In public space, competing interests force limits

[Editor’s note: This letter is in regard to issues raised in an article that appeared in the April 14 edition of the Journal, “Sensitive and censored, Belfast artist’s work is both.” That article focused on Lynnette Sproch, who is the artist referred to several times in this letter.]

I value art and the artists whose extraordinary talent creates it. I also value the people who work, attend classes and meetings, and visit the Hutchinson Center every day.

I value diversity and the free expression of ideas, especially in a university setting. Yet there are limits placed on expression. The Republican Journal enacts those limits every day as it chooses what to publish. There are also limits on what activities may take place in public spaces that are for the use of all. The City Council determines those limits each time it approves activities in downtown Belfast or at the Boathouse.

In every environment there are competing interests. I must balance the privilege of putting artwork anywhere one wants in a public building with the established legal right to not work in a hostile work environment where one is forced to see objectionable material because it is in a hallway that must be used to access classrooms and offices. The definition of what is objectionable is in the eye of the beholder. I may or may not agree with that definition, but I must find a balance between these conflicting interests.

As the artist stated, she would not put her artwork where her middle school students could view it, as it would “embarrass them.” Children and individuals of all ages are in the Hutchinson Center hallway daily. I chose to hang her work where anyone who wanted to see it could choose to do so. I chose not to hang her work where everyone would be forced to see it, including the children she sought to protect from embarrassment. They would be no less embarrassed in the Hutchinson Center.

The artist chose to remove her work so no one could see it. She censored her work by removing it. I wanted others to see it as I found it sensitive and very well done. Many people chose to view other work that was placed in the art studio. In a previous exhibit we placed a large sign indicating that the gallery continued into the art room and noted that some individuals might find the work inappropriate for all ages. When we learned the door was inadvertently locked, we corrected that problem. Whenever there was not a class using the room, people were free to enter the room and see the exhibit. Many did.

We have expanded the exhibit area into the conference center now. We will continue to maintain our right to determine what is exhibited and where it is exhibited in our public building. All artists wishing to exhibit their work know this in advance now and may choose not to exhibit with us if they disagree with these conditions. This artist was not informed of these limits until after the fact, which contributed to the problem. I personally asked her to let us exhibit her work, but she refused.

We decided to showcase artists of all ages and their work in our lovely new Walsh wing as a community service and to support the arts community. The artwork has made the hallway come alive. On May 1 we will be hanging an RSU 20 children’s art exhibit along with the Senior College Art Festival artwork. We are excited at the prospect of these two generations sharing and learning from one another in our space.

With individuals of all ages in the building daily, we will continue to set limits on the use of our public space and celebrate in every way we can the challenges to our way of thinking and being, and the great joy that art brings to us.

Dr. C. Sue McCullough, Director
University of Maine Hutchinson Center
Associate Dean, Division of Lifelong Learning

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A different view of history

[Editor’s note: This letter is in response to a letter written by David Huck, titled “The American Resistance,” which appeared in the April 14 edition of the Journal.]

I saw the gentleman’s comments about resistance and was wondering if he and his kind live in the same world as we do. His implication that the French resistance, with Charles DeGaulle’s leadership, overthrew the German occupation of France couldn’t be more misconstrued. If he knew history, and I’m sure he does, he would know that the “Free French” were fighting against the Axis long before DeGaulle gained any control of the Free French Forces, but that’s another story.

In the end it was the Allied forces, including the United States, not the French resistance, that accomplished it. The French resistance was more like a flea on a Great Dane’s back. Irritating, but not that effective. A Democratic president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, led the United States at the time. (Dwight D. Eisenhower, a future Republican president, led the Allied armies. Is this called cooperation? I wonder why Ike didn’t just say no?)

The next assertion was that Democrats consider themselves to be the “master race.” This, and several other like attacks, have a certain ring of history. FDR, the duly elected United States president and the leader of the country that helped overthrow the “oppressors” in France and elsewhere, faced the same charges during the ’30s when he attempted to “bail us out” of the Great Depression and “forced” Social Security upon us. He was called a Nazi, was taking us to Socialism, and was going to be a dictator, etc. Sound familiar? Now, 80 years later and no dictatorship or Socialist state, which are not one and the same as they imply, we hear the same propaganda from the far right, which, during the intervening years, opposed the Civil Rights acts (Democrats JFK and LBJ), women’s rights, workers’ rights, etc. Is this a little contradictory to what he is espousing? By the way, when the other party passes a law, is it “making a decision” for us?

He continues to rant against the party that brought us Social Security, the eight-hour workday, unemployment compensation, Sundays off, workplace safety, Medicare/Medicaid, a minimum wage, and a host of other citizens’ gains. I think that these accomplishments were aimed at the total population of the country, not just a certain segment. Which of these “government decisions” would he be willing to give up? Would he give up all and go back to sweatshops and 16-hour workdays, along with giving up the financial and medical safety nets for our elders?

He then mentions that the Democrats need a group to blame and then he picks the Dems to blame for “lying.”

Does he address the so-called lies? No, it is of course pure rhetoric, since there are no “lies” that he lists.

He also implies and furthers the myth that Nazis started the whole Socialist thing, which is a big wisp of smoke. The Nazis didn’t introduce social programs in Germany. Years before Nazism, Otto Von Bismarck put social programs in place in Germany. So he may well have to change the chant from “Nazism” to “Sink the Bismarck.”

Now this gentleman and all others like him can lean back and enjoy the accomplishments of the past, thanks to that group of “elites” that he mentions. If they have reached that age, they can collect their Social Security and get their medical help. If they haven’t, maybe it’s unemployment or disability that they may have to rely on. Either way, they know that they have some financial/medical protection in life, thanks to those elitists mentioned earlier. Parents will also be protected under those same “elitist rules.”

Or if they truly feel that those accomplishments were “forced” upon them and they have not appreciated them over the years, they can stand by their apparent convictions and refuse to collect any of the above and give it to the government. Or me.

Hal Halliday

Belfast

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Game Loft recognizes volunteers

The Game Loft’s inaugural Volunteer Recognition Ceremony went over exceedingly well on the evening of Friday, April 9. Food was plentiful, people were helpful, and fun was abundant. Considering that this was my first time organizing such an event, I was pleasantly surprised that there were very few snags in our plans. I was (and still am) very proud of all of the youth and community volunteers who have stepped up to the plate to help us. Our total volunteer hours since July equal more than $17,000 worth of donations. That is a lot of help from a lot of caring individuals.

As volunteer manager, I value the help over any donations that we could receive. Money is wonderful to have, especially in a nonprofit organization. Money allows us to pay staff members, pay the bills, and provide exceptional services to the youth of our organization and to the community. But The Game Loft truly relies on its volunteers. We have volunteers who run programs, who help fund aise, who help clean, cook, serve on the Community Advisory Board, and lend a hand when they see that we need one. I am most thankful to all of the volunteers who have donated their services this year. Not only are those individuals helping The Game Loft to succeed, but they are also setting a positive example to others, both young and old.

It is the volunteers of the world who inspire and create change. Doing good works not only helps those who need it, but it also instills a sense of satisfaction, happiness and a “feel good” attitude within the individuals who give back to their communities. We may not be able to write checks for large sums of money, but we can give our time and expertise to help others.

Most of all, I want to thank everyone who helped make the Volunteer Recognition Ceremony a success. Thank you to all the individuals who helped to set up tables, chairs, and ready the space for the ceremony. Thank you to all the individuals who helped by providing what was a lovely and flavorful meal. Thank you to all the individuals who helped clean up both the ceremony space and the kitchen. Thank you to all the individuals who came and showed support for the volunteers of The Game Loft.

We are looking forward to many, many, many more Volunteer Recognition Ceremonies in the years to come, so that we may honor you and future volunteers for all your hard work and dedication. Thank you all so much. We could not have done it without you!

Kali Rocheleau
Director of Volunteers and Membership
The Game Loft

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Filmgoer’s luck!

We in the Midcoast area are lucky to have a number of great cinema choices. Of course there is the Strand, RailRoad Cinema, the Alamo, and even the Grand for those looking to venture a bit. But in the immediate Belfast area we are very lucky: we had Baird Whitlock’s foreign film series for many years; then we had Eddie Adelman at the Belfast Library, now at the Camden Library; Neal Harkness and Cheryl Fuller are continuing at the Belfast Library, with two distinct series.

And now, helping to start up the CineMainiacs Series in Belfast, are even more volunteers like Gail Henningsen, Lynn Karlin, Willy Reddick, and John Welles, to name only a few. Their intent is to bring very recent independent, foreign and documentary films to a larger audience, on a larger screen. Adult films for thinking audiences. Does that describe you?

Thanks are especially due to the owners of the Colonial Theater, Therese Bagnardi and Mike Hurley, who are going out on a limb to bring these films here. We can best thank them by going to see the films in the CineMainaics Series, and by telling our friends about them. And look out for Series Two in the fall!

Paul Sheridan
Northport