Rest safely citizens of Clearwater. No longer must you tolerate wicked or satanic art in your fair city. Your City Council, atop white steeds of moral indignation, has ridden to the rescue.
Several years ago, Clearwater, like hundreds of cites across the country, formed a Public Art Project. One of the Project’s goals would be placement of outstanding artworks throughout the city - in city buildings as well as select commercial settings.
Longtime city employee, teacher and artist Margo Walbolt headed up the Project until her recent retirement. Under Margo’s excellent guidance, and with the assistance of an arts committee, many wonderful examples of art began to grace the city. Clearwater’s mayor and City Council applauded. Everyone was happy.
Last year the Downtown Development Board (The City) and the Clearwater Downtown Partnership (local businesses) began placing temporary sculptures in the median of Cleveland Street. These public art pieces went through a rigorous selection process by a panel of experts and are fine examples of art created by national artists.
One piece titled Sorcerer’s Gate soon brought an outcry of protest from some in the community. The title and part of the piece they interpreted as a tail were found objectionable on religious grounds. The sculpture was called “wicked” and “a message from hell.”
The Clearwater City Council caved under the complaints. It has now changed a city law ensuring that they, the Council, have final approval over public art. In so doing, the City Council has compromised the Public Art Project and decided they know more about art than their own art committee experts.
The Council has acceded to the beliefs of a small and vocal part of the community, and denied Clearwater’s citizens and visitors the opportunity to experience a wide variety of art.
This is unfortunate in the short-term, but creativity springs eternal and public art will continue to enrich our lives for years to come. Municipal governments, on the other hand, come and go.