Trouble in paradise

An emerging art group fights bureaucracy in the supposed renaissance city
By PHILLIPE & JORGE  |  November 21, 2006

While our capital city continues to promote itself as a prime booster and center for the arts, we continue to wonder about the strength of that commitment.

We recently heard from Anna Shapiro, the director of Firehouse 13 (www.firehouse13.org), one of the impressive and emerging artist-run enterprises in Our Little Towne. Despite hard work, as well as positive press in this rag and in the Other Paper, Anna tells us that FH13 is still struggling. Renovations and the expensive procurement of fire suppression systems have yet to receive the green light for necessary inspections.

While there have been many phone calls each week from artists, musicians, and theater and community groups inquiring about the availability of space, FH13 has had to put these people off because of the bureaucratic roadblocks that keep cropping up. Numerous calls to a plethora of city agencies have proved confusing and fruitless. Despite all the work to get FH13 up and running, it has been unable to get even a temporary certificate of occupancy. Needless to say, this makes it very difficult to plan any programming.

The folks at FH13 describe “no communication between retiring, promoted, or incoming personnel assigned to the project.” Whenever they contact various city departments or boards, they feel that have to begin the process at the beginning, because there seems to be no continuity.

It sounds like the red tape in Providence is stifling. Mayor Chi-Chi and the city tout how important the arts are to economic development, but they seems unable — at least in this instance — to lend a well-deserved helping hand. What’s the problem?

P&J have frequently trumpeted how the City of Pawtucket seems many steps ahead of Providence in promoting and accommodating urban arts initiatives. You just call Herb Weiss and things are set in motion. Why is it so difficult in Providence? Please, let’s work this out. FH13 is too good an enterprise face this type of bureaucratic stasis. 

Squeeze the juice
There is an old story — most likely apocryphal — about the guy on the court stand, accused of attempted murder, who tells the prosecutor: “I should have shot him in the head while I had the chance. If . . . I had been there.”

Thankfully, we will not have If I Did It, O.J. Simpson’s would-be new book and the accompanying Fox TV special (the thinking Neanderthal’s network), in which he would have tried to explain how he really would have offed his wife Nicole, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, had he actually been there. Can you say, “No pass laugh test,” boys and girls?

In a country that knows no shame, these would have beenpossibly the most insulting media events ever. Amazingly enough, however, OJ’s would-be enablers, seeing the handwriting (read: huge negative reaction) on the wall, have pulled the plug.

It is good to see how O.J. has gotten back into tip-top shape by trying to track his ex-wife and Goldman’s killer on top-flight golf courses throughout America. He has yet to pay damages to the Goldman or Brown families, however, after having being found responsible in the civil case.

O.J. is nothing more than an embarrassment, and every drop of ink or inch of videotape spent on him would have been an insult to all Americans. If I Did It, indeed. It should be done to you.

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