Anatomy of a 450th Commemoration exhibit

400-Journey-IconThe City of St. Augustine’s contribution to the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the 2014 Commemoration is the Journey: 450 Years of the African-American Experience exhibition and citywide Journey Passport program, according to Dana Ste. Claire, Executive Director of the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Department.

Ste. Claire told Historic City News editor Michael Gold yesterday that the exhibit, currently on display in the Visitor Information Center at the crossroads of Uptown and Downtown St Augustine, was developed by the 450th Commemoration Department in collaboration with a 14-member African-American 2014 Commemoration Advisory Council and African-American organizations.

“This is the third year that we’ve heard about the junior events leading to the main event when the 450th Commemoration wraps up next year,” Gold wrote. “I’d like to know about the details of the current exhibit — who owns it, who paid for it, and what did it cost?”

In an exchange between Assistant City Manager Tim Burchfield, Ste. Claire, and City Comptroller Mark Litzinger, Historic City News was able to pull together much of the information our readers will want to know; certainly enough to see, at least financially, how the exhibit stacks up.

First, Ste. Claire reported that the City of St Augustine is the owner of the Journey: 450 Years of the African-American Experience exhibition, unlike the highly publicized Picasso exhibit which was rented. In the case of Picasso, much of the interpretation and display elements were contributed by the City and had no residual value to the Visitor Center.

The St. Augustine City Commission appropriated funds in 2013 to create Journey, and the citywide 2014 Passport program. The St Johns County Tourist Development Council — Arts, Culture, and Heritage Funding Panel supported the program through a grant of $54,000 paid from the local option tourist development tax.

To date, Historic City News has received records indicating how close to $150,000 has been spent to acquire, build, maintain and curate the physical exhibit. A large percentage of that money, part paid by the bed tax grant and part paid from the city general funds, was used for website design, photography and video, as well as printing of collateral material used to advertise the exhibit; rather than production of the exhibit itself.

First estimated at $50,000, Ste. Claire now says the curatorial management costs, through the close of the exhibition, should be about $20,000. Those costs aren’t fully reflected in the journal entries we obtained from Mark Litzinger for this project, since Ste. Claire is including a portion of time that salaried City employees are directed to the Visitor Information Center.

A review of the City payroll records, updated at the start of each new budget year, usually sometime in November, reveals that Chayanne Sharpe, is an Associate Curator, earning $28,507.44 each year plus benefits and Nikole Alvarez, is a Curator, earning $36,091.29 each year plus benefits. There are about twenty employees, including Ste. Claire, that are working directly or indirectly with the Visitor Information Center or the 450th Commemoration, specifically, either in the gift shop, as clerks or information hosts, or providing other visitor services.

“We are working on traveling the exhibition for the second-half of 2014, possibly to Tallahassee,” Ste. Claire mentioned, looking forward. “In an effort to extend the visitor stay, there is a “Journey Passport” that is given to every visitor; connecting them to St. Augustine and St. Johns County’s African-American historic sites, markers and other venues.”

To better understand where all that money went, you can review the journal entries for the Journey account. Some notable chunks of money went to:

$2,000.00 for an opening night reception

$21,541.98 to SGS Design & Art, LLC, has no business license issued, no business phone listed,* the limited liability company of Stacey G Sather, who lists her residence address in Sebastian Harbor Villas Condo in St Augustine as her business address.

$10,000.00 to Mummy Cat Productions, LLC, has no business license issued, no business phone listed,* the limited liability company of John M. Carr, who lists his residence address in Serenity Bay at St Augustine Beach as his business address.

$25,000.00 to LifeFORMATIONS in Bowling Green, Kentucky for the lifelike animatronic figures on display at the Woolworth lunch counter

$21,870.00 to Evanson Construction, Inc. the for-profit corporation of Eric and Marilyn Evanson of Ponte Vedra Beach to purchase exhibit cases

$16,000.00 to Head High Networks, LLC, the limited liability company of Robert and Claudia Kenny with Christopher Conlon in northwest St. Johns County for production of a custom touch system.

$10,823.70 to St Johns Printing and Office Supply, Inc. located at 107 King Street, for printing

* All licenses, telephone numbers, addresses verified as of 9:00 p.m., Friday, March 7, 2014.

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