UPDATE (6:15 p.m.): A response posted by Le Mondo chief of operations Frederick Gerriets said the arts incubator will add “Le” to the signage of its Howard Street building and stop using Baltimore and Bmore in social media and branding posts.
“Furthermore, we will avoid using simply ‘Mondo’ to describe the organization and consistently require that any partners do the same,” Gerriets wrote.
Mondo Baltimore posted that it is “skeptically optimistic based on the events of the past year as we wait to see these changes take effect.”
“But, at the end of the day,” the post continued, “we hope to see the Baltimore Arts community evolve into a vibrant, fun, safe place for performers and patrons – one that is collaborative & mutually supportive.”
As Baltimore Fishbowl noted earlier today, it appears Le Mondo has already made some of the changes on its social media accounts. Gerriets told Baltimore Fishbowl in an interview that the Facebook page is currently down as changes are being made.
He also said plans to add the L and E to the building’s front have already been submitted to a designer, and that Le Mondo is working fast to make the change as it nears the opening of the space.
“I understand their concern about it and want to work through it as quickly as possible,” he said.
It would not be possible to do a full name change at this point, however. Gerriets said he hopes the different focuses of the respective groups will allow them to continue to work with similar monikers.
But eliminating any overlaps and confusion was something they wanted to make right.
“We wanted to make sure that we were able to draw that distinction,” he said. “And we saw it as our responsibility to do so.”
Below is the full text of the story we published on the naming dispute this afternoon:
On Monday, Mondo Baltimore, the monthly film series specializing in B-movie and straight-to-video fare, released a video asking fans to contact the Howard Street arts incubator Le Mondo about changing its name.
Beyond the obvious similarity of their names, members of Mondo Baltimore pull up pictures showing the well-financed artist-owned space dropped the “Le” in its signage and on some social media accounts, and affixed Baltimore at the end of its name in some cases.
According to Le Mondo’s website, the first building, now in its final phases, is simply called Mondo.
Befitting of a group screening “horrible and bizarre cult films,” the video message includes usages of sad trombone and “boing” sound effects, a scroll of text that says “Yep, this is real” and a snazzy font with the words “The Real” placed on Mondo Baltimore’s VHS tape logo.
The #realmondobaltimore needs your help! Write to Le Mondo and tell them why using a name that’s this similar to ours is a bad idea! They’ve named their venue “Mondo,” put up a big sign, and stuck $1.2 Million in the bank, yet we’re being told that “nothing can be done.” pic.twitter.com/IkhNNpZjRn
— MondoBaltimore (@MondoBaltimore) September 24, 2018
But the effort is indeed a serious one. In the video, Mondo Baltimore organizers said people have asked them questions about the allegations of sexual misconduct tied to Le Mondo.
“We’re being asked by our fans and friends if we have an association with these people who have a sordid past,” Mondo Baltimore board member Shawn Jones told Baltimore Fishbowl in an interview. “It’s frustrating for us.”
Most importantly, said Jones, some members and supporters of Mondo Baltimore were directly affected by the management at Le Mondo. This campaign is also to make sure they’re heard.
“We’re also sensitive to the fact people were legitimately hurt by people who worked with this organization in the past,” he said.
Le Mondo has not responded to email or voicemail messages seeking comment.
In December 2017, the Baltimore Beat reported Le Mondo had parted ways with former executive director Ric Royer after the group’s board had been presented with allegations of Royer’s abusive behavior.
Allegations about Royer first surfaced online in the spring of that year, the Beat reported. The Baltimore Arts Accountability Coalition contacted Le Mondo in June 2017, and met with the organization a month later along with women who provided testimony.
Though one of Le Mondo’s co-founders, Carly Bales, initially told the Beat the allegations involved “emotional abuse and manipulation, not sexual assault,” Cynthia Blake Sanders, a lawyer with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts who assisted one of the women who submitted allegations, told the paper the “women described experiences that ranged from sexual harassment with emotional manipulation to sexual assault.”
The Sun later reported on allegations of sexual assault and threats of physical violence.
As part of a restorative justice process, Royer was given “provisional employment” at Le Mondo’s real estate company, Howard Street Incubator, LLC, after his resignation, the Beat reported. The termination months later came as a result of Royer contacting “someone he was specifically barred from contacting,” Le Mondo said at the time.
Jones told Baltimore Fishbowl the film group, in operation for nearly a decade, reached out to Le Mondo about the name concerns a year ago. It was not acknowledged until yesterday, after The Sun published a story about the dispute. It also appears Le Mondo’s Facebook page was taken down, and that its Instagram account has been changed to “Le Mondo.”
As The Sun‘s article pointed out, Mondo Baltimore has a common law trademark for the name. According to an article in a small business portal on The Houston Chronicle‘s website, “As long as the mark does not copy any other mark that is already in use, the owner’s rights attach automatically, without him having to do anything other than use it.”
Jones said Mondo Baltimore is hoping the organizations can find some common ground but characterized his group as being “optimistic but skeptical at the same time.”
While the best-case scenario would be for Le Mondo to make a complete name change, Jones said re-adding the “Le” and not adding “Baltimore” after the name would at least prevent some confusion.
And he realizes there’s a lot more at stake than the name, stressing the importance of a safe arts community.
“We have to check our privilege about our standing in it, but it’s what we can do,” he said.