Mayor Wants Exclusive Rights : Arts Festival Organizers Fight Private Promoters

San Diego County Arts Editor

Organizers of the upcoming Soviet Arts Festival are seeking to block two independent promoters from bringing Russian performers--a rock group and the Red Army Choir--to appear in San Diego at the same time as the festival.

At Monday's board meeting of San Diego Festivals Inc., Mayor Maureen O'Connor, who is president of the board, discouraged promoter Scott Pederson's plans to independently present a series of rock concerts during the festival.

"We've raised $6 million for a nonprofit festival," the mayor said. "We can't present every group that wants to be involved with the festival."

O'Connor also defended the festival's agreement with the Soviet Ministry of Culture, which, according to festival organizers, gives them exclusive rights to Soviet presentations in San Diego from Oct. 21 to Nov. 11.

"My point is that it's easy for a profit group to come in after we've spent all this money on promoting the festival," she said. "I've got to protect the nonprofit, educational aspect of this festival.

Not 'Good Business Sense'

"Why would we put up this kind of money without some kind of protection? That just wouldn't be good business sense."

The fate of Pederson's efforts may rest with another local, independent producer, Don Hughes, who has a contract to present the Red Army Choir on Nov. 8-9, also independent of and during the festival. The Red Army Choir is touring the country in the fall, and last week Hughes received an encouraging message from Gosconcert, an arm of the Ministry of Culture.

"We received a telex last week from the Gosconcert vice director confirming the Red Army Choir would appear," said Hughes' attorney, Robert Besser. Ron Johnson, attorney for the city and legal adviser for the festival, "said he hadn't received it, so I sent him a copy. My understanding was that the city was requesting the Soviets to make a determination, and I took this as a response from Russia. As far as I'm concerned, that should end it. There shouldn't be any more questions."

After the board meeting, O'Connor said the festival does not consider Hughes' position to be any more favorable than Pederson's.

"The same thing applies, as far as I'm concerned," she said.

Traveled to Russia

Pederson attended Tuesday's board meeting to present his case, saying his concerts would benefit a number of local nonprofit organizations. Pederson traveled to Russia in April and signed an agreement with Gosconcert to present Russian rockers Vladimir Kuzmin and Dinamik. Before his trip, Pederson met with festival artistic coordinator Bruce Joseph. According to Pederson, Joseph said nothing to dissuade him and even provided Pederson with contacts in the Soviet Union.

Upon his return, Pederson's attempts to contact Joseph were unsuccessful. A letter to the festival official also went unanswered. In late July, Pederson received a message from Gosconcert, instructing him to cancel the concerts because of "contractual obligations with the festival organizing committee."

Pederson told the festival board he simply wants to expand the scope of the festival's offerings, which focus on the fine arts.

"I'm not a not-for-profit venture, but there isn't a rock promoter in San Diego who is," Pederson told the board. "I stand to lose money because of the delay."

O'Connor cut Pederson off, saying the portion of the meeting reserved for public comment "isn't for a debate."

"It's most unfortunate your phone calls were not returned, but me and (festival Executive Director) Bruce Herring are the official designers of the program." She referred Pederson to City Manager and board Vice President John Lockwood.

Pederson said that, after the meeting, Lockwood told him "it would take three of the four people on that board to vote on something, and he saw it highly unlikely that three members would overrule the mayor."

"I'm not going to give up," Pederson said. "I don't feel I'm the only person in San Diego who wants to see Russian rock 'n' roll here."

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