My eyes had no less than stopped reading the final word in Joe Soucheray’s newest column before my fingers violently reacted. Soucheray’s columns, are often meandering thoughts that always amount to the same bottom line of, “Get off my lawn.” I couldn’t even cite his writing as a voice of the past because he blatantly neglects normal journalistic integrity within his work. He’s been close to blowing past the line of credibility before, but today’s piece truly set him apart.

“This might be the greatest example of inmates trying to run the asylum that I have ever seen. One of those artists, somebody named Rhea Pappas, a photographer, is worried about the ballpark affecting her livelihood. Apparently she teaches a photography class and is concerned that noise and crowds could disrupt her work. You’ve got to be kidding me.” (Pioneer Press)

Rhea’s name in the article made me stand up and take notice of the stadium issue. The moment I met Rhea years ago, I knew I had been privileged to meet someone so brilliantly-gifted that I was humbled at what she had done with a simple pool, models and lighting. Unlike Soucheray, Rhea’s skill and talent hasn’t gone to her ego although Soucheray’s words cut straight to her heart.

The Lowertown community is home to budding artists and established professionals, just like Rhea. The problem is, Soucheray never reached out to Rhea to confirm her suspected connection to Sandy Pappas, (a DFL senator from St. Paul embroiled in the stadium debate.) In fact, he never even investigated her photography, merely stating she was “teaching photography classes.” Soucheray proceeded to slap Rhea in the face by insinuating she was an, “inmate trying to run the asylum.” The stadium is cited to be less than a half block from current residential housing and studio space. We’ve seen this scenario played out just recently with the Lightrail construction on University Avenue and shops like the Caribe Bistro having to close their doors, indefinitely. Artists in Lowertown have reasonable hesitation when facing the construction of a new stadium for another sports team.

I reached out to composer and writer, Justin E.A. Busch Both internationally performed and published and the former president of the Northern Warehouse Artists’ Cooperative, he had eloquent words for the column and attitude of many who marginalize the arts.  ”To be honest, Soucheray’s reputation is well-known to being hostile to the arts. His column was so poorly argued, I think it may end up doing more damage to him than to us, (artists.) Nonetheless, we must always be aware of the possibility of damage done by malicious and false statements based on very limited experience.” I couldn’t agree more.

Rhea spoke of her determination to be heard, not only as an artist, but someone who was wrung out to dry by the Pioneer Press and Joe Soucheray. The rightful frustration that she spoke of, wasn’t about Soucheray’s stance in the article, but his unprofessionalism in refusing to research anything about the issue and those with a different stance. Rhea stated on the phone, ”Honestly, I wish Soucheray would have just talked to me. This could have been an really good article, he just didn’t care to discuss the true issue. The art community is not surviving, it’s thriving; not only is it thriving but it’s bringing people down to Lowertown by itself.”

In fact, Soucheray’s parting words mention that artists make an annual, “$12.34″ in art crawl sales. He apparently has no clue of the value of arts in the Minneapolis and St. Paul community. With Cowles recent passing, I had expected more from the Star Tribune’s competition, especially given the legacy of the arts that he left in the metro area. This was simply a mistake on the editor’s part to even run Soucheray’s drivel. Why the article was given a green light past several proofreaders gives a clearer picture of the state of today’s daily media. Soucheray said it all when he so ignorantly typed, “As for the so-called artists’ community, they should begin chanting or meditating or howling at the moon, or whatever artists do…” I hope that common decency in journalism and printing wasn’t sidelined for a few, cheap, clicks. Rhea and the artists of Lowertown deserve more than being compared to inmates, wolves and chanters. They deserve respect.

In 100 years, I doubt Soucheray’s elitist articles will be pulled up from the catalog for more than a good laugh. Rhea’s haunting photographs, Justin’s beautiful melodies and the many other powerful creations of artists in our community will live on farther and stronger than anything Soucheray could write. Surely Picasso, Mozart, van Gough and others who remain in museums while their critics have been silenced forever will tell the true tale of it all. It’s time for the Pioneer Press to do something about Soucheray. They are alienating their circulation base and supporting someone who doesn’t deserve the column space. Frankly, the Press deserves more than Soucheray’s work. It’s not what I’ve come to expect from one of Minnesota’s most respected newspapers.