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Art Facts

I am writing to correct the inaccuracies reported by Tara Servatius in her recent article "McCrory Wields Art Axe" (June 22). Ms. Servatius suggests that there was a backroom deal between CATS chief Ron Tober and Mayor McCrory to eliminate specific works of public art not to the Mayor's liking along the South Corridor light rail line. While Mr. McCrory's antipathy to public art has been well documented, the chain of events implied by Ms. Servatius and the Mayor simply did not happen. As one of the two co-chairs of the CATS Public Art-in-Transit Advisory Committee who actually made the decision about what art to cut, let me tell you what really took place. I would have been happy to explain this to Tara before she wrote her article if she had asked me.

When the light rail costs came in substantially over budget, it was natural that the art budget should shoulder its share of cutbacks. Accordingly, Mr. Tober asked the public art manager, Pallas Lombardi, to cut $557,000 or 32% from the fabrication and installation budget for artwork, a figure that Mr. Tober included with other cuts in his public presentations to City Council and the Metropolitan Transit Commission. However, at no time was any list of artworks to be deleted imposed on Ms. Lombardi or the Art-in-Transit Committee. None was even suggested to us.

My committee co-chair, Becky Hannum, Ms. Lombardi, and myself jointly agreed the best way to meet these cuts was to withdraw four of the major stand-alone pieces of artwork from the rail corridor, along with another large piece integrated with the new vehicle maintenance facility.

Despite Ms. Seratius' innuendo, at no time did we consider whether our decisions matched those of the Mayor. The federal guidelines that govern the operation of our program are specifically designed to avoid censorship by local politicians, and we take these responsibilities seriously. Mayor McCrory may like to claim credit for our decisions, but I'm afraid he overstates his influence.

This description of events and the reasons behind our decisions may not make as racy a story as Ms. Servatius would like. It has, however, one distinct advantage: it is true.

— David Walters, Co-Chair, CATS Public Art-in-Transit Advisory Committee

Tara Servatius replies: I am a bit puzzled by Dr. Walters' letter, as his description of how CATS chose which artwork to cut from the light rail line is pretty much what we printed. The point of the story was that McCrory claims he was responsible for specific cuts; CATS was given every opportunity to give its side of the story. Thus, the article related CATS' claims concerning how the decisions were made, as well as the mayor's version of those events.

For the record, as was reported, McCrory also claimed credit for the fact that cuts were made to the arts program in the first place. McCrory said that no cuts to the art program had been planned before he sat down with CATS CEO Ron Tober and lobbied him to make cuts.

Creative Loafing asked CATS Spokesperson Jean Leier in writing to either confirm or deny whether the meeting between Tober and McCrory took place as McCrory claims, and what exactly the two men discussed. Leier declined to answer those questions.

Good Riddance to Orthodoxy

As one who finds it impossible to believe in gods, my heart aches for gay people who yearn to belong to an orthodoxy that doesn't want them. The religious impulse must run profoundly strong and deep in folks who endure all manner of bigotry and denigration and still beg for acceptance at the church door. I find this difficult to understand, yet I empathize with them due to my identification with the alienated or disenfranchised, for everybody feels the need to belong. The week after CL ran the story about Christian gays ("They're Christian. They're Gay. Get Over It," by Karen Shugart, June 15), you printed a letter from a man who questioned whether these Christians were truly Christian. This made me think of something Karen Armstrong said her book A History of God: "Atheism has often been a transitional state: thus Jews, Christians and Muslims were all called 'atheists' by their pagan contemporaries because they had adopted a revolutionary notion of divinity and transcendence. Is modern atheism a similar denial of a 'God' which is no longer adequate to the problems of our time?"

It should come as no surprise when Christian gays have their religiosity questioned by the orthodox. They should take it as a compliment. Those who insist on living by an obsolete moral code will never welcome them, and that's fine. Christian gays should say "good riddance" and confidently move forward toward liberation. Orthodoxy has never liberated anybody. Only a questioning mind and a courageous heart can do that.

— Greg West, Charlotte

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