Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Art Commission to Grapple with Peace Mosaic

The Public Art Commission meets tomorrow the 8th and they'll be grappling with the problem of the Peace Mosaic.

The story has been a little slow to develop. You might remember a brief note here in May, and then a longer note at Salem Weekly.

The SJ picked it up right at the end of July. And the story now seems to have traction. Two opinion pieces followed quickly.

News story, July 29th

Editorial, August 1st

Opinion, August 5th
There was a significant breakdown at the City, alas. From the Commission's minutes last month:
Commissioners also discussed whether or how to encourage the YMCA to take some responsibility in the protection and relocation of the mural and sought clarification of the City's legal standing. Staff reminded the group that the easement for the work, requiring seven years of maintenance on the part of the property owner, was never recorded.[italics added]
Just in general, as we do with infrastructure, we have a problem with the total life cycle of a project. We budget for the initial capital expense, but we never factor in maintenance!

The scale of course is much smaller, thousands of dollars rather than millions, but the general problem is the same. We don't budget for ongoing maintenance and eventual replacement, for anything more than the initial installation.

The Mattingly mural needs another round. (And some notes on the last round.) From the minutes again:
Commissioner Cotter Howell shared with the group the Friends of Ma ttingly Mural’s interest in conducting some additional clean up on the Mattingly Mural. The group has $5,000 remaining from the last effort and is working with Dan Cohen to get an evaluation of restoration need for the work. Due to the damage to the lower masonry wall, the historic process supersedes art restoration. Staff will reach out to learn more about the historic process and next steps.
And there is the Acid Ball Eco-Earth, a large and very expensive project which has been deferred because of the urgency of the YMCA mural.

For new art, on the Bottle Bill commemoration, it looks like they've picked out an artist. Back in May "Lillian Pitt, Mikkel Hilde, Saralyn Hilde" was one of the finalists, and
Commissioner Hernandez provided the group with an update on the recent Pitt/Hilde team site visit for the Bottle Bill commemorative work. The artist team next plans to bring a full size cardboard mockup of the work to the site to select the best location for the work’s display.
Given the way the citizenry seems to be attached to the Peace Mosaic, maybe the Commission should consider engaging the public earlier in the design and selection process for new commissions. The Commission seems to envision a curatorial role for themselves, but it might be that something more collaborative would yield greater public affection for, and investment in, the art.

The placement of statuary in the street corner art wells downtown seems to be paused now:
The plan to install more pedestals has been placed on hold, pending further art acquisition. As the streetscape plan moves forward, there will be more discussion about incorporating art into the streetscape.
This is a good move. The pedestal program has not yielded very interesting results, and it would be good to reconsider it.

"Receptacle" is swamped by the busy facade
(maybe in the morning it would look better, back in October)
The Cube on State and Liberty, Receptacle on Chemeketa and Liberty, and the Setziol on Trade and Liberty are all just plopped down in these voids on the sidewalks that don't seem very well matched to the pieces. If you don't already have a connection to the art, don't already know about it, the pieces don't invite you into any kind of relation -  contemplative, whimsical, or anything else.

Waldo Stewards on the elevator shaft of the Chemeketa Parkade might be "critter art," as is the Peace Mosaic, but at least they make that invitation, and kids are able to enter into a relation with the art.

Public art should not always be stand-offish, and the pedestal program suffers from that.

(At the same time, we should not get carried away about art as a destination. A supporter of the Peace Mosaic "spoke to the interactive and inviting nature of the mural as one of the reasons people come to visit Salem." Are people really coming to Salem just for that?)

The Public Art Commission meets Wednesday the 8th at 9:30am in the Anderson Room at the Library.

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I second everything you have said.

I got into a discussion with the architect for the new Police building about the interaction of the public and the design. We ended up discussing the public art to be included in the project. I echoed some of your same thoughts only to find that in his opinion I was pedestrian and uneducated....not his words, but his meaning...because I wanted art that people could relate to. I suggested that there were many fine examples of art that attracted people in Portland and other cities that were beloved because people to identify what it was and interact with it. Examples were the man with the umbrella, the little girl in Time Square, even the bull. But apparently I am not schooled in what art is supposed to be. I think though that my point of view is more common and when we are talking about spending public funds I think the public should be respected for what it likes.

And yes, if a city has good art people do come there to see it....Europe is full of such artwork.....as are some of our great cities!

The Arts Commission is not representing Salem citizens and I am not in favor of having them tell me what I should like because they are more 'educated; than I. Pooh!