2013-07-12 / Community

Art vending at Fort Williams could change

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – Cape Elizabeth is considering a set of regulations to govern artists selling their work in Fort Williams Park.

Kris Kristiansen, an artist who lives on Alewife Cove Road, has been selling his work at the park since early May, but councilors and town staff are worried if too many artists follow his lead, the park will be overcome and the clutter will take away from its scenic beauty.

Kristiansen and his wife Marilyn spoke up at the town’s Monday, July 8 council meeting to argue artists are protected under the first amendment of the United States Constitution to create and sell their work, and therefore the town has no place regulating the activity.

Artists associated with the lighthouse gift shop sell their work outside the museum, and food vendors are located throughout the park offering cookies, lobster rolls, snacks and drinks. The food vendors pay a $4,000 annual fee to the town for the right to set up their trucks within the park.

Carl Dittrich of Cape Elizabeth operates one of those food trucks, Atlantic Cookie Company. He said artists pursuing their commercial interests for free set up an inequity because food vendors have shown a willingness to work with the town and pay a fee for the right to operate.

“It just doesn’t seem fair. I have nothing against artists selling things, but it’s going to become a circus if it’s allowed. It just doesn’t seem right to me, in so many ways, to have them as the face of Cape Elizabeth.”

But Kristiansen said he would happily agree to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of his art to the town. He believes artists working in the park would add to the appeal of the location, and should be welcomed by both the town and its citizens.

The town’s Fort Williams Advisory Commission had submitted a draft set of vending regulations to the council, which would cap the number of artists at eight and limit them to a specific area near the central parking lot.

Kristiansen said that area was uneven, unwelcoming and unfit for him to work as an artist.

“I am disappointed that after only two months the town sees me as a problem to be regulated and banished,” Kristiansen said.

Kristiansen’s wife, Marilyn Kristiansen, implied the town has more of a financial interest at heart rather than its stated purpose of maintaining the character of Fort Williams Park.

“It is more than a little hypocritical of the town to talk about preserving the pristine beauty of the lighthouse from commercialism when they have a shop, museum, several outdoor art vendors, two food vendors and a brand new wooden shed house the person collecting $40 from every bus,” she said.

Last month, the ordinance committee met with attorney John Wall, representing Monaghan Leahy LLC, who explained 2nd Circuit court rulings regarding street artists in New York City do establish certain first amendment rights for artists in public areas.

The town council considered two separate items related to the issue of art vendors in Fort Williams Park.

The first, which councilors unanimously passed 7-0, established the authority of the council to create rules and regulations that will govern the activity.

However, councilors disagreed on what those rules and regulations should be.

Town Manager Mike McGovern argued the draft regulations from the ordinance committee should be enacted immediately, to prevent dozens of artists from descending upon the park this summer before any rules are established.

But Councilor David Sherman did not believe that scenario was realistic. This summer, the only artist expressing an interest in operating in the park is Kristiansen.

As long as that’s the case, Sherman suggested the council table the motion until they can have a site visit at the park.

Councilor Jamie Wagner supported tabling the motion to allow more time to review the legal precedent and possible amendments to the regulations from the ordinance committee.

The motion to table the regulations passed 4-3, with Sherman, Wagner, Caitlin Jordan and Frank Governali in favor and Councilors Jim Walsh, Kathy Ray and Jessica Sullivan opposed.

The council will have a workshop Tuesday, July 30 at 5:30 p.m. beginning with a site walk of Fort Williams Park to further discuss the draft regulations.

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