Local artist takes aim at speech peddling law

Chris Drew says the city’s laws may prevent him from selling his art, but there's no law against giving it away. 

But when he sets up his small square print patches, he says the cops always show up anyway.

Last Friday, as Drew sat in Daley plaza for a free speech rally he organized, plaza security guards and a Chicago police officer repeatedly asked to see his permit, then asked him to move his sign from a step to the sidewalk, then asked whether he was allowed to screen print on the sidewalk. Finally, after several calls to the company that manages the Daley Center, the guards left him alone.

Drew set up his frame on the sidewalk to screen-print squares of fabric with multi-colored messages that read “Free Speech Artists’ Movement” and “Yes, We Can.”

Drew believes the city’s speech licensing program violates his First Amendment rights.

“Why do we have to pay for the right to speak in America when it should be free?” Drew says.

Drew, who also runs the Uptown Multicultural Arts Center, a non-profit organization that teaches artists how to screen print, has been printing his free speech patches in public for 16 years.

In Chicago, artists who want to sell their work on city streets can apply for a speech-peddling permit, according to Efrat Stein, spokesperson for the Chicago’s department of Business and Licensing. Speech peddling allows people to sell items that have a non-commercial message, like a book or a piece of art.

The one-month permits allow a person to stand in one of 10 spots around the Loop, Stein says. To obtain a permit, an artist must pay $165 for a two-year peddler’s license. The speech peddling permits only apply to the Loop – art can’t be sold on any other Chicago streets. Violators can be fined up to $200 for each offense.

The law was written in 1999, following a federal appeals court ruling that struck down an earlier ordinance that prohibited a woman from selling t-shirts advocating the legalization of marijuana at the city's Taste of Chicago festival.

Patricia Burnett, 40, stopped at Drew’s rally last week to find out what he was doing and picked up one of the patches he screen printed. She says she thinks art is important to Chicago.

“It’s what makes us different from everybody else,” she says, “It’s what makes the city unique.”

However, she says she understand the city’s concerns about traffic and crowding. “You can’t have 1,600 artists here all sitting on the corner,” Burnett says.

But Drew says the laws constrict Chicago’s art culture and the ability of artists to make a living and develop an audience. The law requires an artist to submit copies of their work and sell only that material.

Stein says the provision is designed to weed out the sale of commercial items and that the content is otherwise not evaluated. She also says permits take only a day to process. But Drew says the restriction ends up limiting what artists can say, and as a result, no one applies for them.

"By the time the news cycle for that particular topic is over, you're still waiting to have your work approved," Drew says.

Stein says no one has applied for a speech permit this year. “It’s very uncommon. I would say less than 10 people apply each year,” she says.

David Greene, executive director of the Oakland, Calif.-based First Amendment Project, says the ordinance is constitutional on its face, but the threat of police harassment or restrictions of certain corners may create a chilling effect on speech – self-censorship that occurs when people fear they might be punished for speaking.

“People might choose not to deal with these permits because the police might hassle them, even if they’re not doing anything wrong,” Greene says.

However, Greene also says Chicago’s ordinance is clear, and the government has a right to regulate streets and sidewalks.

“We don’t have an unlimited right because of our freedom of speech to claim any portion of the sidewalk,” Greene says.

Likalee Tamay, 29, a photographer who volunteered at Drew’s rally, says the restrictions cause many Chicago artists to move elsewhere.  She says she may leave because she can’t make money as an artist here.

Drew’s rally almost didn’t happen. Last year, his application to hold the same rally at Daley plaza was denied. This year, Drew says Andre Wiggins, assistant general Manager of MB Realty, which manages Daley Plaza and the adjacent Daley Center, told him he would need a $1 million dollar insurance policy.

Wiggins said the insurance requirement is standard for events at Daley Plaza. According to local insurance agent Mike Linderman, such a policy would cost about $300.

Kevin Smith, public information officer for the Public Building Commission, says the policy exists to protect the plaza and the people in it, not to create a barrier for speech rights.

But following inquiries by the Chi-Town Daily News, Drew was told the insurance requirement would be waived. Wiggins said the requirement was waived because Drew wasn’t using any equipment or having anything erected, like a table or a sign. 

Drew says going through red tape or being hassled by police won’t stop his campaign to change the law.

“We speak for everybody,” he says, “When you censor all the polished voices, just imagine how much of the general marketplace of ideas we miss.”



Your expert, David Greene, claims the Chicago Peddler's License law to be constitutional on its face. I wonder if he has read it? He can not justify the overly broad law the Chicago has written to control traffic which they say is the reason for their law. Because speech is such a basic right First Amendment case law states the City must write a narrowly tailored law to assure their traffic needs that harms speech the least possible. They exclude speech sales in entire Wards and any topical speech in the entire greater Loop! That is not a narrowly tailored law. Also, if they deny us our speech rights out of the urgent need to protect the traffic flow in the public way, they should allow us an ample alternative nearby if possible. There is not one free open-air art scene where artists can sell their art in the entire City.

We are proving at c-drew.com/blog that the City is blocking speech using a broad brush that does not harm the public's ability to walk on the public sidewalks.

The "the government has a right to regulate streets and sidewalks" but they do not have the right to deny us our speech rights on the streets and sidewalks of a free nation.

Thank you

MEGAN COTTRELL, 10-14-2008

He wasn't very familiar with Chicago's law until I asked him to read it through with me. He said that he thought it was constitutional on it's face after a brief look. But he did agree with you that if the police don't know it well enough, and end up harrassing you anyway, it might end up having a chilling effect on speech. Good luck!


I have provided him our research and position on this law and he said he would take time to consider our points and give us his educated opinion. That will still be his opinion based on the state of law at present as he sees it. We will continue to press our opinion of our speech rights. We will continue to challenge laws and policies that marginalize artists and stunt the visibility of Chicago's creative community. Only half of the question is "What is the state of the law is today?" The other half is "What should the law be according to a logical interpretation of the First Amendment?" We are the public. Our system allows for change. But artists and the concerned public must make that change. If - in the end - the public does not want artists seen in Chicago and Chicago artists do not want their rights to sell their art openly in Chicago - they will not have it. But - if artists want their rights - if artists want to live in a free society that openly values art, they must fight for their rights and what they believe. I believe educated artists will understand the value of art scenes and work to educate the public. We can make change - yes - even in Chicago.


This is the written response of the expert, David Greene whose comments were summarized above as "the ordinance is constitutional on its face."

I explained to the reporter that I am not familiar with that area of Chicago, nor that familiar with Chicago at all. And I explained that I could not comment on whether the law as applied did not make enough spaces available for expressive activity, or relegated the artists to undesirable locations. I only said that government does have the ability to place content neutral time, place and manner restrictions on the use of the sidewalks. I explained to the reporter the difference between using the sidewalks in a way that did not obstruct the flow of traffic and using the sidewalks for dedicated purpose, such as setting up paintings on the sidewalk and how government's ability to regulate varied with respect to each.

I explained that I don't like ordinances like these. But unfortunately, as a general matter, courts have approved of them. I talked about how there were some things that the Chicago ordinance did much better than others I have seen. That it at least tried to define the "noncommercial speech" in such a fairly clear way. And that it did not put visual artists on unequal footing with those selling literature (as was one of the problems with the New York ordinance).

I don't disagree with you that the government cannot regulate with a broad brush.

David Greene
Oakland, Calif.-based First Amendment Project,

MO CAHILL, 10-21-2008

i am a chicago artist who sometimes sells my artwork, in this case one of the most protected types of speech, political buttons, on chicago's streets. or at least i did while i was one of the "privileged" who had my rights acknowledged.
in order to obtain this "privilege" i only had to spend the day going back and forth between city hall and the state of illinois building, give the bureaucrats my social security number, and all my other info, including my address, which i am fortunate to have, get a new number, file monthly sales tax reports (even if i had no sales), cough up a couple of checks, get my picture taken, and, oh, by the way, i had to not owe the city any other money for anything. which is where i lost my license to exercise my rights.
you see, several years before all this, i had some parking tickets. as it happens, i did not deserve these tickets. streets and san had towed my car after an accident, and sorta forgot where they put it. tickets ensued. attempts to argue said tickets failed. being a sort of stubborn person, i refused to pay them. several years passed, and i had forgotten about them. surely there is some sort of statute of limitations on parking tickets. a few months after getting my peddler's permit, the city found the old tickets. and revoked my permit.
now, this was not an insurmountable problem for me. in fact, my dearest husband paid the tickets over my objections. but i just never quite got around to documenting that the tickets had been paid, coughing up another check, no doubt, and spending another day doing the bureaucratic shuffle. for something that i am supposedly guaranteed in the FIRST amendment to the constitution.
now, i have made trips to washington dc for rallies and marches, and taken my buttons with me. you see, on the mall in washington, although other types of peddling are restricted, the selling of books, newspapers, buttons and posters is acknowledge for what it most clearly is- protected speech. important speech. that i am unable to practice this speech without some small recompense is common sense. and that i may do so in anonymity is also implicit.
i also confess that i have sold and attempted to sell buttons in chicago without my license. at big rallies, i have never been challenged. at smaller rallies, especially those that might be considered to be groups of the so called "loonie left" i am routinely run off. is it that the city doesn't want too many witnesses? or that these smaller groups have fewer rights? i wonder.
i am a lucky person who can afford these indignities, if i should choose to. how many other artists cannot make that same statement? i am also lucky that the money from selling these buttons is not a big part of my income. how many other artists can make the same statement? i am also lucky that i no longer owe the city of chicago for much of anything. no tickets that i haven't paid. no water bill that i haven't paid. no taxes that i cannot pay. no fines, no judgments, nothing to stand in my way. and nothing hanging in the balance.
but we all know that there are few artists in this lucky circumstance. most need every dollar to keep body and soul together. most need to get out there and work all the time. many have some sort of debt to the city. some ticket. some fine. many cannot afford the fees, which are in the hundreds of dollars. and not a few would have a hard time just navigating the process, whether because of language barriers, physical barriers, or just the shear time, energy and patience required.
and why should we? and why should we pay for an extra permit to be locked into a few spaces in the loop? clearly, those with more money have more rights here. those who need it least can have the most. apparently, some people are more equal than others under our constitution. and those that might shed some light on this situation? those that might offer the kind of clear picture of the situation in which we find ourselves? sorry, they might block the sidewalk, as we hurry off to work. and we wouldn't want them to have to stop and think, would we?
apparently not in chicago.


Steve Balkin
Economics Professor, Roosevelt University
Director of the Self-Employment Research Project

Free speech deserves to be in America and Chicago. Art is speech
and is protected by the First Amendment. Flower boxes and excessive
social control do not make cities great. Great cities have lively
local art scenes that give streets and plazas global vibrancy. Think
of Paris, New York, and Rome. Chicago can be a world class city. Do
not let Mayor Daley make it world crass.

NANCY DREW, 10-26-2008

Dear Chris, Good luck with your quest. Art is universal speech. You might not understand the language another artist speaks but you can always understand her art. Be strong.
(your sister) Nancy Drew

KAMI CHEATEM, 10-26-2008

It saddens me to no end that artists have to fight this ridiculous battle. Art does no harm to anyone. Art enriches and makes life more vibrant. Artists have a right to create and sell their art in open spaces. Chicago prides itself on being a "world class city", but this law is yet another shameful blemish. It's time to take a stand and make things right.

DIANA BEREK, 10-27-2008

The people of Chicago need not fear artists expressing their ideas through selling and performing their art in public spaces. Artist should have their speech rights. Pan-handlers have their speech rights and
people still walk the streets in Chicago. Artists can bring vibrance to our city. Imagine
art scenes and daily displays of creativity in Chicago where artists
have been banned from selling even after buying a peddlers' license. There are over
three pages of banned locations in the Peddlers license law. I think Chris Drew is right to challenge the constitutionality of the Chicago Peddler's License. We artist's are members of the public too. We want to to live in a society that can see and respond to art in the public spaces.

RAFI BRATMAN, 10-27-2008

thanks to Chi Town Daily News for even covering this story. The lack of access to free speech in Chicago is not even brought to our attention in mainstream news sources. The city needs to change their laws now, before they are hit with a First Amendment lawsuit from artists who wish to exercise their basic human rights of free speech as granted in the Constitution!


Thank you so much Chicago Daily News for covering this story. The battles for rights must continue to be covered. We are fighting. We are not apathetic. First of all, I would like to say that it is ludicris to think that our freedom of speech is blatently being denied. I agree that there should be some regulation, but there is a difference between regulation and control. Control by completely nixing opportunity from artists to have income for suvival. If I were to for instance stand in the street and ask for money this is fine. However, I cannot offer up talents or creations and sell...even give away. This is all very ridiculous and I'm sure that there have been cases supporting the artist case.


Mo Cahill,
i was not out there (selling buttons) tuesday night (11/4). i was a judge, then i took a ride around downtown. i saw many button vendors, most of which were wearing their peddlers licenses. all had their buttons on boards of some sort. all were ready to move along. my daughter was down there, and saw a couple of them being moved along by the police.
honestly, i mostly don't even bother to go out there with the buttons. without a license, it is a waste of time.

i can tell you that many, many people like me, who sell buttons, but who DO have peddlers licenses were chased from one corner to the next tuesday night by the cops. one person, presumably someone who leases a storefront on michigan avenue, had a stand set up, tent and all, selling t-shirts, etc. but everyone else was kept moving.
lots of stories there.


My Story:

I arrived out in front of the Arts Institute by 11:00am. I scouted out the spot near the steps of the Art Institute, shaded by a lamp post. I was looking at the north lion of the Art Institute’s entrance once I set-up.

I printed until 4:45 pm non-stop. People were taking my Obama patches, which I offered for free with donations accepted, as fast as I could print them. It is illegal to sell on Michigan Avenue anywhere even with a Peddler’s License. It is part of the Loop prohibited district outlined in the Peddler’s License code.

Nobody called the cops on me this afternoon. Even if they did come I would have argued my right to give my art away. I am not allowed to sell my work anywhere because I can not afford a peddler’s license nor do I recognize the City’s Speech Permit as a useful substitute for my freedom. So I give my art away and I accept donations.

Around 4:30 I started to pack up. I had to find a bathroom. I needed to head back to the Center to pick up more patch material and fill up on ink.

When I returned about 7:30 pm, wire fencing walled off the north lion. I studied two possible spots to set-up at. Traffic ran heavy around the fencing encasing the lion. On the north side of the lion people gathered to talk on their phones where the foot traffic was pushed closer to the street by the fencing around the lion. This was a possible spot.

South of the lion on the steps of the Arts Institute people lounged with plenty of space. This was the best spot. I first sat on the first step then realized I needed to sit flat or overwork my back. So, I sat on the public sidewalk. I believe the public side walk begins beyond the first step of the Arts Institute. Question - where can you look something like that up?

I got to printing quickly. By the time the cop came to order me gone, I had already given away fifty patches. I had met a friend who was video taping the event. I was not blocking any traffic. I was giving away art patches talking about political substance yet the cop said I had to leave - to move across Michigan Avenue.

“Why?” I countered, “I’m not blocking traffic and I am giving my patches away and I am on the public sidewalk.”

The cop argued I was on private property but was unable to tell me where the private property ended and the public sidewalk began. The cop insisted I couldn’t stay there. He said the Arts Institute and the City did not want any vendors there - that I would have to move across the street.

I said I would move because I was not ready to go to jail and he took off.

I explained to those around me that my speech rights were being violated. They told me to stay where I was. “Will you protect me if I stay?” People around me nodded. Will you protect me with your video camera?” I asked my friend. He nodded. “I’ll stay!” I said.

I printed fast as possible driven by adrenaline. Within ten minutes a cop supervisor came up and offered the alternative of the first location I had scoped on just north of the lion, still next to the steps. This was a compromise that kept me accessible to the flow of foot traffic. I agreed to this “ample alternative.”

The people who were my protectors offered to help me move around the fencing protecting the lion from the public. As soon as I began printing in my new location four or five youth, paid to sell Obama t-shirts printed by the tens-of-thousands, covered me so no one could approach me. I had to rectify that with a smart “Hey sweetheart - give me a break!” The girl in front of me gave me a “sorry” and moved four feet north continuing to repeat like a broken record “11-4 is history - Obama t-shirts” I never saw the cops hassle this crew. They must have been approved from on high. I laughed to myself as the public pushed around these robo-sales persons to beg for my patches. I was printing so fast that I had no time to shoot photos of my surroundings and these t-shirt robo-sales people.

So, apparently, only those who have been approved have their speech rights. It is illegal for me to sell so I have to give my art away. They, however, sold their t-shirts without any hassle at all and no Peddler’s Licenses. Whoever put these kids on the street did not apply in advance for licenses at $165 each. So others who are approved somehow can sell and with obvious abandon without any license. We need to illustrate this amazing fact with stories and investigations to arm ourselves, to build our case to the world and to force change.


Statement of Katie Flowers - submitted by c drew

The aRts can be and often are used as an important instrument or tool that anyone can use to help defend their ‘freedom of speech,’ rights or any other one of the 5 freedoms.

Some people are aware how the aRts are used as a powerful part of ‘freedom of expression.’

Some people are aware of how the aRts can be used as a powerful communicative tool to inform, or to beautify.

Some people have realized, as in many cases of our past, how the aRts have helped change the way in which people see themselves and view the world. And perhaps this can be most scary for the rich and the wealthy whose desires may be that the rest of us remain like a stone, as an inert mass of matter.

Putting it simply, there are way too many people in the world today that take the aRts and the aRtists for granted. Many of them are users and money grubbers. These money hungry individuals and organizations don’t make opportunity for the aRts. They only take opportunity created by the aRtist's skills, knowledge talents and abilities to gain wealth and notability.

I can appreciate my experience as one of the first aRts Instructors for Chicago Freedom School Visual Arts Department. I believe I became most aware and even more enlightened on the power of the aRts as to how the aRts have always been a large component that ‘freedom fighters’ and advocates for peace and liberation used. The aRts helped them inform, educate and transform America through-out our American history, from picket signs to buttons to the informative warnings written in graffiti flair letters on posters, slacks, t-shirts, patches and blue jean jackets.

One of the biggest reasons why Simply Arty Ink Artist-for-Hire was started was with the hope and intent to help aRtists find creative ways to support him or herself. And, to hopefully help spark a fire under the aRtist to see their worth and know their value.

Before I write what I am about to write I am not putting the gallery aRtist down, nor do I dislike or loathe the gallery owner or aRtist agent. After all many of us, depending on the field of the aRts, and the aRtist dedication, we all desire to reach a peak within our artistic career where our work can generate attention.

Consider the following as being a larger component as to why more than enough aRtists receive unfair treatment, especially in our down-town ‘Loop’ areas. Knowing why may not change the way that it is, but figuring out the why may help create the needed formula of persuasion for the needed change.

The majority if not all of the aRt galleries located in Chicago’s Loop areas are owned by gallery owners who market for certain aRtists to a specific group of people or person(s). Unfortunately for many aRtists, they most need to be well known and, or recognizably marketable before they can earn a spot in one of the Loop area galleries.

What if other aRtists who are not well renowned or at the time appear to be seemingly profitable began to sale their by-products in the Loop?

What if the patrons along the block and within the community began to purchase work from those street-aRtists?

I will tell you what the argument here might be. The gallery owner will begin to feel threaten because they are there to make a profit too. You, I, and we begin to impose upon their potential profit. They may say that the street-aRtist being there on the block scares away prospective buyers. They may voice the fact that we are not paying a whopper of a fee to rent a store front where people can come to observe and purchase our work, just as they are. They may even voice the side view that they pay high-end taxes to be there.

But you see this sort of attitude shows a lack of concern for the true importance of the aRts and the true nature and value for the aRtist. The gallery owners and store front owners along various blocks located within the Loop area zones only want the aRtist that they want on their blocks and this would be the aRtists who are able to bring them money into their stores and galleries so that they can make a profit.

This is a harsh reality for some to come into focus with. That there exist way too many individuals and non-profit and for-profit aRts organizations that are not passionate about what the aRts can do in bridging cultures, building communities and expanding social awareness, fostering a persons self-esteem to name a few. These same sources use the aRtist's talent, skills and knowledge to support their own cause and fulfill their own gradualism and having not much if anything to do with promoting the earning power of the aRts and the liVing aRtist.

Not to mention what may happen on a political level if the aRtist were able to employ him or herself within any of the Loop ’s high traffic zones without actually having to pay the enormous rent fees. We have to remember that the aRtist can make his voice apparent and can speak the loudest on any issue at hand. This notion alone makes the aRtist very powerful. Who knows better how to use the aRts as a tool to inform, transform, persuade and communicate the need for eradification better than the aRtist. On that note.

I’m just about positive that the Mayor of this great city does not want the aRtist to ever feel that it is alright, and to know that it is our right to express our ‘freedom of expression’ because of our rights to ‘freedom of speech.’ Especially when and if what the aRtist may have to say does not confer or concur with his views and opinions; and may even damage his connections or his family or his own reputation.

Was the fact mentioned here that the City of Chicago is not nearly done paying for the Millennium Park and the City of Chicago has to get ready for the Olympics which is part of the reason why more parking meters have been put in place. This will help the Mayor pay off the City debts.

The bottom line is if you can not afford to obtain a vendors license to part-take in the city planned events, or just refuse to purchase one then you are looked at as part of the problem and not part of the solution. This City of Chicago runs off of money.

We have to remember that in this venture to eradicate, inform and change the way in which the aRtist rights are being infringed upon that we have be aware at all times of the powers that be who are aware of the power of the aRts and become aware of the greed. The powers that be are aware that the individual aRtist can be a sounding board all by his or herself. They are aware how the aRtist can effectively use the aRts to bring attention to a wrong. So, your opportunity to do this becomes less and less.

This is one of the most important reasons why the aRtist should educate themselves to understand the concepts of censorship. And educate themselves to understand the case law of their Federal, state, and local governments for ‘freedom of speech,’ which is just one of all Americans 5 freedoms.

One last thing as it relates to the businesses in our Chicago ‘loop’ areas. As you may or may not know that Pastor Meeks of House of Hope Church located on the far south-side of Chicago who is also a State Senator who has been fighting for our schools educational system proposed the request that no one should shop down-town between Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially those who are members of his church.

He requested this because none of the store owners will support the transformation needed to ensure the quality of our schools that are right here in Chicago . Which the boycott makes sense to me because why should we continue to support and help sustain entities that will not help eradicate needed school reform for the children who are our future? Why should anyone be expected to help anyone else who will not support and help them reach an important goal, especially one that will benefit hundreds and thousands? Where are those of selfless acts?

My experience as a Chicago street-aRtist was during 1994-1997. I will never forget when I finally made enough money to purchase a few dozens of t-shirts, hats and aprons that had the image I created of five musicians playing different instruments and at the bottom or across the images displayed the words Chicago’s Jazz Players. I exhibited it in the Art-of the T-shirt exhibit in 1996.

I was so excited to get more products because I had sold out of the very same ones at aRt fairs, and during exhibitions and I had sold over a dozen to the Harold Washington Library book store which was there at the time. So I knew the items would sale really well if we reached a broader and more diverse area to sell them in.

I had a business license already, but I got convinced to get a permit to sale these items to pedestrians during the Taste of Chicago event. So I got the permit and I was totally un-satisfied with the zoned areas that I was permitted to sale in.

It has been so long ago for me now to remember what zoned areas they were, but I can tell you that nobody, but if seldom came along those zoned blocks. So, what my brother-in-law and I decided to do was, take the merchandise Down-town with us and try to sell it on the street during the afternoon and during the Taste of Chicago event.

We had just arrived in the Loop and scouted the area before we started trying to sale the items. After some time lapsed we decided to walk a bit further down the bridge where all of the people seem to be going and standing around. We were just about to make a sell when a policeman approached us and asked if we had a permit to sale merchandise out there.

“Well, yes I do have a permit.” I knew the money that I had paid for the permit did not cover this zone, but I was hoping he would allow me to make a little change that evening; after all I was not competing with any of the vendors there. I knew this to be true because before we started trying to sale our items my brother-in-law walked around to note exactly our location and what was around us. And I had created the image. So who were we hurting? Of course you can probable see right away that I was expected to purchase a vendors license not a peddlers permit.

He asked to see the permit along with some identification. Once he confidentially looked over the information he requested to see he said “Miss I would hate to arrest you for the sale of merchandise in a zone where you are not permitted. Please take your merchandise and remove yourself from these premises.”

I remember those words like it was yesterday because he threatens to take me to jail and for what? Is it against the law to make an honest living? How can I obtain a permit to be here if one does not exist to purchase? How can I be expected to buy a vendors license when I could barely afford to by a worthless peddlers permit? I have tried every sense to change my career path as a street-Artist. However I remain committed in promoting the aRts and educating others on the value of the liVing aRtist.

It is high time for the aRtist to take a stand and stop waiting on others to make things right for them. If we do not take the initiative to teach and promote the aRts and protect the rights of the aRtist then whose responsibility is it? I will never understand how we as aRtists can expect for our talent and skills to be respected and appreciated and our products to be purchased if we do not ourselves decide to take a stand and help the advocacy.


Submitted by C. Drew for Steven White

Hello Fellow Artists,

I am an Artist working in oil paintings. I recently won a Federal Court
ruling that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Federal Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that original Artists who perform,
display and SELL their personally created fine art, such as paintings,
sculpture, photography and printed materials are entitled to the FULL
protection of the First Amendment and have a Constitutional RIGHT to public
access on traditional public forums such as public parks.

More than 2 years ago I challenged the City of Scottsdale on these matters
and received letters from the Scottsdale City Attorney's Office stating that
I can perform, display and sell my paintings in their public parks WITHOUT A
LICENSE of any kind. Oh, they said I would "likely" want to get a
Transaction privilege License...but when I explained that the license was an
Unconstitutional "Prior Restraint" on my First Amendment Rights...they
quickly backed down from that requirement as well.

Since winning my ruling in the Federal Courts; White v City of Sparks, U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Aug. 29, 2007 ...Scottsdale has sent
out another letter to Artists stating that not only can Artists sell their
self created fine art in the public parks but also recognizing that Artists
who can not afford the high entry fees have a Right to equal access to the
public that attends festival events which are held on the public's property
(because they are public events). In this letter they state that the City
will provide a free speech area for Artists, near the entrance to these
public festival events ...for free.

Another thing we are fighting is the unconstitutional use of Standardless
Jury Review Committees in determining who is worthy of participation in
these public events. The Federal Courts ruled in White v City of Reno, Nv.
that such jury practices are also Unconstitutional, when they are applied to

Here in Arizona these festival promoters and City Officials don't seem to
get the concept that such Standardless Jury Review of Artists work, in
determining who is worthy of participation in "Public Festivals", is nothing
more than Censorship...going on right here in the United States of America.

In Nevada we got Assembly Bill 351 (Arts in the Parks Bill) passed by the
Nevada State legislature in 2006. This Bill opens all public parks in Nevada
for Artists to be a part of the recreational experience of the public
parks...setting aside areas for Artists to perform, display and sell their
self created fine art. Help us to get this done here in Arizona because it
is long overdue.

I would be happy to send you copies of these letters from the Scottsdale
City Attorney's Office so that you can go out to the parks and be
Artists...without fear of governmental abuse. Gather some friends and
peacefully assemble in the public parks to engage in Freedom of Speech
through Artistic Self Expression, which is your Human Right as well as your
Constitutional Right. Create FREE alternatives to these numerous Festival
events...so that Artists can reach the public with their Artistic Self
Expression without being exploited for hundreds of dollars in participation
fees and having to submit their Art to illegal / Unconstitutional
"Censorship Committees". When Artists are forced to display next to
commercial vendors of functional / Utilitarian merchandise at these
Festivals...Artists lose their Civil Rights as they are labeled as
"commercial vendors" and as such are forced under Unconstitutional
Governmental Licensing schemes that are a "Prior Restraint" on our First
Amendment Rights.

I encourage you to go to the link below, look for White v City of Sparks,
Aug. 29th 2007 and read this important ruling by your federal courts.
or click this link below for the actual ruling
Or do a search for the "Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit" web page,
then click "opinions" and then click "opinions by date", then go to
"08/29/07 White v. City of Sparks" and click open the text and read. Print
this document and carry it with you when ever you are being an Artist before
the public. This document is an Artist's most important possession. This
document will help us give the gift of art back to our nation. Hand copies
out to every Artist you know and help us all restore Artist's Constitutional
Right here in Arizona. Help us to take back our Constitutional Right to
perform, display and sell our fine artistic self expression in our public
parks. A RIGHT that we have had for the past 232 years of American history,
upheld by the United States Supreme Court. A RIGHT that has been taken from
us for the past 24 years. Your First Amendment Right to peacefully assemble
for the purpose of engaging in freedom of speech through artistic self
expression, in the traditional public forum of a public park, is FULLY
protected by the 1st Amendment and that RIGHT is not contingent upon
Governmental License. Your RIGHT to SELL your Art is also FULLY protected
under the First Amendment...as the High Court has ruled that even when an
Artist sells his or her Art for "Profit", that is NOT A COMMERCIAL

Go be Artists in the Public Parks in your City. You have that right.