HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- The Harlem Fine Arts Show is the largest traveling African arts show in the country, making stops in Chicago, D.C., Martha's Vineyard and right here in Harlem, showcasing the work of struggling and up-and-coming artists.
But as the show marked its 10th anniversary, a growing list of former workers who participated in the show are steaming mad after saying they were paid with rubber checks.
7 On Your Side went on a two-month odyssey to get two viewers who came to us paid. "Our group is out at least $50,000!" said PR agent Fred Yaeger of Yaeger Public Relations.
He brought Angela Palmer to the WABC-TV offices. Palmer is based in D.C. and it's the first time she and Yeager ever met - but they share a similar futile frustration.
"I was floored, I couldn't believe it!" said Angela. Both are out thousands after working the Harlem Fine Arts Show. They say they're owed by Dion Clarke, who has run the show for years.
Last spring Angela's company - Boutiqae - constructed the show's exhibit space in the nation's capital.
The full contract was for nearly $40,000. The final payment was due last June. Nearly a year later, she's still out more than $10,000.
Last winter, Yeager, a long-time public relations agent, did publicity for the New York show. But a year after that show, Fred is out $1,000.
Angela and Fred say they only have excuses, exasperating emails and a stack of six rubber checks that wouldn't clear. "He's taken advantage of small businesses around the country," said Fred.
Angela said she didn't just get told a myriad of excuses, she got four rubber checks, and when she confronted Clarke about not paying her full contract?
"He said well, the money that's outstanding that bounced was just pure profit, you charged me too much for the contract," she said incredulously.
"He just doesn't have the money to pay. He's getting some money in now," said Alex Eisemann, an attorney working for Clarke pro-bono.
He admits his client allowed art from the shows to go AWOL. Two paintings by local artist John Adams were lost for months.
Adams' art representative Soraya Sheppard runs a non-profit called Color Me Africa representing African Art. She says she kept getting delivery promises, then Clarke went MIA.
"I don't think he intended to blow her off. I think at that point he didn't have them," said Eisemann. "He didn't know where they were and instead of searching for them, he just gave her the tracking numbers."
He says both paintings were now located and will be returned. The attorney also made sure Angela Palmer was paid the bulk of her contract.
"I've been fighting for 10 months to get my money from the Harlem Fine Art Show, this would have never happened without Nina and hard work of 7 On Your Side!" said Angela
And Fred Yeager got his balance just days after we got involved. "7 On Your Side was outstanding, we are really so appreciative of the work that you did - we cannot thank you enough," said the Westchester-based PR man.
Clarke's lawyer says funds will be available to pay Angela her balance - about $2,000 by the end of this week.
The lawyer told us Clarke isn't a cheat and didn't have financial problems until a couple years ago. But a rep for Dion Clarke said he still owes nearly a dozen vendors tens of thousands of dollars.
Update: 3/18 Clarke paid Angela Palmer's remaining $2,000 balance, but still hasn't returned 2 missing paintings.
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