Artscape belongs to all

April 26, 1993

Artists are known for their piques, temper tantrums and jealousies. Sometimes even their mentors are infected with these characteristics. Nothing else explains the petty attempts of two of William Donald Schaefer's former City Hall aides to prevent the Schmoke administration from inheriting some $666,000 they had raised for the annual Artscape happening.

Legal wrangling about this money continued for four years. And it probably would still continue, except that the city subpoenaed Governor Schaefer to testify about the collection and purpose of that money. The governor apparently decided he had better things to do and ordered his aides to settle the case.

The settlement worked out among the warring parties is far from ideal. Under it, the city will get access to only 40 percent of the total amount. The rest will be controlled by the former Schaefer City Hall aides, who are operating under such organizational names as Baltimore Arts Festival Inc. and Maryland Community Foundation. Even that money is to be eventually used for Artscape, but the settlement does not say when.

Despite this weakness, the settlement comes as a welcome relief.

It promises to end a totally unnecessary and divisive fight and will provide some much-needed funding for the city's premier summer festival of the arts. Year after year, hundreds of thousands of Baltimoreans gather in the Mount Royal cultural area for the Artscape weekend of art, music and dance. Everyone seems to have a good time during this event, which underscores the city's diversity.

It is too bad that the lawyer for Jody Albright's Baltimore Arts Festival chose to argue his case even after the settlement. In a shrill press release, William A. McDaniel Jr. accused the city of settling the case out of court "because it could not prove its claims in court." The statement called the city's claims "baseless," "wasteful" and "frivolous."

This is the kind of small-mindedness that goes a long way toward explaining why this nasty dispute was so difficult to settle in the first place. Some people just don't seem to have the ability to show civility. When the Artscape idea was initially conceived, Mrs. Albright turned it into a success. She deserves full credit for that. But credit also goes to Baltimore's creative communities, which provided the artistic excitement, and businesses, which bankrolled the event. Throughout its history, Artscape has symbolized a vote of confidence in a city and not any one person.

That's why it was important to free the Artscape money Mrs. Albright had so jealously squirreled away.

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