Art Links deserves support Miniature golf: City shouldn't abandon non-profit attraction to favor commercial venture.

March 25, 1997

THE RELATIONSHIP between Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and former Second District City Councilman Carl Stokes has always been cordial, but never cozy. They have been adversaries as much as friends. So why is City Hall making possible a deal that would benefit Mr. Stokes and his business partners at the expense of a non-profit arts group? Perhaps the best explanation is that the arts group didn't have its act together.

Last May, Maryland Art Place opened Art Links Baltimore, a miniature golf course designed by 18 artists (including Sun cartoonist KAL) to look like various landmarks and persons associated with the city. The non-profit gallery never intended to keep the golf course next to the Power Plant. The original plan was to eventually move it into The Brokerage, but too few pedestrians walk past that site to bring in enough miniature golf customers.

Jack Rasmussen, executive director of the Art Place, said Rash Field was discussed as a better location. However, even with two members of the mayor's staff -- Lynnette Young and Mari Ross -- on the gallery board, that message apparently was never conveyed to Mr. Schmoke. In the meantime, the mayor received a proposal from Mr. Stokes to operate a commercial miniature golf course at Rash Field each year after ice skating season ends.

Mr. Stokes says the mayor referred him to Baltimore Development Corp., which told him there were no other proposals for Rash Field. By the time Ms. Ross found out about the Stokes proposal, she couldn't stop it. Mr. Schmoke instead gave Mr. Stokes 30 days to negotiate a lease with the city.

Maybe Mr. Schmoke wanted his staff members on the Art Place board to know they can't take it for granted that that he will endorse their proposals. A spokesman says the mayor thinks Mr. Stokes and his partners have the best deal for the city. But that's hard to believe.

Mr. Schmoke cut the ribbon and played the first hole at Art Links when it opened. Is he now going to turn his back on the venture, which has raised $45,000 for the non-profit Art Place? Most commercial enterprises on Rash Field have been prohibited, and miniature golf itself has in the past been viewed as too tacky for the Inner Harbor. Art Links may qualify as an exception, but the Stokes proposal should not.

Pub Date: 3/25/97

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