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Stop in the Name of Art: Emmanuel Flipo of Stop Art Gallery poured out an antiwar message last Friday at Santana Row.

Public Eye

Art Is a Battlefield

The young Santana Row shopping complex is meant to be "a vibrant part of the South Bay community" as well as a commons for art and culture. In a test of its mission to be more than just a place to buy expensive watches and suck-down oysters, on Friday, Feb. 21, the classy urban mixed-use San Jose complex became the venue for contemporary French expressionism in the form of an antiwar statement. The performance piece was executed by serious artist Emmanuel Flipo, one of the fancy attractions at Santana Row, who was discovered by the complex's now-retired mastermind and CEO, Steve Guttman. Flipo, who runs Santana Row's Stop Art Gallery, tells Eye that he secured management's approval to create a giant mural with salt on the street in front of Santana Row. "They thought that it might be powerful for Santana Row, and it would be good publicity," he explains in his heavy French accent. So Flipo proceeded to scrawl "no blood for oil" across the street. He added a "dead human being" and red pigment to represent blood. Flipo's girlfriend, Stop Art Gallery director Lilou Vidal, blasted political music in French. It was nighttime, and the whole thing was lit up by the headlights of four spanking-new Hummer H2 SUVs, which Flipo says he used to "suggest the army of America." When he was done laying down his political rant, Flipo says, Santana Row officials expressed surprise. They cleaned it up within an hour, he says. General manager Tom Miles explains, "We didn't know what it was going to be. We figured it was going to be some abstract thing. We were fine with giving him creative license." Ironically, Miles says, Flipo's use of the Hummers was his idea, not as a political statement about gas slurping military-style civilian vehicles, but because it's the official car of Santana Row. Miles denies the quick removal of Flipo's expression. He says the art stayed put until the following morning when it was originally supposed to be cleaned up. "I really wasn't upset," the good-natured Miles continues. "We know that any time you give an artist license to create something, you're opening yourself up to his whims."

Political Park

Former Franklin-McKinley School District board member Terry Gregory racked up dozens of endorsements from school and education board officials during his recent successful District 7 City Council campaign. This month, Gregory showed that you can take the man out of the school system, but you can't take the school system out of the man. Gregory relayed concerns at a McLaughlin Corridor Neighborhood Association meeting about the Stonegate Skatepark, a planned addition to the Stonegate Park. The points he brought up echoed worries raised by officials at the Stonegate School next to the park. Rumors shot around the neighborhood that Gregory might kill the project. This upset skatepark fans who've been working on the 5,000-square-foot permanent concrete skate structure planned at Coyote Creek and Tully Road for more than three years. The project (which the city was supposed to start building this month and finish in October) enjoyed the support of Gregory's predecessor, George Shirakawa Jr. "All of the sudden, there's a rush to stop this," McLaughlin neighborhood association member and former president Albert Juarez tells Eye. "It seemed that [Gregory] was very sympathetic to the school district for their concerns. But now he works for the city. Now he's on the other side of the fence." The skatepark idea came from three kids in the neighborhood who were sick of getting kicked out every time they tried to skate or finding that the city had installed more skateboard-deterring metal brackets around the neighborhood. Juarez, who coaches roller hockey at Yerba Buena High School, helped guide the three kids through the neighborhood planning system. Gregory's office fielded several calls from worried Stonegate students' parents who railed against the skatepark, according to a Feb. 11 letter from city parks manager Steve Roemer. So, Roemer explained, Gregory asked the city to hold off on construction so he could hear from neighbors and invited himself to the Feb. 13 neighborhood association meeting. "It was scary when it got to a point where we felt as an association that this thing could have been stopped," Juarez says. The neighborhood group immediately went into emergency mode and threw another meeting on the issue last Thursday, Feb. 20. The word now is that Gregory is greenlighting the project, with a few caveats to placate the school-affiliated worrywarts, including a fence that divides the school from the skatepark. Gregory didn't return Eye's call by presstime.

Autoslave

By including a pair of black slave owners among the figures depicted in its new poster, "In the Black: A Celebration of Black American Entreprenurial Pioneers," San Jose's Black Chamber of Commerce has recalled a largely overlooked historical phenomenon that others would prefer remain unpublicized, or at least uncelebrated. Ignoring the fact that "entrepreneurial" is misspelled, the controversial reference reminds viewers that some early rich black people were themselves slave owners. So, isn't championing these figures on a poster that cheers on black business ingenuity a little weird? "It is a profound historical note that at one time there were over 12,000 black slave owners," reads the Black Chamber's Feb. 18 press release, welcoming the media-baiting controversy. "Many of these owners were people who purchased family members to free them from the horrors of slavery. However, many people, like Benjamin Montgomery and William Ellison, amassed small fortunes from slavery." Joel Wyrick, who took over as the Black Chamber's executive director last August when Raychine Jefferson and Kenneth Jackson left under a cloud of alleged accounting oddities, thought up the business poster idea and voted to keep both Montgomery and Ellison. "I'm going, look, this is one of the richest black men in America," Wyrick says, recounting the Chamber's board meeting and vote on which names should be included on the poster. At the meeting, the board ended up voting 4-2 to keep former slave and boat-part inventor Montgomery on the bill, and 5-1 to kick off Ellison, also a former slave, a cotton-gin efficiency expert and a supporter of the pro-slavery Confederacy movement. "So what if he was a slave owner? He was an entrepreneur, and this poster is about entrepreneurs," says Wyrick. After all, Wyrick adds, "that was the only game in town." Board member and San Jose graphics company owner Reginald Swilley voted against keeping both. Swilley points out that any idiot can make money if they don't pay the help, so where's the glory in that? "I don't think either one of them should have been listed. ... [Slavery] was invented by white people. It was used against black people. To take one of two black people and insert them into that white institution, it looks like it gives white people a pass." Rick Callender, the business-minded president of the local NAACP, comes at the issue with a pragmatic approach. "Well," he concedes, "slavery is the epitome of capitalism. This country was founded on the backs of the slaves." But, he concludes, "I don't think we're saying it's OK. I think we're saying it's history." The Chamber printed 1,000 posters and is offering them free to nonprofits and schools through March; $12.95 to everyone else.


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From the February 27-March 5, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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