Thanks to Ken Picard for writing about James Lockridge's campaign to create a Burlington arts commission ["Big Heavy World Director Challenges Burlington City Arts," March 11]. I am in full support of his efforts to make the allocation of Burlington tax dollars to the arts more democratic and more transparent. Doreen Kraft has done a splendid job, but she's been in her position for more than 20 years, and she cannot help but be an institution with all of the imperiousness that that word implies. If the article is accurate — and if only in response to James' activism and incessant bitching has the BCA's board announced its meetings publicly and invited comments at meetings — that's a problem.
Also, as a theater artist in a town full of actors, dancers, musicians, writers and filmmakers, I find BCA's bias toward the visual arts unacceptable. From what I can gather from a Google search, the current board consists of five visual artists, a doctor who writes books, a music producer and the rest seem to be prominent business people, educators and public figures typical of any arts board. Where are the theater artists, practicing musicians, writers and filmmakers? Where are people like Ben Bergstein, Brett Hughes, Kat Wright, Paul Schnabel, Cristina Alicea, John Killacky and Phil Baruth?
Also, as the article states, the mayor picks the 18 board members. That means the question of who controls Burlington's $1.25 million in arts money is shaped by patronage. That's great if you like the mayor or if the mayor likes you, but it's the wrong way to allocate funds for the arts.
Regarding "Big Heavy World Director Challenges Burlington City Arts" [March 11], I just don't get it. Jim Lockridge, the head of a one-guy nonprofit called Big Heavy World, who has been collecting donations in Burlington since 1996 on behalf of the music community, has a problem with the way Burlington City Arts operates? He says "a spirit of inclusion and collaboration has been missing."
That's not the way I see it. My first Burlington performance in 1964 was at a long-ago Church Street coffeehouse named the Loft. I have seen Burlington come a long, long way in nurturing and supporting musicians and artists in all genres over the years. I cannot imagine today's Burlington without the Discover Jazz Festival, the Battery Park and City Hall Park concert series, and the many performances at the BCA and Memorial Auditorium.
While I don't always agree with the BCA, I very much respect and appreciate what it does to support a wide swath of local arts programs. While I get that it's not all about the money, with regard to developing and maintaining a strong and vibrant arts community, Ken Picard's lead in the story resonates with me: "In 2013, Burlington City Arts paid 174 artists more than a quarter million dollars for their creative efforts."
You don't raise and spend that amount of money for the arts in any community without collaboration and a spirit of inclusion. And a visit to the Burlington City Arts website reveals a thriving and energetic organization listing staff, board members and many opportunities to participate. A visit to the Big Heavy World website lists only one name, Jim Lockridge, and a litany of nonpaid "opportunities" to work or donate. In my experience, Big Heavy World puts no money whatsoever into the pockets of Burlington musicians. Aren't you required by law to make public your finances when you are collecting nonprofit donations? There is more to this story.
Norcross is front man for Rick & the All-Star Ramblers Western Swing Band.
I was disappointed by Alicia Freese's "Digging: A Firm Requests Records Regarding a Burlington Councilor," [Off Message, February 18] and its insinuation that Michael Ly, candidate for Burlington City Council, or his supporters may have been responsible for an inquiry into the activities and/or finances of city councilor Tom Ayres. Freese's implication makes it all the more clear that some media people in this city will stop at nothing to muddy the reputations of conservative individuals and organizations.
Michael Ly is one of the most caring and inclusive people I have had the pleasure of knowing, and the implication that he is involved in such an investigation is absolutely unacceptable. Ly and the Burlington chapter of the Vermont Republican Party know all they need to know about Ayres and his positions on issues important to the residents of the New North End of Burlington. Ditto other organizations around the state. As a result of the article, online comments demonizing Republicans are appearing both in Seven Days and Front Porch Forum — without a shred of evidence to support them. This seems to be the new Vermont modus operandi.
I have no idea who or what organization was behind Data Targeting Research's request for the council records of Tom Ayres. I can say that neither the Burlington Republicans nor the Michael Ly campaign had anything to do with it. This is beyond politics. In the future I would hope that the Seven Days editorial board would use more caution and insist its writers use the basic principles of journalism so as not to disparage a person's reputation without warrant.
Bell is chair of the Burlington chapter of the Republican Party.
It is great that many Vermont women are getting the respect for their hard work and their success. However, I noticed all the women featured in ["Women to Watch," March 11] are on the younger side. This makes me cringe a bit, as it perpetuates the idea of youth being more highly valued than older people, regardless of gender. Who's to say a woman in her fifties, sixties, seventies — even in her eighties or nineties — can't be called a "woman to watch" or a success? As human beings, we are always developing, and there are plenty of older women, whether they are retired or not, who could be highlighted as "women to watch." While I've been pleased to see some obituaries in Seven Days, let's honor older people before they pass away. It would be interesting to rerun this story as "Women to Watch 60+" to understand the wisdom and experiences they can share with younger generations.
[Re "Sanders, Leahy to Boycott Netanyahu Speech; Welch to Attend," Off Message, February 9]: So Pat Leahy and Bernie Sanders apparently have no compunction over crawling into bed with two of the planet's most ruthless and incorrigible despots in a naive attempt to "normalize" relations with Cuba. Too bad the prime minister of Israel wasn't afforded the same courtesy. Boycotting an address to Congress by the senior representative of one of this country's closest allies was a craven stunt. Profiles in Courage anyone?
J. Paul Giuliani