Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Artists Speak out Vendors Discuss St. Augustine Performance Ban

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Artists Speak out Vendors Discuss St. Augustine Performance Ban

Article excerpt

The St. Augustine Art & Craft Festival, in a field behind the city's visitors center, features artists chosen for the quality of their work.

Booths of brightly hued tropical scenes hang next to sparkling stained glass pieces, while elegant sculpted birds stand aloof.

But just a few streets away is St. George Street, where city leaders in March banned performers and artists from peddling their work.

The city's ongoing effort to clear the street has many local artists at the show torn between championing artistic freedom and making sure all artists who sell their work follow the same rules.

Becky Harlowe photographs the streets of St. Augustine and also teaches art. Harlowe believes any venue is appropriate for genuine artists to show their work or musicians to produce their sound.

But in recent months, she said yesterday, people have appeared on the street peddling what she called "dollar store items," easily recognizable by stamps like "made in China."

Artists call this practice "buy/sell," she said. "We also call it B.S., which is what it is."

In other words, it isn't art.

To Harlowe and some others, the city needs to strike a balance between a ban and a free-for-all.

"Why does it have to be all or nothing?" Palm Coast painter Ray Brilli asked. "I have kind of mixed feelings because it really was nice to walk down St. George Street on a summer night and listen to the music. It was a nice feeling. I miss it."

But a friend who owns a gallery on St. George Street is one of many claiming the street artists hurt their businesses by blocking their entrances.

Brilli sets up his canvas and easel on St. George Street to paint -- an exception the ban will continue to allow. But he doesn't sell his work on the street.

"I feel as an artist I have to spend money to make money," Brilli said, so he pays galleries to show his work.

St. Augustine sculptor Peter Chu gives street performers money, but he thinks the city could designate a special area for them where they wouldn't interfere with merchants.

"I think it's fun for the tourists," he said. …

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