Every community shows its true nature through its commitment to art in public spaces. Whether one defines art as a fountain in the park or that abstract form located in front of City Hall, the role of art in public space, if nothing else, engenders conversation ( at the very least) and feedback. Back in April Tim Woodward jumped into the fray around the issue of public art with his provocative op-ed titled “Enough public art fiasco’s, thanks!” Mr. Woodward pointed out two pieces specifically, “Northwest Passages” and “River Sculpture”. Woodward noted that both pieces had created significant public outcry and called into question the mental health of the people who selected these pieces of “art”. That article generated significant response – both good and bad. Woodward noted that …in a perverse way, the reaction was flattering as he had never received such intense responses -pro and con- to one of his op-eds.
So what exactly is the point of my article? I think it comes down to why we have public art in the first place. Boise has well over 100 public pieces of art, some as small as a postcard and barely visible, other like “River Sculpture” large and seen by myriad of people as they traverse downtown Boise on a daily basis. What ties all this together is the commitment by our community to filling space with things that challenge, amuse, and sometimes amaze.
I used to live in Denver, Colorado and I still remember my first trip to the Denver International Airport. What an amazing space committed to public art. Murals, inset tiles, cactus gardens, light and sound tunnels, they were all represented in a variety of settings throughout that mammoth venue. While I can honestly say that not every piece worked for me – when you take it in its totality – it works.
In Boise – it works! I have walked up and down many of the streets and venues that Mr. Woodward talked about. I have seen many of the art installations that make up the artistic vision of this community. While I can certainly state emphatically that I don’t always “get” what a piece is saying and I don’t always find inspiration in its presentation – what I do feel is a sense of pride that we live in a community that values the personal inspiration it takes to create.
So whether you call it “River Sculpture” or the “Steaming Crack” lets maintain our commitment to art in public spaces. Let us continue to value what art brings to a community – a healthy respect for diversity and discourse. After all – it is in the eye of the beholder!