Tuesday, November 28, 2023

In Support of Local Public Art Projects

Every time I run or drive by the The Pike, a public art installation located on the West end of Columbia Pike in Arlington, I have the same couple of thoughts.

First, I love it. The sculpture consists of a wind turbine wing standing on its end, with 4,000 plus coins embedded in its base. You can read the artist's explanation of the symbolism here. From my perspective, the wind turbine component is a clever nod to innovation. Wind power is 7,000 year old tech that we continue to strive to improve. The coins, donated by Arlington residents, come from 117 countries and every continent minus Antarctica. They capture the quintessentially diverse nature of Columbia Pike, my neighborhood.

The second thought that quickly follows the first is, what a thankless job it must be creating public art. If the comments on arlnow are any indication, the majority of my neighbors are far less impressed with this creation. Here are some comments from the post announcing the project:

Apparently the Arlington County Government Committee of Drunken Sailors has met and come up with another waste of our taxes.

So a discarded wind tribune/blade, that an "artist" self proclaims is "art" will be stood up on end and cost the good people of Arlington how much?

In all honesty, that is horrendous. Just very ugly. Putting aside the cost.

To celebrate the Pike.....
The single blade is part of a wind turbine project that was started and never completed. Thus the blade represents Columbia Pike, as the "failed project" artwork represents the streetcar project.

I like it! It’s says, “ Welcome to Columbia Pike! We’re the stabbiest part of Arlington!”*

This is dumb, ugly, and not even a sculpture. Failure on every level.

People in Arlington Mill don't want this horrible postmodernist garbage to come into our neighborhood and symbolize the gentrification and how college-educated (sub)urbanites think we're so "cool," this is our worst nightmare. I hate my neighborhood already, but you're gonna make me hate it for more than one reason, hopefully a gang of unemployed teenagers with some common decency will find a way to destroy this piece of blasphemy. Get out of my neighborhood, and take your farmers' market, your foul sculpture and your multiple masters' degrees with you.

The trip we took to New York City last year did a fine job of tuning my perspective on public art projects. Specifically, it was the time spent on Liberty Island and learning about the Statue of Liberty that made me appreciate just how significant a public art project can be. In short, if you want to help poor immigrants erecting a massive statue seems like a counter productive move. And yet, Lady Liberty has helped cast a mindset that has done amazing good. I'm not suggesting The Pike is our Statue of Liberty, but for those with even a modicum curiosity The Pike has an important story to tell.

Lest you think criticizing public art projects is anything new, here's a snippet from the October 10th, 1886 edition of the New York Dispatch. The author manages to slam both the Statue of Liberty and President Grover Cleveland in one go. Arlnow commentors have nothing on this writer.

It occurs to us that the selection of President Cleveland to deliver the dedicatory address is very appropriate. Like the Bartholdi statue, he owes his prominence to the position he occupies. Like the Bartholdi statue, he is hollow, and large and thinly plated. Like the Bartholdi statue, he can stand around and do nothing. It has cost a great deal of bother, worry and trouble to squeeze out of the American people enough money to put the Bartholdi statue in position upon its pedestal, and everybody will be glad to have it dedicated and done with.... If it bad been advertised as a monument of President Cleveland’s incapacity, the money would have come in more easily.

*OK, that one is pretty good. 

No comments:

Post a Comment