Composer nabbed, piano saved

What started as a Day of Music turned into a bizarre confrontation. New music composer/performer Mark Taylor-Canfield, an outspoken critic of the city's policies regarding the arts, was escorted off the stage at Benaroya Hall on September 19 and arrested for trespassing.

Taylor-Canfield had originally been included in a slate of performers presented by the Washington Composers Forum to play at Benaroya Hall's first birthday celebration. However, he was dropped from the program (and the organization) after an email report was distributed claiming he planned to damage the hall's piano as a symbolic protest against Mayor Paul Schell's neglect of the arts.

Good luck on getting the real story. Taylor-Canfield has wisely declined to be speak on the record, instead submitting a series of emails outlining the incident. One post was missing from the set—the one in which the artist discussed his planned piano demolition. Provided by Washington Composers Forum president and director Christopher Shainin, the email message is presented as a hyperbolic news story written by Kerry Allen of the Northwest Music News Network. The email address is Allen's (whom Shainin describes as Taylor-Canfield's girlfriend), and the format is similar to another piece of hers provided by Taylor-Canfield. But she isn't talking either.

Shainin says that when he confronted Taylor-Canfield about the email (and a second post, in which the composer confirmed that he planned "to cause some damage to an instrument during the performance"), he couldn't get a straight answer (big surprise). "It became clear at that point we didn't know what he was planning on doing, so we really had no choice but to expel him from the organization," he says.

Taylor-Canfield showed up for the performance as an audience member and was shadowed by a pair of off-duty cops working as security. At one point, he walked onto the stage and was dragged off. Did he issue any grand statements about censorship and the arts? "He was yelling something, but I couldn't tell what he was saying," says Shainin.

At this point, nobody's happy. Taylor-Canfield is naturally concerned about facing criminal charges. Some in the arts community are displeased with the Washington Composers Forum board for its actions against Taylor-Canfield, a longtime supporter of the nonprofit organization. The Seattle Symphony management is also in the doghouse for its heavy-handed attempts to pressure another performer into turning over a video tape of the incident.

The only thing proven thus far is that artists have a fondness for wild statements and a somewhat tenuous relationship with reality. Benaroya Hall officials have already expressed their disinterest in filing charges. Here's hoping the prosecuting attorneys just chalk the whole thing up to artistic temperament.

Direct mail warriors

With voters facing three close races for three open City Council seats, some observers are crediting the Civic Foundation for keeping things tight. The three-year-old political watchdog group did a massive targeted mailing promoting its two "outstanding" candidates—Dawn Mason and Charlie Chong.

Naturally, foundation director Brian Livingston has analyzed the numbers. "I think that we can show that we lifted the turnout about 4,400 votes in Seattle," he says. In precincts targeted by the organization, the average voter turnout was almost 7 percent higher than elsewhere. In an election with a puny 23 percent turnout, that's significant.

One sign less

There's no truth to the rumor that the Washington Conservation Voters deserted King County Council candidate Brian Derdowski in his hour of need, says Maryanne Tagney Jones, WCV board member and well-heeled environmental donor. Jones denies reports that her group's members dropped election day sign-waving duties because Derdowski had voted to put a controversial charter amendment on the November ballot. The 10-year council veteran lost his primary race to Dave Irons by about 2,000 votes.

"There was one person, actually, on election day who was upset about that vote," she says. "And that one person didn't do it, but they had been out waving signs the days before." A reasonable explanation, although Jones neglected to disclose the identity of the surly sign-waver. A day later, she revealed all to another Seattle Weekly writer—the absent campaigner was Jones herself.

Levy? What levy?

Thank goodness for campaign disclosure laws, otherwise the existence of a campaign backing the city's $72 million Seattle Center/community centers levy might be dismissed as idle gossip.

According to reports filed with the city in early September, The Yes on Proposition 1 committee was already $12,606 in the red. The biggest donor to date is the Seattle Center Foundation, which lends the campaign office space and lets them use the fax machine now and then. The campaign's major expenditures include $2,454 for yard signs and a $8,000 debt to campaign consultant Blair Butterworth. (Blair's probable advice: "Go out and raise some more money.") On the bright side, the campaign has raised almost ten grand since then, more than half through Jack Benaroya's $5,000 donation. At least the campaign seems to be correctly hyping the community center part of the ballot issue, not the $38 million going to the costly rehab of the Seattle Center Opera House.

This is not the best of times to be pushing a levy on a limited budget—the three council open seats are soaking up the little available free media coverage and ballot space has to be shared with 14 hard-to-understand city charter amendments. What's more, state Initiative 695 is expected to draw a crowd of rabid anti-taxers to the polls, most of whom are unlikely to cast a vote for both cheap car tabs and higher property taxes. Where are all those rich opera-goers when you need 'em?

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