Walters needs to conserve its own best qualitiesThe...


September 25, 1996

Walters needs to conserve its own best qualities

The article regarding the proposed renovation of and new direction to be taken by the Walters Art Gallery by Edward Gunts, Aug. 18, I presume, was describing what he had been told. Otherwise, I would have thought he had been having a nightmare.

To be sure, the 1974 building has been from the start a construction disaster, and to claim additional space as part of its renovation is sensible. Also, returning to the original chronological order of presentation is wonderful and as it should be.

However, to move the temporary exhibition gallery to the fourth floor of this building is ludicrous. The public wants easy access and elevators are always a problem.

The conversion of the lower floors for children and families is clearly aimed at grant money and not at preserving the integrity of the Walters collections.

Every new director and board president is eager to place their stamp on an institution with very good intentions, but in my opinion this is the wrong stamp.

The Walters, as far as quality, rivals every museum in the world. Its collections are beautifully exhibited. What sets the Walters on a high plane is the sophistication of its presentation.

Can't it be allowed to continue to raise its visitors' sights while going ahead with its mission of public education?

The 19th century American and European paintings and sculpture, the focus of William Walters Collections, (he was also a collector of Oriental porcelain, which has its own space in Hackerman House), will take a back seat in th is proposed plan.

Renaissance and Barogue paintings will need to be culled as well to make room in the 1904 building for the 19th Century pictures. And, as much as museums try to interest the public in the decorative arts, it is the paintings that attract visitors.

As a former staff member for 7 years, and trustee for 22, I urge the countless friends of the Walters to concern themselves with these plans in order to help the Walters leadership in refining them.

Aurelia G. Bolton


Agnew helped people in need

I was both startled and saddened to learn of the sudden death of a friend, Spiro T. Agnew, former governor and county executive. Had he lived in different times, he would have brought fame to Maryland as vice president of the United States.

Although my late husband, Herman, and I never personally met Mr. Agnew, we admired him tremendously. We liked him and respected him for his accomplishments and outstanding performances in Baltimore County and in Annapolis.

He showed genuine interest in people and concern for those who, through no fault of their own, had lost their future security after decades of hard work and self-denial and were forced to close their ''family'' business. He reached out to those whose plight reached his ears. His kindness, warmth and humanitarianism reached out beyond the TV tubes to bring hope through his offers of help.

With countless others, we were happy that a white marble bust of Mr. Agnew was unveiled in the Capitol, joining images of the vice presidents who had preceded him. Even dearer to our hearts was the "rescue" of his portrait from a storage room by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who placed it in the State House with the portraits of other past Maryland governors.

Lillian Lee Kim


Editorial cartoon demeaned the dead

The cartoon by Mike Lane Sept. 20 marks a new low in taste for The Sun.

I have never been fond of or a supporter of the two men pictured in the cartoon [Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew], but my parents taught me about respect for families of the dead which you obviously do not understand.

Nicholas R. Bachur


Not the reform that welfare needs

In the Sept. 13 lead editorial, ''Anguish and hope over welfare reform,'' the soon-to-be transformed welfare system was described as having ''manifestly failed'' and causing ''cycles of trans-generational dependency'' leading to ''social breakdown of the family.''

I was troubled and concerned to see such facile buying-into the prevailing conventional ''wisdom.''

Matters as complex as the origins and underlying dynamics of social trends are not to be accurately understood without considerable attention to possible alternative explanations for the social facts that we seek to understand.

Scientists tracing trends of many indices of family disintegration have been unable to find much in the way of correlations between changes in the generosity of welfare benefits and corresponding changes, in response, in the behavior of recipients.

However much we would like to believe that simple solutions, such as reductions in ''generosity,'' will lead to more self-sufficiency, the likelier outcome would be an increase in hardship and instability for many and a reduction in the quality of life for most.

Reform is needed, but well-planned, incremental and controlled reform may be the key to alleviation of the target difficulties.

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