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A Rembrandt to polish Lathrop’s image & rescue its economy?

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POSTED February 23, 2009 4:12 a.m.
An original Rembrandt on display at City Hall in Lathrop?
That could very well be the case under the right conditions.
Lathrop entrepreneur and one-time council and school board candidate J. “Chaka” Santos alluded to one of those conditions at the last council meeting.
“I have access to some art but don’t know about the kind of security” that would be available for such a valuable piece if it went on display at City Hall, Santos told the council last week.
His comment came on the heels of some statements made during the citizens’ forum portion of the meeting regarding, first, a recent story that ran in The Record which some city leaders and town folks perceived as downright negative publicity about their beloved Lathrop, followed by the more upbeat report presented by Tony Martin on behalf of the newly formed Lathrop Arts Committee.
“It’s time for our city to be recognized. We need something to enhance our city,” Santos said about his offer to help secure an original Rembrandt to hang at City Hall.
He didn’t specify where he thought the priceless art work would best be displayed, whether in the Joyce Gatto Art Gallery on the north end of the building or in the council chambers on the opposite side which is off the main entrance to the city offices.
Mayor Kristy Sayles said she’d “love to have a Rembrandt on display in our city.” I think she’d find an enormous amount of support in that regard. Imagine how much publicity and attention such an event would generate in the county, state, and even throughout the United States or the whole world if that were to become a reality.
After all, the famous Dutch painter and etcher, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669) is considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in the annals of art history, not just in his native country but throughout all of Europe and the world even.
A Rembrandt would definitely make small-town Lathrop the talk of the global art village and put the city on the global map.
One could expect a parade of people - noted artists, art lovers and would-be artists - eager to come face to face with an original Rembrandt. With that kind of magnet for a potential big crowd, maybe the city could consider setting an admission fee with the proceeds to help defray expenses related to the exhibit such as the security concerns mentioned by Santos.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who would consider the experience of seeing in person a piece of work by one of the world’s art titans a truly rare treat. And I wouldn’t even have to drive to San Francisco or take the BART for such a treat, which is what I did when I went there to see a Monet exhibit and a Picasso exposition. What an inspiration such an exhibit at City Hall would be to young and promising artists in the area, too.
Instead of criticizing the negative publicity that the city received from a newspaper article, Chaka chose to make lemonade out of a lemon situation. Bringing an original Rembrandt work to the city was his answer to some city leaders’ and concerned residents’ dilemma on how to generate positive publicity for his hometown, how they could make the most of their under-used art gallery, and at the same time enhance public awareness to the city’s growing art collection by local artists. At the council meeting, Tony Martin gave an update on what the Lathrop Arts Committee, headed by Joyce Gatto herself, has discussed so far during their last two meetings. Martin reported that the gallery may be there but it’s hardly getting any visitors at all. To turn that around, and to make the best out of one of the city’s potential major attractions, the committee has been brainstorming for ways to create a vibrant art community in Lathrop, Martin said. It was that comment which prompted Santos to make the Rembrandt suggestion.
Maybe having such a masterpiece on display at City Hall, however brief that may be if it can be arranged, is just the stimulus that the city needs to jumpstart its lagging economy. Its positive ripple effect would most certainly continue to benefit the city even long after the show is over.

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