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STREET ARTISTS COMMITTEE
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70
Members present: Commissioners Alexander Lloyd, José Cuellar, Sherene Melania
Members absent: None
Staff present: Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar
Commissioner Lloyd, Chair, called the meeting to order at 3:05 p.m. and requested that the Street Artists Program Director’s report be heard.
- Street Artists Program Director’s Report
Street Artists Program Director Howard Lazar reported on the following:
Alleged violation cases for review. In response to a request by Commissioner Cuellar at the previous month’s meeting, the Program Director reported on the number and disposition of alleged violation cases that have accumulated: there were two cases which the Program Director felt were worthy of submitting to the Street Artists Committee for hearing; seven cases that required the issuance of warning notices; and two cases requiring in-depth investigation prior to considering courses of action. Relative to the ongoing annual backlog of cases, Mr. Lazar will be contacting the City Attorney’s office to help him find a legal intern who could assist him once or twice a week in taking down reports by plaintiffs, investigating cases, and typing warning notices and other documents.
- Hearing and possible motion to approve issuance of certificate
Paula Datesh (Grundman)
Program Director Lazar briefly summarized that, on April 9, 2003, the Arts Commission denied re-issuance of Ms. Grundman’s (Datesh’s) certificate after finding that she had violated the Street Artists Ordinance in the following manner: (1) Selling within five feet of a fire hydrant; (2) Selling in a location not designated by the Board of Supervisors, second offense; (3) Selling items not certified by the Arts Commission, second offense; (4) Conducting business in a disorderly, improper, hazardous manner by (a) threatening in writing a street artist and (b) threatening verbally, and disrupting businesses of, street artists. On July 3, 2007, Ms. Datesh requested a hearing for consideration of issuance of a new certificate in accord with the Arts Commission’s procedure to hear such requests by former certificate-holders whose certificates were revoked.
Mr. Lazar stated that the City Attorney and he felt that Ms. Datesh’s request falls within the purview of the Arts Commission’s policy on revocation and final revocation, adopted by the Arts Commission on June 7, 1993, which provides in relevant part that “(1) a period of at least one year must elapse between the revocation of a street artist certificate and the Commission’s consideration of an application for a new certificate; (2) the Program Committee must hear the request for a new certificate; (3) at the hearing, the applicant must present evidence in the form of witness testimony or documentation that he or she is now able and willing to comply with the street artist ordinance; (4) the Program Committee’s recommendation for approval or disapproval is submitted to the full Art Commission which, by resolution, approves or disapproves the recommendation….” Mr. Lazar went on to state that the gist of the City Attorney’s advice in the present matter was that the Commissioners allow the policy to be the guidance of their consideration and that be the scope of consideration. While the public could speak about other issues regarding Ms. Datesh, the Commissioners represented the Street Artists Ordinance and were, therefore, urged by the City Attorney to arrive at a decision based on the requirements of the ordinance and the Commission’s revocation policy.
Ms. Paula Datesh introduced two witnesses on her behalf, Ms. Kitty Quon of Fine Facets jewelry store, San Francisco, and Ms. Viki Tamaradze of Misc. & Etc. Merchandise, Berkeley.
Commissioner Cuellar ascertained that the two witnesses were not affiliated with the Street Artists Program. Ms. Quon stated that she owned a store in the Gift Center and has sold beads to Ms. Datesh who had used them in the design of fine jewelry.
Commissioner Lloyd asked Ms. Datesh for her view of the charges that were levied against her in 2003.
Ms. Datesh responded that she had not been able to attend the hearing at that time, that she had made “every effort possible to notify the Arts Commission”; the hearing had been postponed many times. Because she had not been able to attend the hearing, her “frustration or … dilemma” began with “this bluebook” [The Street Artists Program’s 1998 edition of its handbook entitled, Street Artists Program] which “should be made available to be public information; it’s out of print, it’s out of date,” but she “was able to find it … in archives of San Francisco Library.” She went on to say that she made “a lot of efforts in the beginning to ask people ‘Do you know anything about it whatever?’ In the bluebook it clearly states that when a person’s permit is revoked, they are entitled after a year to reapply. I didn’t know that because I didn’t have access to this bluebook. And I did try. And that’s the heart of my dilemma. So basically there were serious charges, and I never got a chance to answer them. … I don’t take issue with them. But I did make every effort in these past three years to find out. I came to these hearings three separate times, once with a lawyer who sat in back, just to have three minutes at the end of public comment to request that it be put on the agenda. … According to the minutes, April 14, 2004 … it was supposed to be put on calendar …”
Commissioner Lloyd stated that she was presently before the Committee and the Committee would make a decision based on what has changed within Ms. Datesh and not on the process that got her before the Committee.
Ms. Datesh went on to state that “then there was the hearing in City Hall; again, nobody told me that at the end of a year you could reapply. … Nobody addressed it; nobody talked about it.” She stated that she had been in Pennsylvania for two years, during which she contacted Program Director Lazar a few times on the possibility of returning to the Street Artists Program, “but nobody mentioned to me that you could reapply after a year.”
She confirmed with the Commissioners that the question for consideration was “What’s different or what’s changed?”
Commissioner Cuellar responded: “Why should we issue the certificate to you?”
Ms. Datesh responded that “it’s an entitlement,” that if a person was working very hard making their items, they are entitled to a permit. She admitted that she worked “out on the street for a year without a permit, and for me it was hard because even though I didn’t get any tickets and I tried to be by myself, stay out of the line of fire, stay away from people, I was working really hard at night making my stuff too” and was selling her items in locations that were “not the good spots” …Going back to the bluebook, had the bluebook been made available to me the very short time that I was in that Program, that’s the rule book, I would have understood the rules instead of having to find out the hard way.”
Ms. Datesh went on to relate that the first time she had a hearing “was only about three months after getting that license … and I got suspended; again, nobody explained to me the appeal process.”
Commissioner Lloyd asked her if she had had an opportunity to read the rulebook now.
Ms. Datesh responded: “Oh, I know it by heart, believe me.”
Commissioner Lloyd asked her whether, if she received a permit, she would be able to follow the rules.
Ms. Datesh responded: “I think I made a lot of mistakes. I probably made more mistakes than any person can make. And I learned the hard way because I didn’t have a friend in this Program. I’m from New York; the orientation of selling on the streets is completely different. I think over time you sort of learn things or people might talk to you …”
Commissioner Cuellar asked Ms. Datesh whether the violations she had made were based on ignorance of the rules rather than intentional violations of the rules.
Ms. Datesh responded that she “never had a chance to answer those allegations.”
Commissioner Cuellar stated that Ms. Datesh had alleged that in the past she had not read the book, she did not know the rules, no one explained them to her. The Commissioner pointed out, however, that there were at least two sources of information available to her: one was the text of the bluebook; “the other is the Director of the Program who, for the limited time that I’ve been on the panel, on the Commission, two, almost three years now, I’ve seen him to be very receptive to inquiries … responding directly to questions, and even anticipating questions of members of the Program…. I find it difficult to believe that Howard wouldn’t answer direct questions from you … when you say that no one explained to you. I find that difficult.” The Commissioner went on to say that “this is an interactive program … funded by the artists. It’s a membership program and an interactive community” of artists “who might be able to help you explain and understand” the rules. “So there are two ways of getting information about the Program…” He further explained that his fellow Commissioners and he “are servants here doing public service from our various disciplines to help the Street Artists Program. …We’re here to follow just the rules. That’s what we’re trying to understand from you: If we issue a certificate, … what can you say to us so that we will be confident that you will follow the rules and that we won’t be here within in a year or so dealing with violations of being too close to a fire hydrant, selling where you’re not supposed to sell, selling materials that you did not make yourself …or conducting business in a way that is not conducive within the context of the Arts Commission? The issues that were raised here in the past ... We understand now that in the future how can you assure us that we won’t have to be dealing with these issues again? …”
Ms. Datesh responded that she could “understand that it costs money for hearings; it costs money for interpreters; … it’s almost an investment in a person, when you don’t know someone, he might come in just prior to Christmas and screen things in five minutes or less … you don’t get a rule book in the beginning even if you request it …So over time a person can come to know things. Especially I’m not from San Francisco. I was not born and raised here. So … the way I’m looking at your question is are we going to be wasting money in a year from now?
“Because … you gave me a chance and you blew it. No, you’re not going to be wasting money because I’ve been selling stuff on the street my entire life. I started when I was fifteen years old in New York, in Manhattan. Nobody told me anything, nobody explained me the rules, and you kind of learn the hard way. So the chances for me continuing doing this are extremely high whether it be in San Francisco or in New York City. … I can do other things, but it’s what I do. As far as following the rules, yeah, of course, I’ll follow the rules. I mean I went out of my way to find this book in the archives. I mean this thing should be available to people. If you license some 400 people a year … it should be available to people. … did not know anything about this program; I came up from Los Angeles right at the time of 9/11 … And it’s true, you can go to certain people … they will take the time to talk to you, they’re patient, if you speak to them in a proper way …”
Commissioner Lloyd asked Ms. Datesh: “So, going forward, are you prepared to follow the rules?”
Ms. Datesh responded: “Of course! But I’m not going to be working seven days a week out on the streets of San Francisco like before.”
Commissioner Cuellar asked her: “You assure us that you won’t sell items that you didn’t yourself create artistically?... We need assurance of that.
Ms. Datesh responded: “Yes. I think that’s the major thing of the Program. I think the secondary part is the most difficult part … the problems you might have with people around you, their attitudes or whatever. The reason why I think we here today is, according to this rule book, page 106 and 107, is that I’m here to assure you that I know the rules, that I will follow them and will abide by them …”
Commissioner Lloyd asked to hear from Ms. Datesh’s witnesses.
Ms. Viki Tamaradze stated that she has known Ms. Datesh for about a year and a half “and my association with her is from UC, and I have found her to be very commendable, reliable. … The first of the three really are items which should be listed as rules in a book … The last two items are behavioral kinds of things, and that’s something which I think may reflect frustration of not knowing the rules. …I think that three or four years between a lapse of a license and a re-application … and since no one is threatened, there should be no question about it. Now I know that one of the problems … is that you’re a minority group in terms of our society, and you are struggling …for financial support and be true to yourselves, and therefore feelings run very high, and you’re not always the most rational.”
Ms. Kitty Quon stated that she has known Ms. Datesh for three and a half years, and that Ms. Datesh makes “very wonderful items” like earrings and necklaces. She further stated that she bought Ms. Datesh’s merchandise to sell so that Ms. Datesh “would have money to go back to Pennsylvania. Ms. Datesh told her that she makes her items during the night. She also showed her tools to her. Ms. Quon asked the Commissioners to give Ms. Datesh a license, as she had “no money and no place to stay.”
Commissioner Lloyd called for public comment.
Street Artist Tad Sky stated that he has been a street artist since 1974 and is currently market manager for the artists at Justin Herman Plaza. He considered the street artist license to be not a right but a privilege. All a street artist has to do “is follow a few simple rules: make what you’re selling, sell it yourself, get along with your neighbors.” Ms. Datesh, he said, was unable to do that in 2003. At that time, he had some encounters with her at the Plaza when he noted that half of her table display exhibited items that she had not made; furthermore, she had made numerous complaints on other artists which, he said “were mostly frivolous.” Mr. Sky asked her not to sell at the Plaza anymore “because she couldn’t get along with people. Then she lost her license.”
Mr. Sky went on to say that during the period without her license, from 2003 to the present, Ms. Datesh “has been selling, unlicensed, sunglasses, earrings from Peru, and other assorted jewelry that she doesn’t make.” This past summer, he related, she came to his booth on two occasions, each on a Saturday, at approximately 11:00 a.m., the “busy time” and “interrupted” his business to complain to him about unlicensed street artists in the eight spaces a block away from the Plaza. The first time, he told her he would look into the matter, but he wasn’t able to. The following week she returned and complained that he had not spoken to Program Director Lazar about it. “As recently as Labor Day weekend,” he said, he passed by the eight spaces and observed that Ms. Datesh was there, and a licensed street artist was helping her move her table. “She had set up in the middle of the sidewalk in front of the BART station; this other artist was kind enough to help her move her display into the row” of legal spaces. Mr. Sky then observed that her table was displaying “earrings, most of them imported from Peru, which I’m very familiar with, and then she had these beautiful cuff bracelets where hundreds of stones are woven together; I’ve seen them in the Gift Center …She was laying those out on the table. At that time I said to her, ‘Paula, I know you’re trying to get your license back, and I don’t think it’s a good idea your selling things that are illegal … You’re going to have to change everything on your table and make what you’re selling.’” To the Commissioners, Mr. Sky stated that he did not believe that Ms. Datesh “brings anything to our community of artists in the Street Artists Program” and that she should not be a representative of the Program to the city or its visitors. “I strongly advise you not to give her license back because”, he said, almost all of her 2003 violations listed on today’s Street Artists Committee’s agenda “are still true in terms of harassing other artists and not making what she sells.”
Ms. Datesh asked for an opportunity to deny the allegations. She said that she was in Pennsylvania for two years, and therefore she “could not have been selling out on the streets in San Francisco.” Secondly, Mr. Sky “has not presented any evidence to his allegations.” She repeated: “I have not sold in the streets of San Francisco for nearly three years. … I did on actually six occasions wait an enormous amount of time to politely ask Tad what an individual’s name was … Actually, Tad was extremely rude to me. I was not working, I was not selling …”
Commissioner Cuellar stated that he thought he had heard Ms. Datesh state earlier that, after she had returned to San Francisco, she was selling. He now asked her to clarify whether she has been selling at all in San Francisco.
Ms. Datesh responded: “No. … At this original hearing where they revoked my permit three years ago, the one that I was not able to attend, I did work on Montgomery and Post three to four days a week without a permit. I tried to stay out of people’s way. I didn’t really associate with anyone. I never went to a lottery. I actually spent an enormous amount of time at the law library across from City Hall researching …”
Commissioner Cuellar again asked her whether she had sold since returning from out of town.
Ms. Datesh responded that she has a permit in Berkeley and “probably the past three or four weekends I’ve been selling there.”
Street Artist Michael Addario stated that Street Artists Program Associate Evelyn Russell has a restraining order against Paula Datesh, which “creates a huge hardship for street artists” because Ms. Russell has to leave the office every time Ms. Datesh comes into the building. If Ms. Datesh were to receive a license, she would be returning frequently, which would result in Ms. Russell having to leave each time. “No for-profit business would put up with this,” he stated, and Ms. Datesh’s request would not have been a matter of consideration. “I’m sure a judge saw reasonable cause to put a restraining order against her; and that seems like not the only one. There are multiple restraining orders against this woman.”
Mr. Addario submitted a copy of what he said was a New York Times article of 2003 “where it talks about Ms. Datesh being arrested and jailed and sent to Rykers Island for an aggravated harassment charge. She pleaded guilty for that …And also San Francisco police arrested Ms. Datesh for signing someone else’s name to collect 350 bracelets. She did a plea bargain for two months in jail and three years probation. That was 2003.”
Mr. Addario went on to say that, in the minutes of previous Street Artists Committee meetings, “more than one Commissioner stated that they never wanted to deny anyone their livelihood. I personally sympathize and applaud that sentiment. Nevertheless, I believe that … is a very narrow, narrow focus” which concerned him with respect to the consideration of re-licensing Ms. Datesh. “Commissioners,” he said, “must not forget they are here to protect the remaining membership … the members who place their faith in them to do the right thing. San Francisco street artist members do not have the power to cite, renew, or revoke an errant member. The street artists rely on the Arts Commissioners who sit on the Street Artists Committee to exercise their sound discretion in either re-issuing or denying a person a license … not only to further the arts” but to protect the artists “from incorrigibles that are seeking to take advantage of the public through this Program and who may be potentially dangerous. Due to Ms. Datesh’s … documented frequent, violent, and threatening actions ….I’m formally requesting that threat assessment be commissioned on this person before she’s let back into the Program. That is a formal assessment by professionals to determine if Ms. Datesh poses a danger to San Francisco street artists, Program staff, visitors, San Francisco employees or citizens. And, furthermore, do these same professionals recommend that she be allowed to re-enter our Program?”
Street Artist Susan Pete stated that she was “very frightened and very stressed about being retaliated against … I’ve suffered in the past by Paula …” as “did my licensed partner family unit John Toomey … as well as my daughter who was a minor at the time. We were all subjected to constant, unwarranted and senseless verbal harassment … for months at a time before successfully obtaining through the court a three-year restraining order against Paula. … I consider it your duty as Commissioners to this Program to take all of these considerations under your advisement in making a decision. If you allow Paula Grundman to become a street artist again, then you bear responsibility of her action.”
Ms. Tamaradze stated that making an assessment of a street artist’s personality should be a requirement for every artist in the Program prior to obtaining a license.
Ms. Datesh asked to see the documents that were given to the Committee during public comment.
Commissioner Lloyd stated that they would be entered into the minutes and made publicly available; however, at this point, he wanted to hear what she had to say without addressing each specific allegation.
Ms. Datesh stated that “this Susan Pete issue, first off, I didn’t attend that civil hearing.”
Commissioner Lloyd asked her to talk about why she felt she should be allowed to re-enter the Program or about “how things might have changed” for her.
Ms. Datesh stated: “It would appear to me that this woman is in fear of me today as we speak when my small opinion on this matter was I don’t know this individual; I don’t know Evelyn Russell; and it was a ball of wax that just snowballed … and it was a combination of the fact that I could not attend that hearing to address the allegations against me … and I didn’t understand how important it was because, being from New York, there’s not this civil mechanism that you have in San Francisco, that anyone can … attempt to get a civil restraining order on somebody else. It’s kind of unique to California. … I can’t speak on this issue because I don’t even know this person or Evelyn Russell. But it’s a kind of mechanism to prevent a person from … entering this building. I have no business in this building anymore. In the past I did. … with individuals that Susan Pete knew. In fact, I had to go to court over 50 times. …As for this individual Evelyn Russell, it’s already been worked out with the City Attorney’s office, that it would be a studio visit, and this permit would be done by mail, as many people do.”
Ms. Datesh went on to say that, “as far as your not letting me see” the New YorkTimes article that was presented during public comment, “what little I’ve read about it is not nearly the truth. Anybody can print whatever they want. I did not speak to a reporter of the New York Times. So I take issue with that. …”
Ms. Datesh went on to say that “three years have passed; that’s a long time.” With regard to the artists at the Plaza, she stated that “I really actively was in that program for only about six months; I only worked” in the Plaza “once, and I think the person I had an issue with three years ago had many issues with other people … When somebody is found guilty of something and it’s now three years later, and people are bringing out articles in the New York Times, this is hearsay. You have me in front of you. And I think what you’re wanting me to say is basically what is in that rulebook, that I will abide by the rules, and that I will present character witnesses to testify on my behalf. … I did not yell and scream and rant and rave and call people at home … but we’re not going to talk about that.”
Commissioner Melania stated that she was a firm believer in giving people a second chance and that “several of these are pretty crucial behavioral issues.” She asked Ms. Datesh if she could say something to the Commissioners – “I’ve yet to hear one thing of how behaviorally you’ve changed, and how you’re going to interact with street artists rather than just saying that you don’t understand the rules. Because regardless of the rules, your conduct –“
Ms. Datesh interrupted by saying that her inability to attend the hearing was “the heart of the matter, and when you have this civil mechanism where six or eight people gang up on somebody and back each other up” in civil court, “and the defendant isn’t there, that’s like a ball of wax that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.” She said again: “I don’t know these individuals.”
Commissioner Cuellar asked Ms. Datesh how long she had been in the Program, to which she replied that she had had the license for a little over a year during which “there was the three-month suspension” for a violation she committed.
Commissioner Lloyd stated that there were obviously serious allegations that had been heard, and that he did not feel there was enough evidence to reach a decision. He asked his Committee to consider doing a little more research; for this, he was inclined to continue the hearing for a month in order to check on the facts behind the article and then potentially rule on Ms. Datesh’s request.
Commissioner Cuellar stated that he was very concerned about the arguments made by Ms. Datesh that she “didn’t know, didn’t understand, and didn’t attend.” The Street Artists Program, he said, was a “membership program that is in essence a community of ... interacting artists who support one another” … and interact at the lotteries for spaces. To “the issues regarding the behavioral questions, the response was ‘I didn’t know these folks’ … It wasn’t ‘I possibly did not act appropriately, but I see the error of my ways’, or ‘I see their concerns’, or ‘I can see why my behavior at that time might have been misinterpreted or why there were restraining orders at the time that affect both a Program person and participants in the Program.’ … I haven’t heard you address how you would no longer engage in behaviors that would create negative circumstances and conditions for others in the Program …”
Ms. Datesh responded that “as far as behavior, it’s difficult for me to say ‘I’m sorry’ because I can just express to you what I was feeling at the time. I felt that my livelihood had been taken away from me, but I did not have a chance to respond. … I went through a lot of emotions over this three-year period. I don’t have a family. It was a little difficult for me to come up with character witnesses. I feel confident in myself. … I feel people in this Program are too quick to react; they’re too quick to make judgments … Let’s see evidence of” the number of bracelets she had been allegedly selling. “It’s just talk; it’s not true. … People change all the time … A lot of it is age …”
Commissioner Lloyd stated again that he was considering continuing the item to the following month for further investigation of the evidence and to verify that the allegations against Ms. Datesh were not invented.
Commissioner Cuellar stated that, while he could abide by a continuation, he was willing to vote on the matter now.
Commissioner Lloyd said he would entertain a motion.
Proposed Motion: Commissioner Cuellar moved that issuance of a certificate for Paula Datesh be denied due to a lack of evidence that Ms. Datesh was now able and willing to comply with the Street Artists Ordinance; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Melania.
Commissioner Melania stated that she could find no expression of remorse by Ms. Datesh for her behavior.
Action Taken: The Committee unanimously voted to recommend that the Arts Commission deny issuance of a certificate to Ms. Paula Datesh.
Program Director Lazar clarified that the Committee’s motion would be submitted as a recommendation to the full Arts Commission for consideration at its October meeting, and that Ms. Datesh was entitled to appeal the Committee’s recommendation to the Commission. If the full Commission approves the recommendation, Ms. Datesh will be entitled to appeal the decision to the Board of Appeals by filing an appeal within fifteen calendar days of the Commission’s decision.
In response to a question by Commissioner Lloyd on how artists may obtain the Program’s rulebook, Mr. Lazar stated that the last set of hard copies of the book entitled,”Street Artists Program – Certification and Sales Space Assignment Procedures, Arts and Crafts Criteria, Regulations and Maps of Sales Areas,” (a.k.a. the ”Bluebook”), 5 th Ed., February, 1998) was produced in 1998 when the Program had the money and staff time to produce it, that copies were given to all certificate-holders in the Program, sent to the public library and the City Attorney’s office, and to other cities requesting (and paying for) copies, until the quantity of books expired. Since that time, the Street Artist Program has continued to provide street artist certificate applicants with materials explaining the rules governing the street artists program, including the “how to obtain a certificate” and screening process information equivalent to that contained in three major chapters of the bluebook. The information pertains to the steps in filing an application, the screening criteria and screening procedure, and what is expected of the applicant when selling his/her wares. The Program has not had the resources of staff time or money to publish a new edition of the bluebook.
Commissioner Lloyd stated that the Program Director and he should discuss how it could be updated and put on the Arts Commission’s website.
*Arts Commission file note: The Street Artists Ordinance (Article 24 of the San Francisco Police Code) is also publicly available on the internet at http://www.municode.com/content/4201/14140/HTML/ch024.html.
- Hearing and possible motion to approve proposal to disallow computer-generated paintings on canvas, wood, or any other surface from being sold in the Street Artists Program.
Street Artist William Clark, in presenting documents relevant to this item and others on the agenda, requested that the Committee not take a vote on the item at this meeting in order to allow the Commissioners time to study the documents he was submitting. He stated that he had been a member of the initial screening committee (the Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Craftsmen Examiners) of the Program and had been instrumental in drafting and implementing the screening criteria at that time.
Mr. Clark stated that over a year ago he noticed that several artists who were screened for photography were taking their photographs to a third party who scanned them into computers which “painted” the images onto canvas and other surfaces. As an original member of the screening committee, he felt that such items were no longer photographs because they were no longer appearing on light-sensitive paper. He felt that those photographers should return to the screening committee and have their items re-screened under the “painting” category, and, if they wanted to sell multiples of their images, the multiples should be re-screened under the “printing” category. The main thrust of Mr. Clark’s concern was that persons who were screened for photographs were now selling what he considered to be paintings.
With respect to this, Mr. Clark presented copies of three City Attorney opinions regarding third-party reproductions. He said that in these opinions, the City Attorney stated clearly that unlimited numbers of reproductions of paintings, photographs or anything are not acceptable as handcrafted items in the Street Artists Program. The fact that unlimited numbers of computer-generated paintings on canvas of photographs and other original media were now being accepted into the Program violates, Mr. Clark said, the Street Artists Ordinance.
Mr. Clark related that two Street Artists Committee hearings had been held on this matter. At one hearing, the issue was raised about the difficulty the Program was encountering in enforcing the then-existing limits on the number of prints per image being sold. The matter was sent back to the screening committee for a recommendation; the screening committee could not make a recommendation. Thereupon the Street Artists Committee recommended elimination of limited editions. At that meeting, a Deputy City Attorney was present and advised the Commissioners that, although there will be images offered by the artists for lower prices, and the Commissioners had the authority to change the numbers of the limits, the attorney advised that the policy not be changed to the elimination of limits altogether.
Mr. Clark went on to relate that at a subsequent Street Artists Committee meeting, several months later, a motion was entertained to eliminate limited numbers entirely; but the City Attorney was not present at that meeting. The Committee went ahead, he said, without any City Attorney advice or reference to the previous opinions, and eliminated the limited numbers. Mr. Clark felt that the time had now come to address the issue because by having unlimited numbers, mass-produced items were being allowed into the Program. Proposition “L” itself (the Street Artists Ordinance adopted by the voters in November, 1975) Section 3(c), regarding the application for a street artist certificate, provides a “declaration under penalty of perjury that the art or craft item for which the applicant seeks certification is the applicant’s own creation or the creation of the applicant’s family unit, and that the applicant neither employs other persons nor is employed by another person in the production of the art or craft item for which the applicant seeks certification.”
Mr. Clark stated that the City Attorney had advised that so long as multiple-image items were of limited editions, they could be considered as “handcrafted” as defined in Article 24 (legislation enacted subsequent to Proposition “L”). He said that if the Commission allowed unlimited numbers of third party-generated items, the Commission would be going contrary to the City Attorney’s opinion and to Article 24.
In conclusion, Mr. Clark was asking the Commissioners to consider instituting limited editions on the computer-generated items and to consider whether computer-painted images, from photos or other sources, onto canvas should be re-screened as paintings rather than as photographs. He again urged the Commissioners to read the City Attorney’s opinions before making a decision.
Commissioner Lloyd called for public comment.
Street Artist Sheila Taylor-Hill stated that she sells photos, that she understood Mr. Clark’s concerns, but that digital photography and new media on which to print is a new art form which engendered much discussion and consideration. She suggested that the Commissioners review the matter and that the artists be allowed, perhaps, to meet with the City Attorney to arrive at some agreement. She added that photography is a great art form while being a high-tech area, and that the “axe” from the Program of photo images on canvas or other materials “would be going back in time.”
Street Artist Michael Addario showed the Commissioners canvas prints of his photography. He said that the definition of “handcrafted item,” stated in the Program’s bluebook, is “an item predominantly created or significantly altered in form by the street artist.” He described the process he uses, and that he does “Polaroid manipulations” which are transferred to a $5000 printer. The process involves scanning the image onto a CD; it is enlarged in post-production in Photoshop. The printed image has to dry for a few days; he then has to coat it and let it dry again, and then hand-assemble it and staple it onto a frame and sign it. He attaches a label that explains the item to be “an open edition giclee print, environmentally friendly, rated to last 100 years.” He sells the print for $340.
Street Artist Thomas Duane stated that he is a professional photographer and had also operated a photo lab. The silver nitrate chemicals that are used in traditional photography are highly toxic to the environment; whereas the creation of digital photography advanced the medium as did acrylic paint to oil paint. “The medium that we use to express our art should be irrelevant. The fact that I can output something with environmentally friendly inks onto canvas … mounted onto wood … should be irrelevant.” Silver nitrate, he said, could also be used as paint onto a canvas with the use of a traditional exposure unit to create a photographic image; he asked whether that would be considered worth more or be more artistic than inkjet technology. “The technology or the tools we use to express our craft should be irrelevant.” What should be relevant is “the fact that we created it, we saw the image, we took it, and how we get to the final product by working for hours on a computer … that’s the ‘handcraft.’”
Street Artist Robert Clark, whose pencil drawings were being studied by the Commissioners, stated that his brother and he were not saying that photography was not an art; “we’re just saying that when a machine spits out something, there’s no hands-on on the final product. The machine is spitting out the paint onto a canvas, onto a piece of paper; we’re bringing up the question: Is this a handcrafted item as qualified for our Program? … Based on the City Attorney’s opinion, unless they’re numbered and limited, they don’t qualify for this Program.”
Street Artist Virginia Travers stated that she has been a street artist since the beginning of the Program, that she is an artist – not a photographer – and that she questioned whether the limiting of digital photographs would then apply to other artwork as well. She noted that there were many photographers and persons selling prints who were not putting labels on their works which would identify the nature of the print. There was no way of knowing whether they were the originators of the images or had obtained their images from other countries.
Street Artist Edward Steneck stated that, in the past, people had complained that the Street Artists Program was just “rows and rows of jewelry stands,” but when printing technology improved, “the street became lively, colorful, and visual art. Many of us became artists again. It dramatically improved the reputation of the Street Artists Program.” In reference to the previous hearings on this subject, when the City Attorney was present at the meetings, “it was decided that the Program is a program of arts and crafts” and “these two areas have different criteria: art is a visual image that can be achieved in many ways; crafts consist of handwork. … Unless we want to go back to a program of predominantly jewelry stands, we have to allow artists to be artists and able to make a living selling artwork at affordable prices” – that is, to be able to sell prints as well as originals.
Mr. Steneck went on to say that any numbering of prints that would be required of the street artists would be “a fraud” because there was no way to know what number at which a print would be sold at the present time if the print had been selling previously. Furthermore, he said that numbering implies a value that will increase in time; whereas what the street artists sell “are beautiful affordable pieces of artwork that decorate …walls” and do not claim to be “something else and worth anything more than what we perceive them to be worth when we sell them.” While some paintings take months to make and are then made into prints, some photographs “are once-in-a-lifetime shots” where the photographer waited for a certain animal or sunrise or a special event. “How can it be said that we can only sell some arbitrary number of the prints?”
The item did not receive a motion.
Commissioner Lloyd clarified that the item would not be continued.
- Hearing and possible motion to approve resolution commending Street Artist Fernando Hechavarria for bravery.
At the previous month’s meeting, Street Artist Michael Addario had asked that the Arts Commission give recognition to the heroic efforts of Street Artist Fernando Hechavarria who had left his stand to help save a security guard, who was having a heart seizure, from an attacker. Mr. Addario had also asked that the Commission pay Mr. Hechavarria an honorarium to compensate him for loss of income as a street artist while having to attend court proceedings against the assailant.
Program Director Lazar reported that the City Attorney had advised against Mr. Addario’s second request. With regard to his first request, the Commissioners reviewed the following resolution drafted by Mr. Lazar:
WHEREAS, Fernando Hechavarria is a street artist who has been certified by the San Francisco Arts Commission since 1985 to sell arts and crafts of his own creation in public places; and
WHEREAS, On June 3, 2007, Fernando Hechavarria was selling his arts and crafts adjacent to The Cannery shopping complex when he witnessed Cannery security guard Jim Brown defending himself from an assailant; and
WHEREAS, The security guard, who had undergone recent heart surgery, was suffering heart palpitations and severe chest pains while being struck repeatedly by his assailant; and
WHEREAS, Fernando Hechavarria left his street artist display to come to Mr. Brown’s rescue, causing the assailant to desist and flee; and
WHEREAS, Fernando Hechavarria assisted responding police officers in locating the assailant; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the Arts Commission hereby commends Fernando Hechavarria for his heroic civic action; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Arts Commission joins with the artists of its Street Artists Program in expressing its appreciation of Mr. Hechavarria’s inspiring example of considering and acting to ensure the well being of another individual.
Commissioner Cuellar moved that the above resolution honoring Fernando Hechavarria be approved; the motion was seconded by Commissioner Melania and unanimously approved.
- New business
Street Artist Tad Sky urged that members of the Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Craftsmen Examiners continue to monitor the artists’ activities at Justin Herman Plaza.
Street Artist Susan Pete urged that the Arts Commission award Fernando Hechavarria, for his heroic act, a free street artist certificate for three, one or two quarters of the year.
Street Artist Michael Addario stated that during the last eight years the Chinese Neighborhood Association received $800,000 from the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development to start a nighttime market. In contrast, the Street Artists Program, he said, has survived for 35 years with no financial help from the City. The Program’s surplus was running out; it appeared to him that, starting next year, the artists may have to pay an additional $50 a year for their certificates, with increases for each of the ensuing years. This, he said, could cause the street artist membership to decrease while the fee could increase “exponentially.” He urged that the Commission contract for an outside evaluation of the Program “to see what steps would be necessary to continue the life of the Program that provides access to 400 Bay Area artists.” He also asked that the Commission attempt to obtain for its Program “a slice of the $50 million acquired by the 14% Hotel Tax which the City gives to other organizations.”
Commissioner Lloyd stated that Item 2 (hearing/possible motion to eliminate 10-day renewal policy) and Item 6 (hearing on request for Advisory Committee enforcement on Beach Street) of the agenda would be continued to the following month’s meeting.
There being neither further new business nor public comment, Commissioner Lloyd adjourned the meeting at 4:40 p.m.
Street Artists Program Director
September 26, 2007