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Trouble in Springville 'Art City' could stem from miscommunication

SPRINGVILLE — The chairman of the Springville Arts Commission says city leaders have been dumping "cold water" on some of its programs.

"We were startled when the (city's) volunteer coordinator turned down a (World) Folk Fest request for more volunteers," Chairwoman Delora Bertelson said.

The international dance festival, held in the summer, is not an official city function.

The commission also was surprised when a group of musicians and composers held a concert called Musicfest at the Springville Museum of Arts last fall without working through the arts commission. The group instead worked through the Springville City Council, which has a long history of supporting the arts in what's known as "Art City."

The frustrations apparently have been festering for months.

People who know their roles should be allowed to act in them, newly installed Mayor Wilford Clyde said. So if a music festival comes to town, it should go to the arts commission.

Clyde tried to smooth ruffled feathers Tuesday during a City Council work session by suggesting that roles within the commission and administration be clearly defined to prevent miscommunication.

"There is a perception of an anti-arts feeling in the city," Bertelson said.

That perception could be stemming from new city employees who aren't aware of Springville's history.

The commission represents several established groups in Springville that are separate from the city. They receive small grants from the $23,000 the arts commission receives annually from the city.

"It's very frustrating for volunteers to give their time and resources and (then) have the administration pour cold water on them," Bertelson said.

Some city officials have questioned the need for volunteers, which keep the arts programs going.

Part of the problem is that official procedures under which the arts commission has been operating need updating, said Bertelson, a former mayor and councilwoman.

"People on the arts commission are overreacting on some issues," City Councilman Phil Bird said.

Many of the commissioners have been on the commission so long they have a sense of entitlement. Because new members of the city administration don't know their history, that leads to frustration in the way things are handled, Bird said.

One of the issues has what to do with the Springville Playhouse. For more than 40 years the city housed it in the basement of the library without charge. That building is to be razed in about 18 months when a new library is built, and the playhouse has no place to go.

"Is there a solution for the playhouse? I don't know, but I don't want it to go away," Clyde said.

Both sides should have respect for each other, Councilman Ben Jolley said.

"Respect goes in both directions," Clyde said. "(The Arts Commission) is commissioned by us."

He suggested that if respect isn't mutual, "we need to make a change."