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Shepard Fairey drop

Posted by Geoff Edgers  February 9, 2009 09:43 PM

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The affidavit.
Fairey outside court.

Pro-Fairey gripe from ICA party sponsor:

Dear Editor,

My company, Karmaloop, Inc. sponsored the opening night party for Shepard Fairey's show at the ICA. The anticipation and buzz among young adults throughout the City over the last few weeks has been like nothing I have seen before in the City.

Boston, famous for its uptight reputation, racial battles, and puritanical anti-art zealousness was hosting arguably the most important art opening of 2009. A positive step in our quest to be a more vibrant and international city, a city that so many people have been working to change for the better. Even the Mayor did his part to welcome this exciting and positive exhibit and artist. People came from all over the US and the world for the event at the ICA on Friday night eager to meet and see Shepard Fairey.

Unfortunately, Boston once again lived up to its reputation and embarrassed itself on an international scale. Shepard is not only a world-renowned artist, but also a person who has done a tremendous amount of good beyond just his art. He was a guest of the Obama's at the inauguration, and just several weeks earlier his iconic portrait of the president was being hung in the National Portrait Gallery. It was this image, and Shepard's efforts above and beyond the poster, to get the young involved in the political process that helped contribute to getting so many young people to check out politics for the first time.

It is very clear the Boston Police did not handle this incident like any other outstanding misdemeanor warrant, and it is clear that they timed it to destroy the excitement and happiness of the ICA opening. Why didn't they just call his lawyer and tell him to have Shepard come in he has been in the city for over a week? (Shepard had no knowledge of any arrest warrants) Why did they have to stake out his hotel? Why did it take unmarked cars, cruisers and at least 8 officers to follow in hot pursuit? Why did they have to pull people from cabs on the way to the ICA with lights flashing looking for the suspect? Why did they need to make his wife and the DJ for the party stand against the cab as if they were some kind of threat? Why did they need to throw Shepard in handcuffs?

The police call what he does "tagging" but that connotes using spray paint or marker to write on people's property. Shepard puts up artistic posters on derelict buildings as well as many legal space around the city arranged by the ICA - hardly a "crime" that has needed this much effort and coordination to tackle.

Boston's serious crimes per 100,000 e.g. Murder, Rape, Assault etc. across the board are double or more than New York City's (see Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Report, FBI website). Boston also has one of the lowest rates of solving murders of any major city in the entire US. Where are our priorities when we are spending so much time and effort trying to arrest an artist?

I love Boston, and I have nothing against the vast majority of rank and file police officers who do a tough job under harsh conditions. But if we care about both the police and our City, it is all of our responsibility to speak up. This whole spectacle makes no sense, why purposely try to destroy something positive it is achieving nothing, except to harm Boston.

My company employees 70 people most of them in their 20's and early 30's. The most common issue I face with my company is attracting good young creative talent because many don't want to live in Boston or have a negative opinion of it. They want to be in San Francisco, Portland, Austin, New York, but not Boston.

There is a reason so many creative students flee the City right after graduation. Incidents like the one with Shepard just reinforce the worst negative stereotypes about Boston and have a direct effect on the future of our City and our ability to attract the best and the brightest. We should heed the words of President Obama in his inauguration speech: "people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy"

Greg Selkoe, CEO, Karmaloop Boston

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About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..

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