possible motion to approve issuance, renewal, suspension, or revocation of certificate
Manuel Loli – Certificate # 6040. Alleged violations: (1) Selling items not of the artist’s own creation (arrowheads, gourds with figures, ceramic boxes, hemp and bead jewelry, pipes, purses); (2) Selling items not certified by Arts Commission. (hearing continued from October 11, 2006 meeting)
(For the hearing, the Street Artists Program again retained the service of a Spanish-to-English interpreter, Ms. Lesley Walker of Auerbach International, who simultaneously interpreted the proceedings for Mr. Loli and interpreted his statements for the Commissioners.)
Commissioner Johnston stated that the Committee had spent a great deal of time in hearing the case last October, which involved a presentation of facts submitted by staff and a rebuttal by Mr. Loli and his representative. The Committee had decided to continue the hearing to allow for the submittal of further testimony. Due to scheduling reasons on both sides, the matter was continued to March.
Program Director Howard Lazar outlined the history of the case from initial issuance of warning to Mr. Loli and up to the present hearing. The outline highlighted the Street Artists Committee’s action on October 11, 2006: so that Mr. Loli would be allowed to sell during the winter holiday season, the Commissioners waived the Commission’s procedure and authorized the renewal of Loli’s certificate “subject to findings from a further hearing of (a) the charge against Mr. Loli of selling items not of his own creation and (b) the charge of selling items not certified by the Arts Commission; and that such findings be issued after consideration of findings, relative to the above two charges, to be submitted by the Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Craftsmen Examiners after conducting a studio visit with Mr. Loli.”
With regard to the studio visit made by all four members of the Advisory Committee on November 2, 2006, the Advisory Committee, in its report with accompanying photos, determined that (a) Mr. Loli could not prove that he made sixteen different crafts that he had been observed selling; and the Committee determined that (b) he could prove that he made only three crafts that he had been observed selling but had failed to submit previously for examination and certification. Therefore, the Advisory Committee’s findings supported both charges of (a) and (b) as stated by the Street Artists Committee at the October 11, 2006 hearing.
Mr. Lazar further reviewed that the Commissioners had supported his refusal to renew Mr. Loli’s certificate when it came up for renewal in February, 2007, pending the outcome of his hearing. Nevertheless, Mr. Loli subsequently was observed by the Program Director on March 2, 2007, selling while his certificate was expired. Mr. Lazar also reported that he had been notified by a street artist that Mr. Loli had sold on February 26, 2007; and still another artist had written that Mr. Loli had been observed selling on a regular basis on the weekends in street artist spaces outside The Cannery.
The Commissioners reviewed the report and photos of the Advisory Committee’s studio visit. At the request of Commissioner Johnston, Advisory Committee members Susan Tibbon and Josie Grant stated their observations and findings of their studio visit with Mr. Loli.
Ms. Tibbon stated that they had observed a well-used workshop containing a variety of arts and crafts materials and a variety of tools; a number of finished items that looked like they might be ready to be sold, as well as some items in progress (half-finished or three-quarters finished). However, in terms of the amount of stock of each item, “there was almost no stock at all.” She went on to say that Mr. Loli had told them that his stock was in Oakland, awaiting sale in a show. Nevertheless, in terms of the main items that Mr. Loli had been observed selling, the Advisory Committee tried to ascertain whether all the raw materials for the items were present in his studio, but almost all raw materials were not present for the majority of his items.
Ms. Grant stated that Mr. Loli’s workshop was very small, and that the great facility he showed was in his craft of Fimo (polymer clay) sculptures on pipes; although some of the pipes he showed that he was making were not the pipes he had been observed selling. With regard to the detailed, handpainted flutes that he had been observed selling, he was able to show the Committee some handpainted flutes and their materials, “but they really were not the same flutes. He had a variety of flutes that he sold and there were a few that did match, but the ones that were really detailed … were much more of something that I would have expected to find in Ecuador or as imported items, and he did not show us that kind of detailing.” While he did produce many of his own pieces, Ms. Grant stated, the Advisory Committee members agreed to allow him to sell the pieces he made, “but he was” observed “selling pieces, even to his own admission,” for which he had not previously received certification.
Commissioner Johnston asked Ms. Tibbon and Ms. Grant whether it was the assessment of the Advisory Committee that the studio visit reflected the fact that Mr. Loli had been selling items that were not of his own creation. Ms. Tibbon and Ms. Grant responded in the affirmative.
Commissioner Johnston asked whether there were items that had not been certified but were of his own creation. Ms. Tibbon and Ms. Grant responded in the affirmative.
Commissioner Johnston requested Mr. Loli to respond to the two violations for which he was charged and to respond to the information received at today’s hearing.
Through the interpreter, Mr. Loli stated that he could summarize the issues in two questions. “The first is that in these hearings there’s been a lack of communication … When we met for the first time, my letters were not mentioned at all, the letters that had been written” about a person who was against him.
At Mr. Loli’s request, the interpreter read from a written statement he had prepared: “Also, no mention was made and no decision was made about the threats and harsh statements made to me by the woman” who was his “competition. … Mention was made … about the statements that were made against me. However, mention was made about the two letters that were brought up. On the other hand, the complaints that the previously mentioned people made against me were believed, and their side was taken, and this was harmful to my moral integrity, and it harmed my artistic ability and intellectual ability. In this very room, the two women that had gone to my workshop accused me of not making my art, and they didn’t believe that I made my art. So they took the side of my competition. They said, ‘He doesn’t make anything that he sells.’ Without having investigated, they had already taken this position against me. So my question is: Isn’t that a coincidence between the people who claim to be my competition and these two women? The answer is simple. These women have feelings and interests that are in conflict. They are friendly with my competition … Those feelings and interests that are a conflict are a reason to eliminate me as competition and as an artist. This is called discrimination and favoritism.”
Mr. Loli’s statement went on to say that the Commissioners held “a preconceived notion at [the previous] meeting; inside, they thought what my competition thought, that the allegation of me not making my work was true, without having any proof … [S] ome members of this committee, acting in a discriminatory way, have taken the side of my competition. … This is called discrimination, and it goes against … the human right to work. With regard to the rule of the Art Commission, despite the discriminatory action and position, I accepted that [the Advisory Committee] do an inspection of my workshop. I welcomed them respectfully and in a friendly manner. … If you look at the website of the Commission, you will see my name there discredited. Why wasn’t I given the same opportunity to defend myself? This is discrimination. Another remarkable example of discrimination on the part of some members of the Commission can be seen in the arbitrary decision to not allow me to work during more than one month. That is, before arriving to this meeting, where legally you were to decide about my situation, some Commissioners had already taken away my license, had refused to renew it … and prohibited me from working and arrogantly ignored my question. … Discrimination, violation of the right to work, this is enough discrimination.”
Mr. Loli’s statement invited the Commissioners to prove “step by step” the findings made by the Advisory Committee in what he called “their partial and subjective report basically discriminatory.”
Mr. Loli submitted a document to the Commissioners, while the interpreter read: “The Commissioners have in their hand a report drawn up by an artist who was present at the time” of the studio visit. At this point, Mr. Loli spoke: “I had to pay to have the report written by the person in my studio that day … when the Commission members were inspecting my studio; and I consider that to be a faithful reflection of what happened.” The two reports, he said, were in conflict: “one, subjective and partial drawn out by the inspectors … and another report that is objective and impartial written up by an artist. …[W]hat stands out is negativity” (in the Advisory Committee report); “there is a reflection of the subjectivity and the personal problems that they have against me. Sixteen things are made out that I supposedly do not make.”
Commissioner Johnston asked for the name of the person who wrote the other report. Mr. Loli replied that it was Jose Loli, an artist, who was at present in Washington working at festivals.
In answer to a question by Commissioner Lloyd, Mr. Loli responded that Jose Loli was his brother.
Program Director Lazar stated that Jose Loli had been a licensee of the Street Artists Program.
The interpreter continued to read: “On the other hand, the objective and impartial report shows that I have demonstrated that I make my products,” including products that were later screened and approved. “In summary, I’m being told that I was never approved for the products that I make and sell … With a report and a summary like that with … intentions that are very manipulative … the dark motives that some members of the Commission are harboring, I wouldn’t want to think that we are wasting time when you might already have a decision …”
He said that the complaint against him “began with a petition from my competition as represented by the two women inspectors … The day on which my competition made a complaint against me, I had three hundred twenty sculptures and thirty-one decorated [pieces] at my stand … I showed that all of these products were manufactured, made by me. Eight percent of my production is necklaces and bracelets … also demonstrated that I made them. Two percent of my production are jewelry pieces … ceramic, bamboo, rock and bone … I believe that I showed how I made them, but the inspectors say the opposite. … Even if we suppose that they are correct, only two percent of my craft is being questioned. This would be a reason to take exemplary measures against me? I spent one month preparing sculptures, decorations, jewelry, and leather bags, in that order, to show the inspectors the work that I do. I left work in different festivals for that month, and I did so because I respect the rules and the Commission and comply with them. But they say I don’t make my work and that what I do make I never received a license for.” He said that the Advisory Committee showed him “a tremendous lack of respect personally …”
Commissioner Johnston stated that he had heard enough of the motives and urged Mr. Loli to “get to the bottom line.”
Mr. Loli, through the interpreter, stated: “With all due respect, I ask that you take five minutes to understand my position.”
Commissioner Johnston stated that Mr. Loli had restated his position many times, that he should wrap up his argument.
Mr. Loli went on to state: “… [T]hat’s how we immigrants are seen. If I didn’t make my art, gentlemen, I would never have allowed the inspectors to come into my workshop. It’s that simple. I’m surprised that the inspectors pulled cards from their sleeves; for example, they never showed me photographs about an arrowhead or a little decorated piece. … The hairclips, they were never a part of the specific complaint, and I was never asked to make one at my workshop. This is an unfair point in the report. … The wooden pipes, they didn’t want me to show them, saying there was a lack of time … They say that I didn’t show how I made my bamboo pipes; I want to say that at my studio I was never asked to make my bamboo pipes … and I showed them other products like … painting and decorations on glass bottles…. They say that I don’t make my totem… I have the proof here that I make it. … I do not agree with their investigation method or with their dark objectives. I ask them to respect the rules and due process. In conclusion, the group’s report about my workshop … is subjective and partial and discriminatory … speaking to favor personal interest, for example, my competition, and in order to justify their position, they shamelessly resort to frustrating trickery such as manipulation, lies, etc. They don’t worry about the fact that they’re ignoring ethical values and concepts, moral and artistic values and concepts, but, even more curious, their conscience doesn’t bother them when they are depriving me of my right to work … harming my family and throwing by the wayside their own rules that they say they respect. Those who have drawn up this subjective and partial report aimed to politically and socially harm the community of Asian immigrant artists, Latin immigrant artists, making us look ignorant and painting us as illegal … That is racism and discrimination in its worst form.”
Mr. Loli submitted a letter from a person named Roxane Perez, a graduate student at Simmons College, in his support.
Commissioner Johnston reiterated his two questions to Mr. Loli.
Mr. Loli responded that “When I talk about my art, three issues: I’m talking about the sculptures that I make, articles that I decorate, and certain jewelry that I make.”
Commissioner Johnston asked him if he sold under the auspices of the Street Artists Program artwork that was not his own by the well-established standards of the Commission.
Mr. Loli responded: “I have never sold products in this Program … that were not made or finished by me.… A small ceramic box and a small box [were] the only concrete things” of the complaint “that could [infer] that I sell things I don’t make.” He told the Advisory Committee that he did not make the boxes, nor did he sell them; they were a gift to him, but the Advisory Committee kept telling him that he sold the boxes and didn’t make them.
Commissioner Johnston asked him if he ever displayed or sold items that were of his own creation but were not certified.
Mr. Loli responded that he has been in the Program for four years and has developed his art, producing more than five hundred designs. He has a license for using the clay and resin that he uses to make his pipes, and he makes exotic sculptures.
Commissioner Johnston asked him if he had been selling on the street with an expired certificate.
Mr. Loli responded: “The only time that I’ve come out with my art with a document that you didn’t want to renew for me because it’s illegal to take away my right to work …. It’s true, my good friend Howard is totally right … that I have gone out to sell, but I’ve gone out with an attitude of protest.”
Commissioner Johnston stated that, in the two hearings, Mr. Loli’s ability to respond and his side of the story has been respected. He further stated that at the February 2007 meeting of the Street Artists Committee, Mr. Loli had the opportunity to challenge the decision to deny renewal of his permit, but he failed to appear. The Commissioner further cited the letters that Mr. Loli had said were written against him and his allegation that the Commissioners had favored his “competition’s letters” over his own; to this, the Commissioner stated that the Committee had ruled in his favor and dismissed the complaint (of his alleged battering of another street artist) which had included a police report.
Commissioner Lloyd clarified that the Arts Commission’s website reflects the minutes of a meeting, and that Mr. Loli had not been singled out in a critical manner. He further stated that Mr. Loli had the right to request that the minutes be amended, so that his side of the story may be reflected on the website.
Commissioner Cuellar questioned Mr. Loli on whether it was his understanding that he was required to prove, at the November 2, 2007, studio visit, that he could make the sixteen different crafts that he had been observed selling, or whether it was his understanding that it was the Advisory Committee’s responsibility to prove that he did not make the crafts.
Mr. Loli responded that his understanding was reflected in the impartial report he submitted to Commissioner Johnston. He understood that he had to show the committee members how he made his art; he had to choose “what stood out in the pictures” taken of his display; and he believed that he had showed them.
Commissioner Cuellar questioned Mr. Loli on his use of the word “competition”: he asked him if he meant artistic competition—that is, someone who made items similar to his—or competition in terms of sales—that is, someone who did not make similar items but was in competition for a sales space.
Mr. Loli responded that his art was very unique and different and that there was not one artist in the Program who made similar art, but that a woman who was his competitor in selling pipes was always bothering him.
Commissioner Cuellar clarified that Mr. Loli agreed that he had sold items he had not made, that he sold items that he had not submitted to examination prior to his selling them, and that he sold, albeit in protest or civil disobedience, with an expired permit—all of this after he had been in the Program for four years. He asked Mr. Loli whether he understood, during the four years, that he was not allowed to display or sell products he did not make nor items that he did not get certified. Commissioner Cuellar asked also whether Mr. Loli understood that selling without a permit was also a violation of the Program.
Because Mr. Loli would not answer the question, Commissioner Cuellar rephrased it to inquire as to when Mr. Loli came to the realization that he was required to make everything he displayed and obtain permission from the Arts Commission to display it.
Mr. Loli responded that it was made clear to him when the Advisory Committee came to his studio.
Commissioner Johnston took public comment.
Street Artist Susan Pete stated that she was not the first person to have made the complaint against Mr. Loli; she had represented a group of artists in submitting the complaint to both the Advisory Committee and the Program Director. The group had not believed that Mr. Loli had made his items.
Commissioner Lloyd asked whether the Manuel Loli studio visit had been simple or complicated.
Advisory Committee Member Josie Grant responded that it had been a complicated one because Mr. Loli was a very accomplished artist who proved that he was competent and able to make many items he had on his table. The studio visit took four hours. But the Committee did not have the time to see all the crafts that needed to be seen because much time had been spent on issues involving in so many different items. While he had the ability to do much of the items, he admitted that he had not submitted some of the items for screening in order to obtain certification to sell them. The Committee eventually approved these in a screening a week after the studio visit.
Commissioner Lloyd asked her if there were items she felt Mr. Loli did not make. Ms. Grant responded that they were pipes and boxes. Furthermore, he had shown them much artwork that he could produce but this had not appeared on his display table.
Street Artist Michael Addario stated that Mr. Loli had “a complete disrespect for this Program.”
Commissioner Johnston commented that the proceeding was not a hearing on the artistic merits of Mr. Loli’s work; most people would probably agree that he was a talented artist who works with many different types of crafts. The size and diversity of his repertoire contributed to the problem.
The Commissioner went on to say that, during the hearing, he reviewed the report made by Mr. Loli’s brother, and he found it “in no way objective.” Therefore, he felt it had limited value.
The Commissioner then stated that the charges that were formally submitted were submitted not by other artists but by the Program staff, and they focused on some basic issues. One of the issues—allegations about Mr. Loli’s behavior—had been dismissed due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
The Commissioner further commented that, for someone who complains that he has been disparaged because of the Commission’s minutes on its public website, he himself made many disparaging remarks at today’s hearing which will also be reflected in the minutes as posted on the website. The Commissioner was not, therefore, moved by Mr. Loli’s argument of having been disparaged.
Continuing, Commissioner Johnston posed a basic question: Has Mr. Loli violated the Street Artists Program after having received previous warnings from staff and after a lengthy, five-month interval between hearings? The Commissioner stated that Mr. Loli’s selling of items that were of his own creation but were not pre-screened was a violation of the Program. But it was a violation for which the Commissioner was usually willing to give some flexibility because it could be considered a “lesser” violation. It gained importance, however, if someone continued to violate that tenet of the Program and had been a member of the Program for years and knew that items to be sold needed to be screened. More serious than this, however, was whether Mr. Loli was displaying or selling items not of his own creation. Commissioner Johnston said that this issue was cloudy and probably such items were of a relatively small percentage which normally might have merited a warning were it not for the fact that he had already been warned.
Finally, the Commissioner stated, there was the issue of Mr. Loli selling without a permit because he did not like the fact that staff refused to renew it. But, protest or no protest, Mr. Loli did not challenge the Committee’s February 2007 decision on his request to renew. This violation combined with the others gave the Commissioner a full impression that Mr. Loli had contempt for the rules and the accepted procedures of the Program, and that some action needed to be taken.
Referring to Mr. Loli’s arguments made at both his hearings, the Commissioner stated that Mr. Loli, “rather than rectifying the allegations made against him, takes us down other paths in other areas and makes political speeches or attacks other people’s motivations for why he’s in this position; but the bottom-line issues are never addressed.”
Commissioner Johnston moved that the Committee deny renewal of Mr. Loli’s certificate at this time and, pending the decision of the Chair of the Committee, continue the item to the Committee’s June meeting to hear Mr. Loli’s request for renewal; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Cuellar and unanimously approved.
Commissioner Cuellar requested that the minutes reflect his personal feeling that “this Commission … and the members of this Committee certainly have never entertained any notion of discrimination or anti-immigrant sentiments or anti-non-English-speaking sentiments; and I certainly did not get a sense of that from any of the artists who have spoken toward this issue here. So I find offensive, personally and collectively, [Mr. Loli’s] charge that somehow we’ve colluded to deny your permit, to deny your right to work. We’re not denying your right to work; we’re just denying your right to sell as part of this Program. You have every right to continue working, develop your art in every kind of way that you like.… The issue here is participation in this Program, following the rules and regulations of this Program.… The reason the Program is run the way it is … is because it’s run by a community of artists who monitor each other and support one another. I just wanted to make clear that at no time did the Commissioners have any extra-meeting discussion of this case … outside of these meetings.… I personally resent the notion that somehow this was an anti-immigrant, anti-Latino thing. Not at all. I’ve seen no evidence of that, and I would have been the first to identify that and attempt to rectify that issue if that were the case.” The Committee’s decision, he said, was made “strictly on the merits of the case.”
Commissioner Lloyd encouraged Mr. Loli to re-apply in June because the Commissioner felt that he had “a lot of talent and your art is beautiful.” The Commissioner wanted to see him continue to be a street artist. However, if he challenged the Committee’s sanctions or continued to violate the Program over the next three months, it “would reflect very poorly on your ability to renew your permit. Cooperating with us is a much better way to get renewal than to fight us.”
Commissioner Cuellar stated that there was a “gray area” of items not of Mr. Loli’s initial creation but of his elaboration which “creates a problem for us. Since this is a street artist’s—as opposed to street peddler’s—issue,” the Commissioner urged him to consider that, when he is selling in the Street Artists Program—“as opposed to when you’re selling at San Francisco State where you may be free to sell whatever you like”—he must “sell items that are clearly of your own creation that have been screened and certified.… Anything less than that, I would consider being disrespectful and dishonest, unethical and immoral—issues that you raised in discussion with respect to this Program—that if you’re selling items that you didn’t create … even if they’re elaborated, that’s kind of a gray zone for me as an artist.” If, however, Mr. Loli were to develop the crafts that were purely of his own creation, the Committee could move forward without a problem with his request.
3. New business
Street Artist Michael Addario discussed a problem arising from the Program’s ten-day grace period for certificate renewal. Because an artist’s renewal is not backdated to the previous certificate’s expiration date, it is possible for an artist to gain additional time to sell—albeit illegally—between certificate expiration and renewal if the artist renews toward the end of the ten-day grace period. Furthermore, Mr. Addario stated, this “robs the Program of some revenue.” He asked that the Committee calendar a proposal to rescind the grace period and to set a policy to strengthen certification enforcement which would include retroactive compensation to the Program from artists who are found selling without a valid certificate.
Commissioner Johnston invited Mr. Addario to submit his proposal in writing to the staff for possible calendaring.
Street Artist Susan Pete stated that one measure to assist certification enforcement would be the Program’s resuming the publication of a timely “attrition list” of expired certificates.
Program Director Lazar stated that he had already invited various artists to submit proposals to him for efficient methods of ascertaining and publishing lists of expired certificates.
There being no further public comment, Commissioner Johnston adjourned the meeting at 4:35 p.m.
Street Artists Program Director