There was a major gap in Leslie Newell Peacock’s Feb. 8 article [“Scratch Besser from Picture”] about my role in Art Across Arkansas, caused by Rose Crane’s refusal to comment on senior management’s (Crane’s) decision to terminate my participation in the project.

First and foremost: Senior management unilaterally decided to renege on all of the key promises made to well over 100 serious artists who had offered to donate about $2 million worth of drawings and paintings.

I was invited to join this project in late September because after 40 years of serious collecting I had created a network of known artists who would be inclined to donate to a worthwhile project. Considering the quality and monetary value of those donations, which were to be made to the Clinton Foundation, I felt it was necessary to give the artists certain perks. These included promises that the artwork would travel not only to schools in Arkansas but, through the Art Across America extension of the program, to 13 states in the region by 2010; that they would be reimbursed for reasonable packing and shipping costs (terms were later restricted); and that under my guidance there would be a three-month exhibition of their work in the gallery at the Clinton Library accompanied by a first-class catalog budgeted at $40,000 to produce. Crane took me out of the loop and put herself in charge of the exhibit and catalog.

So what do we have left? Art Across America will never happen. What you have to look forward to is an exercise in mediocrity that will embarrass the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton. And me? I come out looking like a damned fool in the eyes of the national art community for my poor judgment.

Sandy Besser

Santa Fe, N.M.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mary Cornwell’s Feb. 21 comments regarding the THEA Foundation’s attempts to collect first-rate art to install in public schools around the state through “Art Across Arkansas.”

As the owner of an art gallery that carries work by primarily Arkansas artists, I was outraged by the same remarks Mary refers to, calling the curation of this installation “Art Across Asher.” No doubt anyone looking through the list of artists who have already contributed to this remarkable project would know that many of the highest caliber names in Arkansas art have donated their work to this worthy endeavor. These committed artists have seen the greater good in helping to create a lasting legacy by investing in the education of our state’s young people.

Sometimes a successful project doesn’t have to have the most educated or most knowledgeable person as was implied in the article that sparked Mary’s letter. Sometimes it just has to have a person with a lot of heart and a lot of determination. It’s hard to say no to Paul Leopoulos, founder of the THEA Foundation. To take the tragic loss of his daughter and turn it into something that can potentially impact every child in the state in a positive way is a remarkable charge and one that needs to be supported, not insulted.

In today’s society, it’s much easier to tear down than to build up. I agree with Mary and also encourage readers to log onto THEA’s website (www.theafoundation.org) to learn more about the project and to find a way to help.

Debra S. Wood

River Market ArtSpace

Thanks for Dumas

This letter calls attention to the extraordinary service to Arkansas that is rendered weekly by Ernest Dumas, particularly his Feb. 22 column, “The lowly severance tax.”

I believe you should expand his messages by devoting pages to them in every forthcoming issue this year. The low severance tax on Arkansas’s underground resources is a costly and disgraceful tax crime against the citizens of Arkansas. No week should pass when your good paper fails to tell the people in stories dramatized with pictures and insightful writing about the unjust 7 or 8 percent tax consumers pay for the natural gas from out of state while gas companies pay three-tenths of a penny on each thousand cubic feet of gas they pump out of the ground in Arkansas.

You would do well to scan Dumas’ column each week for dramatic news stories to follow. Please tell the people of Arkansas that if the big gas companies were made to pay the same tax rate as Texas’ modest tax rate the colleges and universities of Arkansas (all or most of which are raising student tuition rates) could realize an extra income of $20 billion in the next 30 years.

Victor Ray

Little Rock

Merry Mardi Gras

Kudos and hats off to the organizers of the 2nd Mardi Gras Parade and Fete in my neighborhood — the River Market. A good time was had by all, including families with their kids, singles, every race and stripe, residents and visitors. Little Rock police did a remarkable job of being both highly visible yet flexible in their approach to the revelers. The next day opened bright and clean thanks to public works and sanitation, along with parks and recreation employees who worked hard to bring about the small miracle. I feel confident writing that we have the beginnings of a bona fide hit on our collective hands.

I would like to see an expansion of the parade route to include North Little Rock and across the Main Street bridge to the River Market. One side of the river could be family friendly with extended museum hours, clowns, animal exhibits from the Zoo, etc. The other side of the river could be focused on adult revelers, with each city alternating roles every year. Both sides are linked by our outstanding trolley system to reduce drunk driving and encourage cross-river travel by the late night party goers.

In a final tip of the hat to our brothers and sisters in New Orleans, the party ends at midnight on the dot, with the police pushing everyone inside. Laissez les bon temps roulez (but only until 12 a.m.)

Daniel Lilly

Little Rock

An endorsement

Recently, a local TV station carried an interview with former Congressman Tom DeLay. When asked about his favorite 2008 presidential candidate, he replied, Mike Huckabee. In giving his reasons, one was that they have the same world view. If DeLay’s world view includes his past remark that his heart is in Israel, logically it would also apply to Huckabee. Might I suggest that they go and run for office there? Hopefully, a majority of voters want candidates whose hearts are in the United States.

Ray Burgermeister



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