Here's the deal: West Palm Beach's Downtown Development Authority, with the aid and assistance of WPB City Commissioner Shanon Materio and her family, has put together a summer series of work by two artists and one art dealer.
One of the artists, glass sculptor Rick Eggert, is based in Martin County and has cross-promotional dealings with Materio's family business, Lake Worth-based McMow Art Glass, which also sells his work. The art dealer is Materio's husband Phil, a co-owner of McMow.
The series, located in a vacant former department store in the 300 block of Clematis Street, began in late June with a display of work by Palm Beach artist Kevin Chisolm. The Eggert show opened last week. The show of art from Materio's collection opens August 29.
A state-created quasi-governmental taxing district, the DDA's mission is to "promote and enhance a safe, vibrant Downtown...through the strategic development of economic, social, and cultural opportunities." The DDA has an interlocal agreement with the City of WPB's Community Redevelopment Agency, on the division of taxes, which expires Sept. 2014.
The DDA is formally independent of WPB City government, so all involved in the Summer Gallery Series can proclaim it an arm's-length transaction.
We emailed DDA business coordinator Teneka James about the arrangement and the lack of local representation. She replied:
The Summer Gallery Series is just one of many cultural opportunities we have been working to develop so that our cultural component grows stronger and deeper, enhancing the overall Downtown experience. We have spearheaded several projects like this for our community over the years, such as the dramatic murals and the art-wrapped utility boxes on high-traffic corners. We work with artists both inside and outside of the district in an effort to bring the best of different worlds and new experiences to our residents and visitors.
She also told us the DDA is "grateful to those who have helped concept [sic] and realize the idea" and that Phil and Shanon Materio were "very helpful in recruiting artists."
We then emailed Shanon Materio about the series:
Could you please comment on how appropriate it is for you to collaborate with the DDA on a project that serves to benefit your private business, McMow Art Glass? As you know, of the three events in the series, one showcases an artist, Rick Eggert, with whom McMow regularly co-markets, and another acts as a showcase for your husband's arts collecting, which is a great shot of publicity for McMow.
Eggert is not even based in WPB -- not even in PBC -- and McMow is a Lake Worth business, so the connection to Downtown WPB is tenuous.
As there are any number of working artists and struggling arts enterprises in the city, it seems unfair of you to use your entree with the publicly-funded DDA to jump the line this way.
I have no doubt your arrangement with DDA is, legally speaking, completely ethical. But it certainly appears to violate the spirit of fair dealing. Your response?
Shanon Materio failed to reply, so we forwarded that query to her daughter Taylor, a McMow "acting partner" (her words). Taylor Materio replied that she is "the one who has been working with the DDA" and wrote:
McMow is a sponsor. McMow does not choose the art medium or any actual display. Phil Materio, separate and apart from McMow, was selected by the DDA as he is usually selected for other art shows, for his extensive, historic and one-of-a-kind collection of art. None of Phil Materio's art is for sale and is for education and appreciation only.
(We like that "separate and apart from McMow." McMow's Facebook page's June 27 post about the series is careful to describe Phil Materio as a "McMow owner." Virtually every news and Web account of the series links him to McMow.)
Taylor added these words of advice:
If anyone knows of artists (starving or otherwise) wishing to display their art or participate in the Summer Art Gallery Series, they should be directed to contact the DDA directly. It is the hope of the DDA to extend the Summer Art Gallery series to a year-round opportunity for the purpose of enhancing the City's focus upon the arts.
Thank you . I was informed by a DDA official: "Phil Materio and Shannon Materio absolutely worked with us on this project and were very helpful in recruiting artists."
If neither they nor anyone else from McMow recruited Rick Eggert, who did? If he was recruited by someone unconnected to McMow, how did the recruiter learn of Eggert?
We received no reply, and followed up:
In case I was unclear:
You wrote: "McMow does not choose the art medium or any actual display."
That is not the same as saying McMow didn't suggest Eggert to the DDA or recruit him.
We have yet to hear anything further from Taylor or Shanon Materio.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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