Friday, July 22, 2011

Whose Art Is It?

"untitled", George Sugarman, 1992
Hard times and economic woes continue to decimate art funding at national as well as local levels. The Pinellas County Arts Council, oldest in the state (1976), officially ceased to function this year.

Scratching for ways to make further cuts, some county governments have decided to suspend requirements that new government buildings spend 1% on public art. Hillsborough County has ended this program and Broward County is considering similar cuts.

As sad as this turn of events seems, there is a segment of the population who will applaud these decisions. For this small but vocal group, the spending of tax dollars on what they deem frivolous and even vulgar public art is a travesty and waste of money. Art funding agencies have sometimes capitulated to the demands of a few self-appointed art critics.

Of course, art is where you find it, and it would be most difficult to reach consensus on the merits of a work of art. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was derided by citizens as a piece of junk when first erected. It is now the unofficial trademark of the City of Lights. Picasso's iconic woman sculpture in Chicago faced mountains of scorn, but has since become a photo op for tourists and locals alike.

What changed in these two instances? First, city governments refused to cave in to nattering nay-sayers. They firmly believed that public art belongs to everyone, even art that some believe is provacative. Secondly, with time and open minds, more and more citizens came to, if not love, at least tolerate these public works of art.

Public art has a future in our visual landscapes, but only if it is allowed to be what it is - creative, visionary and thought provoking. Much of what I see passing as public art is actually landscape and building decoration. The public deserves to experience the full range of artistic expression of which artists are capable.

5 comments:

sandifolk said...

Denis, you are so right. They took away our Art Museum in Largo years ago, so now we have this beautiful EMPTY building that held so much education. People could come in to study different types of art, many by local independent artists like yourself. Outside scattered about were bigger than life multi media statues too. They also had several buildings behind the Museum where Art Specialists offered lessons. I took a class on silversmithing and learned so much. I was honoured to have Carol Jenrette as my teacher. The saddest thing to me is that they gave FREE classes to kids, who have little or NO art classes at schools. WHAT A GREAT LOSS THIS IS TO SOCIETY. (HA!) Largo's idea of art was that STUPID UGLY CLOCK in Central Park that showed a different time on each side...THEN they wanted to invest over a million dollars to put up a more modern one on across the street.. Now, THAT MONEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO AN ART SOCIETY OR GO TO ARTISTS,GRANTS ETC... HMMM, WONDER WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT MONEY? Sandi Jacobsmeyer "Sandifolk Creations" Largo, Florida

sandifolk said...

Denis, you are so right. They took away our Art Museum in Largo years ago, so now we have this beautiful EMPTY building that held so much education. People could come in to study different types of art, many by local independent artists like yourself. Outside scattered about were bigger than life multi media statues too. They also had several buildings behind the Museum where Art Specialists offered lessons. I took a class on silversmithing and learned so much. I was honoured to have Carol Jenrette as my teacher. The saddest thing to me is that they gave FREE classes to kids, who have little or NO art classes at schools. WHAT A GREAT LOSS THIS IS TO SOCIETY. (HA!) Largo's idea of art was that STUPID UGLY CLOCK in Central Park that showed a different time on each side...THEN they wanted to invest over a million dollars to put up a more modern one on across the street.. Now, THAT MONEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO AN ART SOCIETY OR GO TO ARTISTS,GRANTS ETC... HMMM, WONDER WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT MONEY? Sandi Ayres-Jacobsmeyer

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Denis Gaston said...

Thanks for your comments

tuegelart said...

Truth be told: The Pinellas Cultural Affairs Director was told the dept. was going to be eliminated in mid-2010, and as a goodbye present the county would grant the organization a one-time $300,000. Slim pickins, but better than nothing. The Director made two different proposals to squeak 2 lean years out of that money, which still had a portion designated for re-granting. All 3 employees agreed to work part-time and find a hole in the wall somewhere in Pinellas to make it work. Then POLITICS intervened. Three women (one a commissioner) decided they wanted to create a "new" arts council, and the Board of County Commissioners was hastily convinced that our director's budget wasn't detailed enough as their poor ecuse to overthrow. (My computer doesn't type w"_"yz anymore, the reason for ecuse)! The new group met with VERY LITTLE input from our community at large, made up the name "Creative Pinellas" and are getting the dough. As far as I know, they only have a quiet presence on Facebook -- oh! And have commissioned an artist (who sat on their task force group) with NO public call to artists to compete for the honor, to design Pinellas County's Centennial poster. From what I know, this group has no intention of providing programs for artists or grants for any art orgs. or artists. They are about marketing. In my opinion, the CVB is doing a good job of marketing the arts already. So three people lost their long-held jobs, but worse than that is the money that's out there and no one knows how it is being used -- especially our arts community. It is beyond my comprehension.