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We appreciate the Washington City Paper’s concern over artwork having been taken from Art-O-Matic (Artifacts, “Heist-O-Rama,” 12/20/02). As the media contact for the event, I appreciate that the reporter got in touch with me while writing his article. It was unfortunate, however, that my comments were not used to reflect the point I was making. It is equally unfortunate that the article created a distorted view of Art-O-Matic by focusing on the actions of a few people with bad intentions.
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With more than 700 visual artists and thousands of individual works of art, Art-O-Matic 2002 was a massive undertaking. Despite having to monitor a huge space with limited resources, we were able to secure the building so that thieves could at best manage to take only a few artworks small enough to be hidden in a handbag or under a jacket. Because the art was not placed near an exit (an important security point, which was not mentioned in the article), the thieves would have had to walk through the rest of the building concealing the art, risking being caught by security or volunteers on the way out.
By wondering why someone would make such an effort to steal the art, I was not being dismissive of the works that were taken. I was, rather, pointing out that there is no good reason to steal from artists who are trying to offer small works that the average person can afford to buy. This is not about skilled art thieves making off with famous works that can be sold for millions of dollars—this is about people going out of their way to take advantage of local artists who are trying to make art accessible to the community. And that simply makes no sense.
By focusing on the few unfortunate occurrences at Art-O-Matic, the City Paper missed the real story: that more than 1,000 visual artists and performers came together to create the biggest, most inclusive arts event D.C. has ever seen. The arts community here is too vibrant and diverse to be showcased only by existing galleries, museums, and concert venues. Artists don’t have to wait to be acknowledged by the few available spaces, and viewers don’t have to pay exorbitant fees to see and hear what D.C. artists have to offer. The 40,000 people who came to this year’s Art-O-Matic got the point; so did the Mayor’s Arts Awards committee, granting us top honors in “Innovation in the Arts.” We hope that next time the City Paper will be able to stay more on target in its coverage and get the real story.