A ShowplaceThe writer chairs the Baltimore City Planning...


July 24, 1991

A Showplace

The writer chairs the Baltimore City Planning Commission.

A Bridge Too High

Editor: Many of your readers are deeply concerned over the proposed and near-certain construction of a high bridge over the Severn River, which will replace the now-worn and dilapidated link that dates to the early 1920s.

A high span at this environmentally sensitive location will destroy not just a scenic view of the Naval Academy and Annapolis.

It will greatly harm the small Jonas Green waterside state park and adjacent wetlands, small though it may be.

Such a tall structure will have approaches on both sides that will create an environmental disaster.

Even worse, the span, which does not provide for pedestrian or )) bicycle traffic or on-bridge fishing, is likely to generate even more vehicular traffic flowing into the city in an area that simply cannot manage that heavy a flow.

This proposed span will permanently affect everyone on this area in a harmful way.

Gil Crandall.


Loss in Howard

Editor: I read with regret your editorial, "Lumbering Loss in Howard." Talbott Lumber Co., after 146 years of doing business, closing.

Retirement is only part of the story.

The pressures and hardships of operating a business with a "personal approach" are becoming greater and greater.

Large retailers, through longer hours and massive advertising, are forcing smaller businesses to close. Look how hard is it to find a "Ma and Pa" grocery store.

The losses are twofold -- the demise of the small business and the disappearance of service to the customer.

Elliot Zulver.



The writer is the vice president of Walbrook Mill & Lumber Co.

When Censorship is Not What Happened

Editor: The controversy over the threatened removal of a work from a photography exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art reveals (again) the misuse of the term "censorship" and the hypocrisy of the artistic community.

Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko commits identical sins by whining that his own editor tried to "censor" his column.

While I abhor censorship as much as the next liberal, artists all too often use the buzzword of censorship as rallying cry to deflect legitimate critical judgment of their work and to prevent discussion of the complex issues that are involved in deciding whether to exhibit a work of art.

True censorship involves a work of art being banned (typically by the government or some other outside party) from display or exhibition. Censorship aims at the stifling of expression, and that is what makes it abhorrent to fundamental American values.

The U.S. Constitution forbids the government from prohibiting the expression of speech; on the other hand, it doesn't prevent private institutions or museums or art patrons from exercising their own critical judgment in deciding what art is worthy of their patronage.

The point missed by those who falsely cry censorship is that the exhibition or publication of art is often a joint venture involving the museum or publisher along with the artist.

An artist is free to display his work independently, but if the artist chooses to utilize the services of a museum or newspaper, then he or she cannot complain when the curator or editor has different standards. The exhibitor is not an outsider forbidding the display of the work; it is, rather, a co-artist refusing to participate in the showing of the work.

This is not censorship, but rather the exercise of artistic and editorial responsibility.

Individuals may disagree as to whether the Lewitt work is "good" or "bad" art, whether it is "degrading" to women or not, but one museum's decision against the work should not be condemned as "censorship."

The current Smithsonian controversy is particularly useful because it demonstrates that the subject cannot be viewed within convenient political stereotypes. As exemplified by the furor over the Mapplethorpe exhibition and National Endowment for the Arts funding, the political "right wing" is often the party seeking to limit the exhibition of art works. On the other hand, the "left wing" has now suggested that the Lewitt piece is "degrading" and inappropriate for exhibition at the Museum of American Art.

Art is, by its very nature, a provocative form of expression. Most dTC artists revel in their ability to pique the public's outrage by challenging society's moral and political standards. Art helps society to re-examine those standards. But many of these same artists cry "censorship" when they are not rewarded with government grants or exhibitions at prominent exhibitions. The artist who creates a work that probes the boundaries of artistic or political or moral orthodoxy is serving the long-term interests of society and art.

If the artist's vision is valid and meaningful, it will withstand the test of time and be immortalized (posthumously, perhaps) in the texts and museums of the future. But the artist has no right to demand that public or private art patrons, museum directors or newspaper publishers abdicate their own visions and responsibilities.

Richard A. Pearson.


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