Past Comments

April Issue 2003
by Tom Starland

Is This America Or Iraq?

It would be hard to make my monthly commentary without making some reference to what is going on in the world. America and its partners are at war with Iraq. Some might say our governments are at war with their government, as if the rest of us - citizens of all countries were not involved. But, people on both sides are dying by bullets and bombs.

Lately, it's been a little hard to tell which country is which. Opposition to the war is being supressed. According to some people, opposition to war is opposition to Mother, country and apple pie. How simple for them.

America is supposed to be a place where you should be able to express your opinion on any subject whether it is in the majority, minority or of a singular nature. We've been led to believe that in Iraq you can only have one opinion on all subjects.

But no one ever promised that freedom to express your opinion doesn't come at some cost. No one knows that better than me. Every month I contribute one of these opinionated commentaries it costs something - a current or future advertiser or reader. That's OK - it's the price some people make you pay for freedom of expression. At least we don't pay with our lives, the way some people do in other countries.

As far as this war goes, I could argue both sides. I just wish the French, Germans and Russians didn't give Iraq the opportunity to think they could stonewall the UN. But now that war is here, I hope our troops and our partner's troops come home soon and the people in Iraq get a taste of freedom. And, I hope America stays a shining example that all oppressed people can look up to. All opinions should be welcomed and celebrated. You don't have to agree with me - this is America.

I also hope the job at hand gets finished this time and they find those weapons of mass destruction that caused all this.

On A Better Note!

Oh happy day! The Commissioners of the SC Arts Commission finally got it right. Hopefully they now know that awards for lifetime service should be given to the living, not to those who can not bask in the light of recognition.

Recently the Commissioners awarded Corrie McCallum of Charleston, SC, with the Elizebeth O'Neill Verner Award - also known as the Governor's Award, SC's highest award for the arts. McCallum received the notice of the award at the age of 88, after over 60 years of providing art and art instruction at many levels to SC's art community and the community at large. We don't have enough space here to go into listing the many accomplishments made by McCallum, but I'll give you one example of why she is a fitting candidate for such awards.

On the evening of her 89th birthday, she came to a lecture and grand opening at the newly opened Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston. At 89, she is still producing art and supporting other artists in their struggles to bring the arts to the public. That's amazing!

Next month during the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, McCallum will be having an Open Studio - details to follow. If you're a collector or thinking about becoming one, I can think of no better place to be to add to or start a collection. I'll be there as I have in the past adding to our collection. And, the prices are right for anyone's level of spending. In 60 years you can produce a lot of work.

Now you can also see some of McCallum's work on display at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston in the exhibition, The Charleston Renaissance Tradition: Early Works by Corrie McCallum, through June 15, 2003.

McCallum wasn't the only person or people in Charleston to receive the Verner Award. The City of Charleston's Office of Cultural Affairs headed by Ellen Dressler Moryl was also given the award, as well as, Dottie Ashley, arts writer of the Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston. What a day for Charleston.

When I first heard the news of the awards I was overjoyed with the fact that Corrie McCallum would be able to enjoy this award, unlike others who receive the honor after their death. But later as time passed, I began to wonder - yes, what a day for Charleston.

Charleston had received three out of the seven awards given. The cynical side of me began to wonder if this wasn't a way for the Arts Commission and their Commissioners to kiss up to SC's new Governor who is from the Charleston area. After all the Governor does appoint the Commissioners and has some control over the Commission's budget. I'm not saying the awards are not deserved - they are, but I do wonder about the timing and perhaps the motive behind the awards. A lot of them go to people who have provided services and funding directly to the SC Arts Commission and their programs. A cynic might begin to think some are buying future awards. But then again, I just said I have a cynical side to me. By my observations, everyone who has ties to the Arts Commission will eventually get a Verner Award - the rarity is when someone with no ties to the Arts Commission gets one. That is why Corrie McCallum's award is to be so celebrated.

As mentioned earlier, the Redux Contemporary Art Center, which includes Redux Studios and Print Studio South, held a grand opening on Mar. 14, 2003, in their new facility. Their facility has a way to go before it is completely done, but everyone in attendance for the opening was impressed with what had been done with so little resources. Here was a case of artists directing their future with their own hands and resources.

So much public money in the arts is being thrown away at wishful thinking projects - like EdVenture in Columbia, SC. I hope one day, if they apply for such public monies, the powers that be grace the Redux Contemporary Art Center. They have already proven that they can deliver what they promise.

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