The private press conference

Thanks to a reader tip (and the N&O) I found out about this "press conference" about the ban on Bruce Thomas dancing at Weaver Street Market.



Short version: WSM establishes the 'Live on the Lawn' program in which artists, including Bruce, are invited to APPLY for 1-hour performance slots.

I wonder if this will apply to hoopers, drum cricles, etc?

Slots are on the@

by the way, I was told this meeting was "closed to the public" but ther are 2 elected officials: Dan Coleman and Ellie Kinnaird.

Ellie and I have asked what problem this is intended to solve. Nathan refused to directly answer.

Were you allowed in as a citizen journalist Ruby?

Go Ruby! Live blogging Queen!

Reporters are asking very good questions, but not getting very credible anwsers (in my opinion).

Will, I made the case that I am the media. And that I wasn't leaving. ;-)

BTW, I'm writing from my phone. pardon typos, etc.

Reporters are asking about the difference between Bruce and hoopers. asking if patrons or WSM members want this policy. no answers.

more questions: how will it be enforced, is it compatible with community values, what are they doing to actual address problems at Carr Mill.

and the conference is over.

I speculated this morning that holding the PR at Panzanella (a WSM-joint) instead of the lawn was an effort to limit public participation. I didn't think they'd restrict all public participation. From a PR point of view, I think it's going to harm Carr Mill's position.

And the idea of "privately licensing" performers looks to be a non-starter. I wonder if they'll keep the application process "private" ;-)

It's their property - they're free to make new rules - even if those rules will damage their renters business.

Once again, an excellent cautionary tale vis-a-vis Chapel Hill's RAM redevelopment deal. Before we cede control of the public's land to RAM, we better have an excellent understanding and a fully worked out agreement on what restrictions will be placed on what was formerly open access spaces.

Wow! That was quick. Sounds like the afternoon meal at Panzanella was neither appetizing or filling.

I have only one question: when are we holding the first dance-in on the lawn?

Oh, and when are the owners and/or board or WSM going to take some leadership on this issue?

FYI: "Live on the Lawn" applications are not yet available... Available tomorrow from the in-store customer service desk.

Dan, what's your take on the press conference? As per Ruby's report, this is sounding more and more like a well a logistical and PR disaster for both Carr Mill and WSM...

Live on the Lawn? Sounds like WSM and Carr Mill are taking a stand on homelessness in our community and are offering shelter, right there, on the lawn. Awesome!

oh wait. that's long i "live," huh? too bad...

Here is a copy of the press release.


Nathan Milian, Carr Mill Mall Manager 942-8669
Ruffin Slater, Weaver Street Market General Manager 913-1592

Carr Mill Mall Adds Performances to Lawn

Carrboro NC (August 22, 2006) The community has long enjoyed the lawn in front of Weaver Street Market as a gathering place for Weaver Street Market events and Carrboro events such as the 4th of July Parade. Now Carr Mill Mall is adding another element to the list of lawn offerings: hourly slots where musicians, dancers, jugglers, and magicians can showcase their talents before a live audience. Carr Mill Mall manager Nathan Milian said the program, called "Live on the Lawn," would serve as an outlet for artists wishing to share their work with the general public, free of charge to both the artist and the public. "We recognize the community's desire for places of artistic expression," said Milian, "and we are pleased that Carr Mill can provide such a place."

Weaver Street Market and Carr Mill Mall worked together to design the program. "The program provides another way for the community to benefit from the lawn," said Weaver Street Market general manager Ruffin Slater. "In addition to Weaver Street's regular Thursday night and Sunday morning events, this program creates more opportunities for music and performance events," Slater said.

Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton applauded Carr Mill's use of the lawn for events. "The lawn is the center of our downtown," said Chilton, "and this program indicates Carr Mill's commitment to use the lawn for the good of the community."

Weaver Street Market will coordinate the program on behalf of Carr Mill Mall. Performers will apply at Weaver Street, and the Market will schedule the performances with the approval of Carr Mill. Performances will be scheduled on weekday evenings and weekends to respect the needs of the office tenants above Weaver Street Market. There will be a limit of one performance per week per artist or group.

The lawn in front of Weaver Street Market is part of the common area owned by Carr Mill Mall. Milian manages Carr Mill on behalf of the owners. "Carr Mill owners are very community minded." Milian said, "we have worked hard to develop a program that satisfies the needs of everyone to the best of our ability."

Milian said that Bruce Thomas, who he had previously asked not to dance on the lawn, would be welcome to apply to perform as part of the "Live on the Lawn" program.


We've now got three threads related to this. Maybe we can move all the discussion to this or another one?

And please be assured that CHICLE was not one of the Weaver Street tenants that complained!

Hourly slots, "a limit of one performance per week per artist or group" , :with the approval of Carr Mill" altruistically "free of charge to both the artist and the public."

So completely generous. A few more observations. on today's PR.

Mark, care to chime in on this? It sounds like Nathan talked this over with you in advance.

I was hoping for a compromise (which this is). This program does not fundamentally address the underlying disagreement (which in my view is about the nature of Bruce's dancing), but it does grant some measure of public access to the Carr Mill Mall lawn (which is private property). Some people feel that I overstepped my role by being involved at all, but all I really did was ask Carr Mill Mall to reconsider their policy (which they did). If Carr Mill Mall were my property, I would handle it differently, but it is not.

Since I don't see any problem with Bruce dancing (or hoopers hooping, or durmmer drumming, etc.) unobstrusively, I just don't get the need for a "compromise."

I understand it's private property, but most of Carr Mill's current value derives from the fact that the greater Carrboro area views their lawn as a public space which fosters community connections and cultural growth. I can't get why the owners want to stifle the activity that makes their property so valuable.

Who the hell are the owners of Carr Mill anyway?

The owners of Carr Mill are perfectly within their rights to decide what is and what is not allowed on their property. And the patrons of the Carr Mill businesses are perfectly within their rights to choose to not patronize businesses that do not support, even indirectly, community values/activities.

I am not a strong proponent of economic boycotts because the parties most injured are often not the ones centrist to the problem being targeted but it seems to me that this situation might be approaching the point where economics might be the only language understood by the owners. It certainly seems that the owners, whoever they are, have done very little to explain their position on this matter.

This does not augur well, in my view.

I saw a guy doing Tai Chi on the lawn the other morning. Is that art? Is it really art we are talking about, or is it more about people having fun? Hey, you: STOP HAVING FUN! Probably this is what is at the root of this ban: people who are not really having fun don't want others to have any, either.
(Pop psychology? Perhaps!)

It seems to me that this issue is one crying out for application of common sense. If nobody is getting hurt, somebody quietly expressing themselves, or just having fun quietly, not impeding anybody else, seems really to be no big deal.

In the absense of application of common sense, then let's get going and plan some alternatives!

Is it not time to inaugurate a committee to consider the parameters for developing a new Carrboro Commons? If turns out that WSM and the lawn survive in an appropriate form, then it won't necessarily hurt to have two such Commons areas. If WSM and the lawn do not survive, then there would be an alternative. It will take years to actually develop an alternative, so it seems important to get started, and perhaps stop if common sense prevails.

I just saw the NBC 17 TV report on the dancing ban and it was quite good. They interviewed Bruce and shared his story. They also had a clip of Ruffin Slater talking about noise and parking problems at the press conference. The interviewer mentioned that the activities at WSM were destroying the lawn and turning it into a sand pit. (?)

They also interviewed a Carrboro resident who was upset about the dancing ban. They said it was destroying the entire spirt of the WS lawn.

Tell me... what does noise, parking, and landscape problems have to do with Bruce and dancing? Aren't these problems caused by a successful business that has outgrown its space?

I was most impressed by Bruce's love for Carrboro and his magnanimous attitude about the whole affair.

In the English language, "compromise" is not synonymous with "edict." Whatever deal-making took place before today's announcement, we'll never know.

All that's been accomplished, apart from a lot of hurt feelings, is business as usual. We could have done better than that as so-called owners of WSM.

"It certainly seems that the owners, whoever they are, have done very little to explain their position on this matter." - GeorgeC

Absolutely. The PR event today was a perfect opportunity to explain what appears to be inexplicable - What triggered the policy change? Who decided the new policy? Was the "historical" role of the lawn in the Carrboro community factored into the changes? The mall management could've provided answers to these simple questions. Instead it was a rapid trip to "spinsville".

I was at WSM this evening. Seems like more than a few folks (many clutching the news release) were upset. Three fellow co-op members expressed a new determination to fight Carr Mill's management through the WSM co-op process. One echoed a theme I've heard a few times - that race played a role in the policy change. Unfortunately, the "compromise", at least this evening, at least for some, appears to have hardened hearts instead of clearing the air.

So I might encourage the town to think carefully about its relationship with Carr Mill Mall, especially in regards to the 4th of July. I'm totally ignorant of the history of the scheduling of 4th of July activities, but it strikes me that as it worked this year, the scheduling was a tacit endorsement from the town of Carr Mill Mall. Perhaps the town could consider scaling back this formal relationship with Carr Mill?

I think the worst part to all this is that it just seems so mean-spirited. Legal, sure, within their rights, sure, but really sucky.

Where's the love, people? Why so pugnacious? Where's the spirit of Bruce in all this? Does anybody care that Bruce has asked for compassion and love towards those very people you are so determined to demonize? Nathan Milian is a decent man, and one of many who have worked hard and long to build something special in this town. So, for heaven's sake, is Ruffin Slater. The "edict", if you want to call it that, is a step forward for which Bruce has already expressed gratitude. So should we. It will not be the final word. The lawn is a gift. The community we have built there is a gift. We are privileged, blessed in this precious resource. Let's be grateful, with Bruce, and not seek to destroy what we love with antagonism, mistrust and vilification. Not do start the 4th of July parade there? Ever heard of cutting off your nose to spite your face?

I'm going to have to part company with Mark on this one. I don't see this as a compromise at all. I don't see it as responsive to the concern that spontaneous, expressive activity might be allowed on the Carr Mill lawn.

The so-called compromise is entirely about scheduling additional time for "performances." Bruce and the person doing tai chi today are not performers. Nor is Vivian Spiral when she brings hoops for many to share.

I do agree with Mark when he "applauded Carr Mill's use of the lawn for events" and also WSM's taking more responsibility for coordinating events/performances.

Brian's comment is very much on the mark: "Tell me… what does noise, parking, and landscape problems have to do with Bruce and dancing?"

As Mark points out, Carr Mill is well within its rights but asserting one's rights is not always synonymous with demonstrating wisdom.

Then there's the big picture. Our society is motivated increasingly by fear and the desire for control. Many see Carrboro as expressing a countervailing tendency that values joy and spontaneity. Those are tough to schedule two weeks in advance.

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