A quarter-sheet flier can cause a lot of fuss.
Madelyn Mackie, associate production manager of the Berkeley Repertory Theater, and her staff raced up and down the street Sunday, Jan. 16, ripping the small quarter-page fliers off the sidewalk where they’d been neatly placed between panels of poetry, offering “because of the event” as her excuse.
A Heyday Books representative, publisher of the poetry book being celebrated at the event, apologized for the theater manager’s behavior, clarifying that the manager was not acting on Heyday Books’ behalf.
Sherry Smith, former chair of the Berkeley Arts Commission, spent half an hour ripping up another 100 fliers from the streets, stating, “this is my free speech” when questioned.
David Snippen, current chair of the Berkeley Arts Commission, apologized for her behavior.
The flier in question stated, “Hey poets and poetry lovers, next time don’t pimp poetry for rich people’s property values. Art should benefit us all,” or sometimes ended with “Art should stay hungry, like the rest of us,” with a signature. Hardly a call to arms, but clearly a gentle criticism of the peculiarly cozy nature of the sidewalk poetry art project and the Downtown Berkeley Association, some of whose members own property on Addison, now much more valuable with its publicly funded enhancement.
Robert Haas, the project’s curator, bristled with indignation that anyone would flier the event, and refused to shake the flier writer’s hand. Some poets implied that opportunities for poets are so few that if a little graft gets into the mix, it should be ignored.
Perhaps. But other poets welcomed the fliers, expressing interest in the so-called Arts District’s curious origin and the issue of funding disparity. Some of them managed to appreciate that no one was protesting poetry, or books, or anyone in particular. A few of us manage to agree that opportunities to participate in and experience the benefit of art projects ought to be equitably shared by everyone.
And someday, one hopes, everyone can agree that a tiny flier of protest, and the unexpected viewpoint it may illustrate, is as precious as poetry.