Letter: An apology to First Selectman Herbst

To the Editor:

I feel I must publicly apologize to our First Selectman on behalf of the entire town over the fallout from “Great Minds-Gate.” In retrospect, the title of the exhibit is notably ironic given that it took Tim Herbst, a great mind in his own right (brilliant, in fact, according to Jack Testani) and his unorthodox leadership style to make me see the real value of art and, more importantly, the people of this town. For that, I am ever thankful.

You see, if Mr. Herbst hadn’t ordered the town librarian to take down painting that some found offensive to the memory of the late Mother Teresa, I would never had known it was in the library in the first place. If he hadn’t then relied on a specious (the ACLU’s words, not mine) legal opinion to justify the painting’s removal based on concerns over allegations of copyright infringement, I never would have looked further into the issue (me being a lawyer and all). If he hadn’t publicly chastised the town librarian, I would not have felt badly for her and taken the initiative to educate myself on the powers and duties of the Library Board and how, in my opinion, the First Selectman may have overstepped his authority in ordering that the painting be taken down. If, following realization that the copyright claim had no legs he hadn’t then gone on to incredibly state, “there was no written agreement and no insurance certificate required. Herein lies the problem. With artwork valued at 300k you should have both,” (a valid concern except for the conspicuous fact that only one of some 30 potentially infringing and uninsured pieces was removed), I would not have had my fire stoked enough to seek to discuss my concerns with my Trumbull neighbors on social media.

This is where Mr. Herbst’s true genius shines through. By getting me to this point, I connected with a man in town who was among those who found the piece with Mother Teresa to be offensive. And you know what happened? We had a discussion. An actual dialogue in fact. Can you believe it? He said his piece and I said mine. We listened. We were respectful to each other. We spoke to each other instead of at each other, as sadly seems to be the prevailing practice among folks who disagree. It was the type of interaction that we need more of in this town.

It also proved the value and necessity of art and the open, honest public discourse that must necessarily follow. The painting was the genesis of our discussion, an interaction that likely would not have happened if the painting were permanently removed from public view. And you know what? We both made it through to the other side unscathed. Mother Teresa’s legacy remains secure and I came away educated on a point of view I had not considered. That, I am told, is what’s called “learning.”

So, thank you, Mr. Herbst. I did not fully understand the methods of your madness during the journey, but the destination to which you led me was totally worth the trip. Maybe Jack Testani is right.

Jason Marsh