The fallout from the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival cancellation continues

When news broke last week that the 2012 West Oak Lane Jazz & Arts Festival had been canceled, state Rep. Dwight Evans, who had championed the event in its eight previous years, reacted publicly via Twitter.

“[T]hanks neighbors, vendors, musicians, workers & volunteers for creating jobs and making music in WOL for 8 yrs. Stay tuned for the next act,” his Tweet read on Tuesday.

It was a succinct reaction to big news, and according to his spokesperson, that’s all Evans would have to say publicly about it.

“The tweet he sent out will serve as his final comment on that,” said spokeswoman Kim Turner.

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Not exactly, it turned out.

A day after the news broke, Evans sent out a link, via Twitter, to NewsWorks’ interview with Ogontz Avenue Revelopment Corp. President and CEO Jack Kitchen.

Kitchen comes to Evans’ defense

On Monday, the legislator whose district covers West Oak Lane and more Tweeted, “Why are newspaper retractions buried inside and incorrect info makes front page?”

That was in reference to a correction that appeared on in reference to print coverage of the cancellation.

The correction read, “A story and headline Wednesday incorrectly suggested that the State of Pennsylvania rejected an application to fund the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival in 2012. The festival organizer, Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp., did not apply for state funding for 2012.”

Though Evans isn’t commenting beyond Twitter, the OARC’s Kitchen is.

He sent NewsWorks a 900-word response (PDF) related to that correction Monday morning. It’s heavy on criticism of coverage that noted state funding for the event had dried up.

He discussed many of the same topics in the Q&A he did with NewsWorks , but it delved into the assertion that Evans was unable to secure funding for the event this year.

“Each festival takes approximately 14 months to plan out. This year, we did not have a single planning meeting for 2012,” Kitchen wrote. “Instead, our time was spent talking about whether or not we had attained our goals within West Oak Lane. The overwhelming answer was that we had. We were now at the point that we could successfully transform West Oak Lane into a year around draw.

“It is true that I spoke about going to federal and state sources for grants, but it was important to keep all lanes open until we had completely thought out our plans. … Without these latest inaccuracies and misstatements about the state there would have been no way to drag Representative Evans into the mix for another attempted bashing. It is absolutely astounding that crafted misstatements can be published with little or no regard to how they may affect a company such as OARC.”

Other reactions

When told a story was being written about Evans’ reaction, Kitchen questioned why it wasn’t a wider story with reaction from more people than Evans; that was already planned.

Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass declined comment.

Mayor Michael Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald noted that a “Philadelphia Jazz Coalition was formed last year, April is Jazz Month” and that Chief Cultural Officer Gary Steuer and the Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy is “actively planning for a culturally rich city future.” That seemingly meshes with OARC’s stated plan to have year-round events in West Oak Lane.

“While the Festival had a good eight-year run, nothing is forever,” McDonald said. “But, jazz is very much alive in the city and region. There’s a lot of ferment and thinking about new festivals and events.”

Steuer echoed McDonald’s sentiments in saying that there are a wide array of events currently being planned for next month, specifically to commemorate “Jazz Appreciation Day” on April 13.

The broad, 60-member coalition is focused on “elevating the recognition and health of the jazz scene in a city with a storied [jazz] legacy,” said Steuer.

“Anytime there’s a loss of an opportunity for music audience [to hear jazz], it’s a negative,” he said of the West Oak Lane festival’s cancellation. “On the other hand, the Woodmere Art Museum is starting a new jazz [offering], a couple young musicians are starting the Center City Jazz Festival, the couple who used to run the Cape May County Jazz Festival are looking to do something here as well.

“The way I see these sorts of things is with the restaurant analogy. Le Bec Fin closed. New restaurants may open and last one year, 20 years. But, people still eat. It’s a cycle. That’s what happened here. People will still be able to hear jazz.”

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