To the citizens of the City of Warren and surrounding communities, we offer our sincere apology.
A year ago, the Crary Art Gallery erected a sign near the entrance to the Gallery's building. The sign worked. Opinions vary, but the majority of comments that we received regarding the sign were overwhelmingly positive. We also had more visitors and a number of visitors credited the sign for alerting them to the existence of the Gallery.
The Gallery is a non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers. We have no paid employees. As a result, the "sign project" took almost two years from the inception of the idea to the erection of the sign in August, 2013. Unfortunately, we goofed. Our board members designed the sign and we engaged a professional to fabricate and install the sign. At some point, the idea of a permit should have come up but we failed to get a permit prior to installing the sign. Also, in 2011, the City of Warren adopted a sign ordinance and the Crary sign exceeded the size limitation set forth in the sign ordinance. There are some explanations for what happened, but we don't wish to sound like we are making excuses.
After we became aware of the problem, we asked the City through the zoning board for a variance that would make our sign legal. In other words, we asked for permission after-the-fact. The Gallery did not intentionally set out to break the law and ask for permission and forgiveness after the fact. The Gallery made a mistake; one it regrets, but the bell cannot be un-rung. The zoning board reluctantly disapproved the Gallery's request.
After conferring with the City Manager and the City Solicitor, the Gallery filed a permit application for approval of a slightly modified sign that would meet the requirements of a marquee sign under the sign ordinance. The Gallery did not take this action in a vacuum. The possibility of a marquee sign was originally raised during a meeting with City officials. The Gallery discussed and conferred with the City Manager and the City Solicitor from the outset about its plan to pursue the approval of a marquee sign. The Gallery also removed its existing sign pending the outcome of obtaining the City's authorization for its marquee sign. As recounted in this newspaper, the Gallery's marquee sign permit application did not meet with the City Council's approval. Disturbingly, it became apparent from the treatment that it received from the City Council that the City Council and perhaps local citizens were angry with the Gallery for its past behavior, to the point that both the Mayor and the City Manager accused the Gallery of being disingenuous. A citizen unrelated to the Gallery even wrote to this paper about the tone and hostility of the Council in response to the Gallery's application. That same citizen, asking the same question at a City Council meeting, was shouted down by the Mayor based upon the Mayor's stated belief that the Gallery had never made it right after putting up its sign without permission.
The Gallery deeply regrets that its sign has become a local controversy. With this letter, the Gallery offers its sincere apologies to the Mayor, the City Council and the citizens of Warren for failing to get a permit before it erected a sign.
That being said it is time to move on. We cannot force anyone to accept our apology and we cannot do anything further to convince remaining skeptics of the sincerity of our apology. But what we can do is move beyond this controversy.
Someday, the Gallery will have a sign. At the moment, we cannot tell you the size, shape, color or content of that sign. Maybe it will be the marquee sign proposed to the City Council; maybe it will be something completely and utterly different. But we can tell you that the Gallery will approach its new sign as a matter completely disconnected from its prior sign and the Gallery will stop focusing on apologizing and will focus instead on moving on.
You see the Gallery is an entity that exists solely to improve the lives of people. The Gallery doesn't make money, it doesn't create a tangible product and it doesn't feed or clothe anyone. The Gallery exists to benefit those who take advantage of its offerings. And whether you believe that the Gallery provides entertainment or education or culture, we don't mind. We just want you to visit. Admission to the Gallery is free today, it will be free tomorrow and we stand ready to take you on a journey that we hope will inspire you and excite you and that will in some manner expand your world.
Come visit us. Stay as long as you like (or until we close the doors and say goodnight). Come volunteer to assist us in the Gallery's mission. But don't come expecting an apology because we are moving on to bigger and better things.