Artists do have a stake in BWI's glass crabJeffrey...


November 16, 1997

Artists do have a stake in BWI's glass crab

Jeffrey Koenig's viewpoint ("Artists are getting crabby about BWI's crustacean," letter, Oct. 26) is no doubt very correct.

However, at the beginning of building the stained-glass crab, when the magnitude of the job sank in, we told Urgo, the ad agency that dealt with us for County Executive O. James Lighthizer and Anne Arundel County, that we would give back the deposit and forget the whole thing.

They said, "No, no, we really want it."

They said they wanted a "Tiffany," and they wanted it badly.

We were never told of the "economic centerpiece" plan or that the crab would be placed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

As artists, we knew that a "Tiffany" would be very tough, but we would do our best. No one before or since has made a three-dimensional stained-glass sculpture this big. It has been called the finest piece of avant-garde stained glass in the world.

We found, a few months into the work, that $13,500 offered by the contributors would not even cover the costs. Mr. Lighthizer, then-County Council President Virginia P. Clagett and the Urgos visited the studio, were very enthusiastic and, without urging, offered an additional funding of $6,500 from the county. That amount covered the materials and overhead. We put in 5,500 uncompensated hours.

That is, we feel, a large stake in the crab. In return, we were promised that Jackie would retain the copyright and the crab would be permanently on display, and if the crab were ever sold or given away, we would receive an additional payment.

Looking back, I think that Mr. Koenig, the economist, would call it a really bad deal for us, as at the whim of the movers and shakers, the crab has been broken and put out of sight for years.

The spokesman for the county thinks the crab was not abused and that about 50 pieces of the best stained glass in the world just broke spontaneously. Also, the spokesman said that he will remove the crab from its box, set it up, not in a proper studio, but in the warehouse, and have the low bidder, who presented a bogus bid, work on Jackie's creation.

If the stained-glass crab were not so enormously popular, I'd not say a word. But it is, and it should be restored properly by Jackie and returned to public view to represent the Chesapeake Bay part of Maryland.

John Douglass

Shady Side

Mayoralty is not just an excuse to hobnob

Your article on Nov. 5, "Johnson wins mayor's contest," was well-written except for the part where your reporter speculates as to why one would want to hold office in "this city of about 34,000."

After saying that Annapolis "pays its mayor $52,000 and its part-time aldermen $8,500," the piece goes on to allege: "The real attraction in getting elected here is in the chance to hobnob as an official of the state's capital city with the prominent political figures present here."

Where did your staff come up with such nonsense? The town and the pay scale may be small potatoes by your reporter's standards. However, as someone who personally knows most of the winning candidates and was intimately involved in Mr. Johnson's race, I submit that hobnobbing with "prominent political figures" is the least of the concerns of people running for office here.

Annapolis and its environs are faced with many complex issues and difficult problems. Among them are land use and transportation planning, urban design, education, economic development, public housing, neighborhood stabilization, historic preservation and much more. I suggest our mayor and City Council will be too busy with these matters to spend much time hobnobbing, even if they had the inclination.

If, as the article implies, your reporter thinks our elected officials may be underpaid, she is invited to do a serious article on the subject.

James D. Vance


Pfiesteria culprit is lack of rain

I recently found out that the Pfiesteria-P micro-organism is a "fungal bloom" and the proverbial light came on. This is the natural consequence of the anemic rainfall we have endured this year.

This was the worst drought in decades. No rain, no runoff. No rain, little or no ground or surface water percolation.

The aquatic environment of the tidally modulated tributaries of the bay includes a delicate competition between bacteria and yeast (fungus organisms). When the balance is disturbed, a competitive advantage occurs for one or the other.

Too much salinity (from drought) causes bacteria to die off by the trillions, allowing the fungal growth to gain the competitive advantage to multiply and attack whatever it can feed upon, causing disorders (such as the lesions on fish and the health problems in the humans handling them).

Conversely, when deluges of rainfall occur, the salinity decreases, and the competitive advantage swings to the bacteria, which become dominant, and bacterial diseases (such as occurred to the oyster beds in the past along with numerous diverse fish bacterial diseases). Note that the oysters are flourishing this year.

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