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Dispute over School 33 ends


City officials have reached a settlement with the Friends of School 33 that will allow the embattled arts center to remain open at its present South Baltimore location until 2006 and continue to spend funds raised by its present board.

The agreement brings to an end a four-month struggle between the gallery's non-governing advisory board and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts, which oversees the city-owned facility. The argument centered on control of $200,000, which had been raised by the board for the gallery.

The settlement calls for the Friends of School 33 to give $160,000 to the city, including an initial lump sum payment of $22,500 and quarterly payments of $12,500 each through October 2006.

In addition, it stipulates that the gallery will remain at its present location at 1427 Light St. at least through 2006 and that the city will provide the Friends with regular reports on how the payments are spent. The city also agreed to allow the Friends to use the remaining $40,000 to cover legal and other expenses in exchange for dropping the words "School 33" from its name.

The dispute came to a head in November, when the city sued the Friends to recover the $200,000. The Friends had refused to turn over the money without assurances the funds would be spent on School 33's behalf.

Yesterday, both sides expressed satisfaction with the agreement.

"We think it's a really good agreement," said Carol Morgan, chair of Friends of School 33. "The important thing to us was that [the gallery] stay where it is and the money be used for education, studios and exhibitions. This agreement assures the gallery's continued existence and location."

Bill Gilmore, director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, said he was also pleased with the settlement. "We were far apart for a long time. [The agreement] basically allows us to continue the School 33 programs and mission for the next three years by quarterly payments from the Friends," he said.

The relationship between the city and the gallery's board soured last August, when the office of promotion tapped Jan Angevine, a former office manager for state and federal officeholders, to lead School 33 after the resignation of longtime director Peter Dubeau.

At the time, some board members complained that Angevine had little arts experience and had been selected without their knowledge or input. They also charged the city had treated them as obstacles in efforts to support the gallery.

In November, the board threatened to reconstitute itself under a different name in order to retain control over funds it had raised. The city responded by filing suit.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Friends of School 33 must give up its present name so the city can organize a new board of directors for the gallery. Gilmore said he would serve as chairman of the reconstituted board.

The old board will continue to operate as an independent arts advocacy group, probably under the name Friends of Arts in Baltimore, Morgan said.

"The board was just an excellent group who really stuck it out to the end because of their commitment to School 33," said Morgan. "That board will continue to exist and re-examine its mission, and we'll continue to support the arts in Baltimore."

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