Why can't we be friends?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wow. Things have really gotten crazy here in newspaper land.

It seems that within the course of two little columns, I've managed to enflame just about the entire local arts community. I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't think anyone would take offense to what I've written here over the last two weeks. I just didn't think the uproar would be so deafening.

I unveiled this column two weeks ago. My plan was to talk about -- and critique -- people, organizations and events in the local arts, and get other people talking, as well. My plan has worked, maybe too well.

And in all the furor over the things I've said, I think maybe you've gotten the wrong idea about me.

Your outrage shows me something about you that's both good and true -- you care. If you didn't, why take the time to write a letter to the Southeast Missourian about how much of an idiot Matt Sanders is? In a society full of apathy, it gives me hope to see that the arts can get people so fired up.

We have something in common. Like you, I also care. If I didn't, I wouldn't have taken the time to write about the City of Roses Music Festival or the leadership and atmosphere at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri.

Here's the truth about me: I'm not a bad or mean-spirited person. I don't have a problem with anyone I've met at the arts council, or anyone who runs the City of Roses festival. And I was greatly honored to accept the Jeff Maguire Friend of the Arts Award on behalf of the Southeast Missourian.

My criticisms are meant to foster dialogue, to make our local arts community the strongest it can be. That requires self-examination as much as it does outreach. That was my point.

I've been working the arts and entertainment beat in Cape Girardeau for almost two years now, and I've seen many things that are both beautiful and inspiring. When I recently talked to Dr. Jean Chapman about a solo exhibition he had at the Arts Council, I was inspired by his dedication to improving the arts in our area, and by his skill and perseverance.

I've written about the Empty Bowls Project run by local volunteer artists -- artists who want to use their craft to help others. They have shown me the kind of compassion our local artists show for their fellow human.

That compassion was also evident this month on First Friday, when Dr. Zenon Duda showed his installation "Requiem for the Pawns of War" at Buckner Brewing Co.

When I watched the bands Fists of Phoenix and Rock Solid on the first night of the City of Roses, I was amazed at the musical promise some of Cape's bands possess.

I saw the Eric McFadden Trio last weekend at Buckner Brewing Co. They rocked the joint. I was impressed by the touring musical talent we're able to bring in to the area. Tonight Cape will see another great touring talent when Tiffany Christopher rolls into town to play Port Cape.

During the time I've covered the arts in Southeast Missouri, I've tried my best to get information on arts events to the people who need that information most -- the consumer of the arts.

I say all these things to show you that I love the arts and the local arts community. I write only because I care.

Maybe my tone was too harsh in my previous columns. If so, it wasn't intentional.

So, why can't we be friends?

I'll see you in two weeks on First Friday. Be sure to say hi, and we can talk more then.

Matt Sanders is the Arts & Lesiure editor for the Southeast Missourian and the editor of OFF Magazine.

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