Art dollars: no sense

April 15, 1991

The dispute over who controls the Baltimore Artscape fund has been viewed as just another manifestation of the distrust of Mayor Kurt Schmoke by old Schaeferites -- chiefly Governor Schaefer's culture czar, Jody Albright.

In fact this is not the case. A review of the history of this intractable quarrel reveals that Mayor Clarence "Du" Burns was in office when the first elaborate steps were taken, at the instigation of Albright, to place funds of the Baltimore Arts Festival beyond the reach of any mayor. It seems clear, in retrospect, that the Schaeferites simply didn't trust anyone but themselves to spend the funds which were raised expressly for the annual Artscape festival. Since 1986 the BAF has trickled out funds as it saw fit on a highly patronizing basis.

The BAF was one of those "shadow government" mechanisms so highly favored by Mayor Schaefer. The idea was to use city muscle to raise funds from the private sector to support the Artscape project. To this end, BAF now holds more than $700,000 in funds that, by any reasonable interpretation, were meant to be spent at city discretion, not the personal discretion of Jody Albright and other unregenerate Schaeferites.

Understandably annoyed at this arrangement, the Schmoke administration has asked a court for a definitive answer: Who controls the Artscape funds? In our view, the city is entitled, both morally and legally, to control the Artscape fund. But for reasons known only to her, Judge Mabel Houze Hubbard seems unable to reach a decision on the matter. But this vexing dispute will not go away until a definitive decision is reached.

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