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What's in a Name? Go Ask Shakespere.

Sunday, October 17, 2004; Page A02

Maria Alquilar might be as bad at damage control as she is at spelling, which is pretty bad. Alquilar, an artist who lives in Miami, got a lesson in how to spin and how not to spin after people started noticing something odd about a big mosaic of historical figures she created for the city of Livermore, Calif.

Einstein was "Eistein," Shakespeare was "Shakespere," Michelangelo was "Michaelangelo" and Van Gogh was "Van Gough." Too bad -- for Alquilar and for the city of Livermore -- that the artwork was placed in a location sure to highlight its flaws: outside a public library.

A misspelled William Shakespeare is shown on the ceramic ground mural near the Livermore (Calif.) Library. The artist misspelled several other famous names. (Jeff Chiu -- AP)

Alquilar responded to the discovery with rage. She complained that angry e-mails sent to her about the mosaic showed that people were full of hatred, and she described herself as a "sacrificial goat."

She said she had absolutely no intention of flying out to Livermore to fix the mosaic, even though the city offered to pay her $6,000 to correct 11 misspellings on her $40,000 piece.

Now that she has had time to calm down, Alquilar says she will make the corrections. But she is still hot about all the calls and e-mails labeling her "ignorant" and blasting her for refusing to fix her mistakes.

"They are so emotionally upset about their own lives and see this person getting all this money with a Hispanic name -- therefore, this stupid moronic Mexican is getting their money," said Alquilar, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and has an Argentine father.

But the Tri-Valley Herald, a Northern California newspaper, might have said it best. Its headline: "Artist 'upsett' by misspellings."

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

© 2004 The Washington Post Company