Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Washington artists are expecting big things out of Marion Barry. That goes double for Hispanic Washington artists.
The Democratic mayoral candidate was surrounded by Latin American art and the sounds of Spanish conversation Thursday as he mingled with members of the Washington arts community at a campaign fund-raiser in Georgetown's Washington World Gallery.
Some prominent non-Hispanic artists were on hand (Lou Stovall, for one). But the gallery is owned by a Cuban, Jose Antonio Font, and a Chilean, Arnaldo Nannucci, and the Hispanic arts community was particularly interested in hearing what Barry had to say.
"Silencio," commanded arts patron Barbara Gordon, who organized Thursday's reception and two earlier encounters between Barry and area artists. The candidate was about to speak.
Barry began with an admonition that, "Art is very important to me, but it can't be taken in isolation." For example, he noted, restoration of inner-city housing so common folk can afford to live in it should be a concern of artists as much as anyone. Artists frequently are known for 3 tendency to starve in ramshackle garrets.
Then Barry discussed some of the specific ways he wants to help artists: establishing at least 300 CETA jobs for visual and performing artists, forming a downtown arts center and neighborhood arts centers and a city museum, strengthening the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities with "a more rounded and vigorous advocacy membership" that will "push for the arts and even push the mayor if necessary."
A number of suburbanites use D.C. arts facilities a nd "don't pay for it," said Barry, "since we all know the price of the ticket doesn't pay for the program." So he pledged to solicit more federal support. He wants to conduct juried art shows in public buildings, he said, and he'll consider the formation of a city art bank.
Barry said he was bothered by that blank wall he passes whenever he enters the Metro station at 13th and G Streets. Somebody should paint a mural on it, he suggested, and dance and theater groups should be performing for the passers-by. Barry knows a thing or two about murals; he said he tried to get one painted on the wall of the PRIDE organization he headed for five years. And finally he succeeded; take a look at 16th and U Streets.
Sharleen Hemming wanted a statement specifically on Hispanic arts and her own petition to the FCC for a Spanish-speaking station.
Barry replied that he was concerned about the lack of a Spanish-speaking radio station in the area and said he would support it "wherever I have to go."
Hemming said she was supporting Barry even though she is the local chairperson for Republican Party's Hispanic Assembly. But later she confided that she was petitioning the FCC for a Spanish-speaking TV station on Channel 14, not a radio station, and TV was a trickier issue, since so many community groups would like to use Channel 14. She approached Barry and asked if he understood what she was talking about.
Sure, said Barry, he knew she was talking about Channel 14.Later he commented that he hadn't taken a position on the Channel 14 issue, but he would like to see a "coalition" of groups take it over.
And so Barry maneuvered his way through the Washington arts scene. His presence alone was an inspiration to some of the guests. Even if he just shows up at gallery openings, he could accomplish something, said one: "Look at what Joan Mondale has done."