The young and the artless

Cara DeGette's article about the District 11 Young People's Art Exhibition was an eye-opener ("Artless," cover story, May 25).

Any show worth its salt has a list of jurors or judges, their qualifications and transparent criteria used in picking the artists included in a show. A student cannot operate within a system of artistic excellence if the reason for being excluded lies primarily in a moving target of whim or ignorance. There has to be a standard for the people judging work, as well as the students who submit their work, to have any credibility at all.

To disqualify students who engage in social commentary is unconscionable. The young artists thinking about Darfur, homelessness and prejudice sound like the adults here. Real art has always had a place to deal with the world as we find it, and to grapple with complexity. To require kids to deal with some simpleton recipe fit for The Citadel Mall is to say that you don't believe there is anything to be learned from the younger members of your community.

To be fair, I am sure that there is a need to edit out raunch and gratuitous violence, but judges for these exhibitions should not be reduced to some Aunt Polly role of conducting a prurient search for nipples, tobacco and the ever-present "gay agenda" (as defined by local religious scolds) when a sensitive subject is actually dealt with in a mature and responsible way.

It is clearly time to get an appropriate space and have judges from outside this community, if scholarship money is involved in any way. It is not fair to cut work that would be welcomed as art, i.e. a form of thinking, anywhere else.

Kay Johnson

Colorado Springs

A good grass-licking

Thank you for your article, "Artless." I am an elementary art teacher in District 11. At this level, I am very careful about what students illustrate in their art. It is a controlled atmosphere, and students begin to learn what art is and what tools can do for them. However, as they move forward, I would hope that what the students express in their art is respected.

Like anything else Americans project, agreement with an individual's stance on issues does not have to occur. But respect for what individuals think and say (and draw) and who they are is mandated by our Constitution. The young learn this by how they, and what they produce, are accepted. As the saying goes, "You don't lick it off the grass"; it's a developmental process. Throwing up a wall of rejection drives expression into a place we will not want to witness.

Thirty-seven years ago, I was a student in a Catholic high school in Denver. The art teacher was highly respected and very competent; she was also a nun. My art at the time was very surreal, as was my life. One of my sculptures was a tangled mass of limbs, including bare breasts. I was guided through the art process by this instructor. My art piece was exhibited in a school-wide show. There was no controversy. My 75-year-old mother now displays the art piece in her home.

The result of any school art exhibit should be an opportunity for learning about our young people, and about ourselves. Do we have the guts to come together and make something good come from a disappointing situation for the sake of our kids? We'll see.

Kathleen Sheaffer

Colorado Springs

Art: the great threat

The cover article last week about the "controversial" artwork banned from the D-11 art exhibition is another example of the self-righteous conservatism bombarding this city and this country. It's astonishing how so many can be intimidated by these people, because they don't want to rock the boat.

What a surprise religious conservatives threatened by art. Of course they're threatened by art; art is about contemplation and the expression of ideas and feelings, unrestrained. It questions.

Religion does the opposite; it is about control. "Oh my, we can't offend anyone or threaten anyone's religious views." That's what art does; it can make people face issues, fears that they'd rather sweep under the rug and pretend don't exist. It makes them think. It makes them consider things from many different points of view. And that is a direct threat to conservatism, especially religious conservatism, which this city and country are choking on.

I was going to suggest the students create their own alternate exhibition, without restraints or censorship, but not surprisingly, they already have plans to do just that.

This is about the freedom of expression, the pursuit of liberty, what this country was founded upon freedom. But it has turned into a stifling, fearful, theocratic-minded, outright money- and power-worshipping police state in the last five years. Funny coincidence in that timing.

What is required now is the rebellion in conscience of those who wish to keep their freedom and individuality, an uprising in attitude to counter this oppressive blanket of control and fear. Do not be intimidated by those who worship money or those who wish to contain your freedom in a guise of avoiding controversy or uptight propriety. This is not the Middle East ... yet.

Wanda Beliz

Colorado Springs

School of the two-legged stool

At first I was disgusted with the prudishness of Colorado Springs schools regarding controversial art, which in my view of things is redundant. Art is by nature controversial, for that is its essence. But then I realized that the institutions are simply covering their backsides from attacks. OK, but this also means that art cannot be taught in such institutions. What students get are form and function, just two legs of the stool.

The problem of not being able to teach art in institutions that must cater to those who don't understand art probably has no solution. The contradiction is inherent in the institutional essence, which might be a good theme for a student's work of art (wink).

Ray A. Kampa

Woodland Park

Patriotic perverts

Thank you for the article titled "American patriot" (cover story, May 4). I was so appreciative of the insights offered by the arms inspector, Scott Ritter.

He said, in effect, that it does not matter to most Americans that this is an illegal war, just that we are losing. (Anti-war people seem to have learned with Vietnam; the pro-war folks have just given us another.) It speaks so well to the perverted priorities of America.

The Air Force Academy has come to represent another example of perverted priorities. I am reminded of the million-dollar kitchen for the commander when American planes were running into each other for want of proper equipment. How many of our children could get a first-class education just off their band-music allotment?

I think of the tens of thousands spent on special consultants to instruct some faculty and students that we should use ordinary courtesy and not drive our religion down the throats of those not interested. And there are the tens of thousands of dollars devoted to encouraging some faculty and cadets that the law should be obeyed and not to promote based upon religion. Wasn't one war enough to indicate that we do not build our religion on the backs of Jews?

When the cadets throw their hats up in the air, each represents (to me) all the children who will not have adequate education. The gasoline expense alone of those planes dipping and diving could pay for the health care of thousands of children.

How we love our appearances. But this administration has put us so into debt that we may have to rethink such expenditures.

Ruth Beardsley


One thing leads to another

Bill Carmody is engaging in wishful thinking when he says that Bill Owens' decision to remove funding from Planned Parenthood caused a rift in Planned Parenthood, NOW, NARAL and other similar groups ("Ritter's promise," Letters, May 25). It actually caused us to work more closely together. However, I would rather correct some misconceptions that Carmody is attempting to spread.

Owens took away the funding on a flimsy pretense. Planned Parenthood was funded to provide family planning services to the community. It was not using this funding for abortion services. Because the organization was renting space to an organization that performed abortions, Owens insisted that the state funds were being used for abortion services and pulled the funding.

What some people don't realize is that funding was taken from pre-natal services, birth control, STD treatment, counseling and other family-planning services many low-income families came to rely upon.

Many people don't remember, but the reason abortion was legalized was that women were dying from back-alley or self-induced abortions. Do they really think that making the procedure illegal will stop abortions? Women will begin dying again, because they will still decide for themselves whether or not to have children.

Many women need to work multiple jobs to support their families. This often leaves the children unsupervised and at the mercy of the streets. This can lead to criminal ways. More jails are needed for the criminals. Can you see how one thing leads to another?

It's time we address the causes, not the symptoms. Don't criminalize women for making the hard decisions, or their doctors for providing a safe, legal procedure.

-- Nancy S. Stilwagen

Colorado Springs

Who's the coward?

An open letter to Mr. Tom Huffman:

Perhaps Mr. Huffman is right in challenging the true nature of the label "undocumented" ("One toke over the line," Letters, May 18). It is a euphemism, to be sure. However, it's well to remember that our political landscape offers an interesting smorgasbord of euphemisms. Sometimes it is perhaps advisable to use a euphemism.

To wit, a few months after then-Vice President Richard Nixon was sworn in, he gave a speech in Washington where he said, "When we came to Washington, we found out that the State Department was full of queers and Communists." A double whammy, since Nixon was saying (not implying) that the "queers" were hanging out with the "traitors." A euphemism would have been welcome by his fellow gay Republicans. Why kick them in the teeth?

As to why euphemisms are used: According to Huffman, they are "a meaningless political contrivance created for the convenience of cowards." When our Founding Fathers were writing our Constitution, they never used the word "slave." Yet, it was a very common word at the time. Instead, they used euphemisms. Since one-third of them were slave owners, was their decision to use a euphemism a "meaningless political contrivance created for the convenience of cowards"?

Colorado Springs Police Chief Luis Velez is taken to task for not arresting lawbreakers at the park. To be fair to the chief, he would also have to go arresting all the "illegal employers" in the area.

You cannot have a prostitute without a customer. It's known as the law of supply and demand. Moreover, the issue of immigration is, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, under the jurisdiction of the federal government. No other crimes were being committed at the park, hence Chief Velez was not derelict in his duties.

Since Mr. Huffman appears to be telling Chief Velez how to do his job, perhaps he should trade places with Chief Velez for a day or a week, and he can solve all of the problems affecting our community. Just remember, there are no simple solutions, only intelligent choices.

Ternot MacRenato, Ph.D.

Former 3rd Force Recon Co., USMC

Vietnam Vet

Colorado Springs


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