Ewegen Errs on Dildo Example
by Ari Armstrong, September 20, 2005
Bob Ewegen is the deputy editorial page editor of The Denver Post, the newspaper that on numerous occasions has repeated the false claim that the state faces a $400 million budget cut next year. The reality is that, according to Legislative Council, state spending will already increase next year and every year for the next five years. For more on this, see my articles Myth of the $400 Million Cut and The Budget Battle. You can also see page 2 of the blue book (even though some text within the blue book is somewhat misleading).
Ewegen erroneously described a state grant involving the work "12 Dildos on Hooks" in his September 17 column.* Ewegen incorrectly states, "...Tsehai Johnson did indeed make the dildo display and submitted it with other works to the Colorado Council on the Arts in 2003 along with an application for a $5,000 fellowship. But the state agency turned her down."
Apparently, Ewegen doesn't always read his own newspaper. On July 21, The Denver Post ran a story by Paula Woodward (of 9News) and Nicole Vap titled, "State-funded sex-toy art upsets governor." Woodward wrote a similar story for 9News. Woodward and Vap write for Ewegen's newspaper, "The artist, Tsehai Johnson of Denver, received the fellowship from the Colorado Council on the Arts in 2003. The work, originally titled 'Twelve Dildos on Hooks' and completed in 2000, was one of several pieces submitted to the CCOA by Johnson when she was applying for the fellowship grant. Johnson changed the title of the piece to 'Large Implements on Hooks' before officially submitting the work to the council."
The fact that the grant was awarded to Johnson based partly on her ceramic dildos is not a subject of debate. The only matter that is controversial is Jon Caldara's description of the grant. Caldara has, on occasion, insuccinctly summarized the example in a way that may have suggested that ownership of the dildos transferred from the artist to the state. (The Denver Post's headline might be similarly misinterpreted.) In fact, the grant was awarded partly on the basis of the dildos, but that grant did not impact ownership of the dildos. The spending is wasteful and inappropriate, regardless.
My recent paper, Wasteful Spending by Colorado Government, explains the example of the dildos with perfect accuracy. Apparently Ewegen didn't read my paper before commenting about it.
Unfortunately, so far the media have largely ignored other sections of the paper (though a number of examples cite previous media reports). I've tried to interest several journalists in the information about corporate welfare, but so far no media outlet that I know of has detailed this matter. At least one reporter may be conducting research on the matter of corporate welfare; if so, I look forward to reading those reports.
The example of the dildos takes up half a page out of a 24-page document. Ewegen claims the dildo example is the "most publicized example of state waste." But whose fault is that? The fact that many reporters and columnists are more interested in gossip and sex than in thorough investigative reporting about state spending is hardly the fault of Caldara or me. The grant to Johnson is an important example of wasteful spending, but there are many more (and more pricey) examples that the media have to date mostly ignored.
Those interested in the original documentation of the art grant can access the 2003 report of the Colorado Council on the Arts from this web page.
Following are screen saves showing the dildos on the state-funded web page and on another page. The image of the CCA web page is a composite of two screen saves, because the entire page wouldn't fit on my screen at once.
* October 10 Update: Due to a typographical error, the date of Ewegen's column was originally listed incorrectly as September 19. I apologize for and regret the error. Errors about errors about errors are altogether too much! --Ari Armstrong