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New York-Based Artist Claims Government Officials Have Violated 1st Amendment

February 22, 2011 by  

New York-based artist claims government officials have violated 1st AmendmentAn artist in Greenwood Lake, New York has filed a lawsuit against the local government alleging that the town's mayor and board members have violated her 1st Amendment rights.

According to The New York Times, Melanie Gold received $4,000 in grants from the Orange County Tourism Board last year in order to complete a community art project on private property. However, Greenwood Lake Mayor Barbara Moore did not support the initiative and, as a result, the town's board enacted a moratorium on public art until May 1, which is the same day that Gold's grant expires.

After Gold displayed three art pieces on Feb. 6, the town fined the building owner and threatened imprisonment or more penalties if the paintings were not removed by Feb. 22. Gold contacted a group called Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and was granted free legal representation. Last week, the artist filed a complaint with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking an injunction that would remove the art ban and declare it unConstitutional.

"This moratorium is a blatant violation of the 1st Amendment," said David Leichtman, one of Gold's attorneys. "It is astonishing that in 2011 a local government believes it has the authority to prohibit citizens from exercising their right to communicate with each other. The law is very clear that this is not a lawful exercise of police power."  

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  • Bud

    What do you want to bet that Greenwood Lake Mayor barbara moore is a dyed in the wool progressive liberal. Ptoooey

    • http://From-the-DOGHOUSE.com Robert Coane

      WRONG, BUD!!!

      Barbara Moore is a diehard conservative Republican, the kind who loves to control what everyone thinks and does. It’s all about ego and control in the fiefdom.

      Next time, do yourself a favour, inform yourself before you mouth off.

      RC, Village of Greenwood Lake resident/tax payer

      • Les

        Don’t mean to pop your bubble, Robert, but liberal progressivism knows no party lines. Whether Rino or Damnocrat, they are self serving, arrogant, unConstitutional control freaks. R or D, they need to go home or directly to jail. Let’s leave off with the programed class warfare and join together for Liberty, what say you?

        • http://From-the-DOGHOUSE.com Robert Coane

          I know about Barbara Moore. I live in Greenwood Lake.

          • libertytrain

            So please tell us why she would do this thing.

          • http://?? Joe H.

            Robert C.
            Hate to burst your bubble, but a true Conservative republican doesn’t want to control everything you do!! I am one and I could care what you do as long as it doesn’t endanger me or mine!! Your rights end where mine begin and mine end where yours begin, ECT! You would be very hard pressed to name one true CONSERVATIVE republican in our government today!!

    • lkar

      http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090221/COMM/902210304/-1/NEWS04

      This article states “A lot of the things she wants to do are commendable, but it all costs money,” Morris said. “I don’t think she’s found something she doesn’t like to spend money on.”

      Self-explanitory.

      I cannot find what party she is from, but looking at other sources. She is probably a moderate Democrat or a liberal Republican. Seems to be a middle of the road type politician.

      Not sure why they are pushing this art issue.

    • lkar

      http://www.nycom.org/documents/email-3.pdf

      I did find this. She is part of this organization. Reading the material seems to suggest that she maybe in the same vein as Walker in WI. Not sure though as this report is very political speak and does not really convey party or ideology. Just seems to point out the problems local government is having in funding.
      Hmm. Seems WI is saying the same thing and the union is going bonkers.

      • http://From-the-DOGHOUSE.com Robert Coane

        Ikar,

        SHE’S A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN.

        I live here. Read my posting above yours.

        • s c

          RC, since you seem to be in the definition business, it would be nice to know how many years you have dared to call anyone a ‘conservative Republican.’ The term itself is at best an oxymoron.
          In this world, there are conservatives and there are Republicans. Conservatives tend to be realists, while Republicans tend to be prostituted, fence-sitting rejects who put themselves before America (McCain, et al).
          It would seem that you’re of the thin-skinned, pc and progressive persuasion. Wanna buy a condo in Egypt, Yemen or Tunisia?

          • eddie47d

            The SC go out and start the Conservative Party and stop voting Republican. It seems that most Tea Party folks voted Republican so there doesn’t seem to be much of a distinction.

          • 45caliber

            eddie:

            I’m a conservative. But I voted Republican in the last two elections for one reason: the Democrats had worse people running.

    • elda

      I didn’t read what her art work depicted, perhaps something that did not reflect the morals standards implied in the contract or was maybe racist. All I am saying is I don’t have the whole story so I can’t decide if the artist is right in her allegations. If her work offensive then I can see why she was stopped.

      • elda

        I have read a link given on this blog and I agree, there is nothing offensive in the artwork. There is one picture that looks like it might be writing and we can’t see what it says, but it appears from that link the mayor got cold feet and pulled the plug. I hope the artist is successful is getting at least the money she has put into this back.

  • Michael Mingus

    Hmmm. No mention of the subject matter, or placement of the art is mentioned other than a building owner being fined for displaying the “art.” There is no first ammendent protection for any form of speech that is pornographic, disruptive of the public, or inciting of hate towards a person or group of people, distuptive of the public good.

    • Brad

      Michael,

      Agreed, the subject matter was never revieled in the article.

      • libertytrain

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/nyregion/17towns.html
        nothing about this artwork is controversial that I can see. Nothing I haven’t seen in my town or many others across the nation.

        • eddie47d

          Looks like it is this cities loss and some communities wonder why their towns shrink and can’t attract businesses or tourists.

          • (WIA) Wild Indian in Action

            (0ffensive comment removed)

    • Wandamurline

      Unfortunately, the first amendment does not say what art should comprise…only that you have the right of freedom of speech and expression and the press. Sorry, the the Constitution does not evaluate the art…just that you have the right to do it. Pornographics is covered under local jurisdication and each state and local government has their own laws in place to deal with that…not the Constitution.

  • Harold Olsen

    Is the Orange County Tourism Board a government agency? If so, they have a right to determine what the artist can paint. However, it’s the city who is messing with the artist. Since this appears to be a County project, even though it’s in the city, and the County does not object to whatever it is she is painting, then the idiot mayor is abusing her authority.

    • Wandamurline

      No, under the first amendment to the Constitution, the government DOES NOT have the right to determine what an artist can paint. Freedom of expression is granted to all … unfortunately, too many people think the governement has the right to do this, to do that, and they are wrong. Get yourself a copy of the Consitution and the Bill of Rights and educate yourself. When you do, you will find that there are too many unconstitutional steps that local and federal goverment have taken over the years…and we, the people, are trying to stop the carnage and get back to basics….your freedoms that our founding forefathers fought and died for.

      • independant thinker

        It is true a person has the right to paint anything they want but the government has the right even the duty to control the display of said art in public settings.

        • libertytrain

          It also sounds like the city acted in a kind of after-the-fact manner. Like quick let’s do an ordinance to stop this. The County seemed to have approved and granted her the go-ahead for the project. It’s quite odd.

          • independant thinker

            I agree. I wonder if this is a first amendment case or a harassment case. Just not enough information to say.

          • libertytrain

            Sounds like a little of each without knowing more accurate details. Sounds also like the Mayor had herself a grudge of some kind.

    • elda

      Not if the building is in the city.

  • http://MotzillaFirefox satch

    Our founding fathers only could suspect the things in todays world that would work against the Republic type Government and laws of regulation that they founded. Surely they would be rolling in their graves today if they could see a part of what personal greed and ego of man can do to the world! Look at Satan for an example and where it got him!
    Stick to the basics and build on it is Best! With truth and integrety.

  • http://From-the-DOGHOUSE.com Robert Coane

    “The thing that enrages me the most is frivolous lawsuits like this,” Mulcahy [Lisa Mulcahy, the president of the Greenwood Lake Revitalization Committee] said. “For village taxpayer money to be wasted to defend a lawsuit like this is really outrageous.” – The Times Herald Record, February 18, 2011.

    Spin. The lawsuit they brought upon themselves.

    What is “frivolous” and “outrageous” and “enrages me” is government’s intromission into the private agreement between the owners of the building and the installation artist, the contention that a law regulating signs would apply to an art installation, the $25 fine against the building’s owners, the threats of more, the creation of “a formal code for public artwork displays,” the insidious six-month BAN on public art and that ”there was a concern that the end result wouldn’t fit in with the village’s aesthetics.”

    What Village esthetics!?

    As a village taxpayer I can’t think of a greater waste of my money than going after ‘offending esthete. I’d much prefer it go to defending the right of artistic expression and only hope that whatever moneys, if any, Ms Gold gets from her lawsuit she will reinvest in her art to further benefit our Village.

    In almost 50 years as a fine arts professional I have yet to come across a government sponsored art commission/council whose interest was in guarding quality and not in controlling content or style. Even the best intentioned like the National Endowment for the Arts and the Smithsonian must eventually buckle under political interests, their members turned into impotent puppets, as we recently witnessed at the National Portrait Gallery. See http://www.from-the-doghouse.com/CANINE_QUOTES/Anasagasti/NOOSE_AND_NAIL-2-10.html#PortraitGallery

    The ex-post-facto “ART BAN” has a lot more in common with the Nazi’s Degenerate Art Show* of 1937 attacking Modernist works than it is about concern over “village esthetics.” It’s all about control and ego.

    ROBERT COANE
    Greenwood Lake NY

    * Degenerate art is the English translation of the German entartete Kunst, a term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany to describe virtually all modern art. Such art was banned on the grounds that it was un-German or Jewish Bolshevist in nature, and those identified as degenerate artists were subjected to sanctions. These included being dismissed from teaching positions, being forbidden to exhibit or to sell their art, and in some cases being forbidden to produce art entirely.
    - Wikipedia

  • 45caliber

    I’d like to know a couple of other things about this story.

    1. Is there some personal problem between the artist and the mayor?

    2. What kind of art are we talking about?

    3. Why is the city so against her showing some of her art? I assume it is private since they are threatening to fine the building owner. That is also a question.

    4. If the city is so against her art, why not revoke the grant money?

    I do dislike any government entity paying to “further art”. If they want to buy some art, then they should look at it before paying for it. One city (I forgot which one) paid thousands for a piece of art to display – only to find out that the artist had made a piece of trash art that looked terrible. They had already paid for it so they accepted it and then put it in a warehouse out of sight. The artist sued on the argument that they had to display it because it might harm his reputation to hide it. Or they could return it to him (and he keep the money too). I think they should have waited to pay until it was finished and then decided to use it or not.

    • libertytrain

      I posted this above. Hardly offensive art.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/nyregion/17towns.html
      The town probably has some sort of bizarre sign ordinance they are trying to enforce or created to enforce this issue alone. It only takes one or two city or county officials with peculiar egos that cause this kind of unnecessary lawsuit. It makes little sense based on the info provided. The city did not provide the grant money — Either the county did or some other agency.

      • 45caliber

        I saw the article. Thanks. I suspect the mayor or someone on the council had a relative they wanted to be paid to do the art. Who probably wasn’t nearly as good.

        One of the new quarter coin designs was made that way. The state person in charge of finding an artist to do it hired her teenage son in highschool to design it. It was already made when the word got out about it.

      • http://?? Joe H.

        libertytrain,
        does this mean if I buy a piece of art and decide to hide it in my garage after I buy it as the owner of the piece I can’t decide what to do with it?? The city as the owner of the piece should be able to do what ever they choose to do with it! If I buy a piece of art and later decide I don’t like it, I’ll burn it if I so choose.

        • libertytrain

          It didn’t sound at all that the owner of the pieces was the city. The art was the property of the artist who apparently received a grant to create and place these pieces outside on a building, I think was a bowling alley. The mayor got in a snit and caused the problem. Actually, when one buys a piece of art, they only own the art, they can’t reproduce it unless they bought that right with the piece.

    • Allan Halbert

      In relation to pay, waiting to pay is totally unrealistic. How about telling a contractor to build a building and you’ll pay if you like the way it looks, or telling a restaurant to cook the meal and you’ll pay if it tastes good. Or how about telling the typical employee to come to work, and at the end of the day you’ll pay if you thought the employee was productive. The power to decide whether to perform or display art is sometimes negotiated, and people should make good on whatever their word and contract stipulated. If there’s subject matter the patron doesn’t want to pay for, that should be included. Beyond that, if it was so easy to make something the patron will like, they could do it themselves. They are paying someone else for their talent and effort to come up with an inspiring result. Just like everything else we pay for or do in life, a lot of it won’t be instpiring. Bottom line, we can’t expect someone to work for free and get paid on a whim.

  • jopa

    The above article was a little confusing and I was wondering what the exact issue was the art or the grant.I don’t know much about art so I will sit this one out.However I do remember a poem that had a little art in it.It started out”Jean Jean made a machine.”

  • James

    No State law has ever been held violative of the First Amendment. Why? Because it says “Congress shall make no law respecting…” The Bill of Rights restrictions apply to the national government, not the States. Here are two examples:

    In Barron v. Baltimore, 32 U.S. 243, 247 (1833), Mr. Chief Justice Marshall said: “The [U.S.] constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United States for themselves, for their own government, and not for the government of the individual states…the fifth amendment must be understood as restraining the power of the general government, not as applicable to the states.”
    In United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 553 (1875), a mob of whites had disarmed two blacks (in Louisiana) and the issue was whether that action had violated the right of blacks to bear arms, and thus violated the Second Amendment. Mr. Chief Justice Waite said: “This is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed, but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress. This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.”

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