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Art process was the problem
I want to clarify that the reason I resigned from the Oak Harbor Arts Commission was not to protest the city council’s decisions on art selections for Pioneer Way (though I am very disappointed in that outcome), but because I have become impatient with the process and the pace of selections of public art.
The Arts Commission was formed in March of 2006 and during the past five years we have had the privilege of obtaining only one piece of art for Oak Harbor. When we were informed of our opportunity to select four sculptures for the Pioneer Way Improvement Project, we looked forward to finding the perfect pieces and were excited to be doing what the Arts Commission is intended to do.
Due to a series of setbacks and to the decisions made by the city council, the number of sculptures to be funded for Pioneer Way was cut by half. The two pieces selected were not even in the top three pieces recommended by the Arts Commission. That was bad enough, but now it appears that the mayor wants to “add historical perspective” to the Arts Commission because of the discovery of Native American bones under Pioneer Way.
In an ideal world art and politics do not and should not mix. Public art should not be held hostage by the need for the city to pay off a political debt. “Ars Gratia Artis” (art for arts sake) should be the guiding philosophy. Decisions about public art for Pioneer Way should be made based on creating an attractive and vibrant downtown, a place that will attract tourists and shoppers to view and interact with superior quality artwork.
We cannot and should not rely on government to fulfill our every need. If we want our community to reflect the artistic talent and sophistication that exists here, we as citizens have to step forward to make it happen. Because I have become somewhat disillusioned with the process of obtaining public art for Oak Harbor, I intend to find another avenue of promoting the arts here.
I have the utmost respect for my Arts Commission colleagues and the city staff who support them, and I wish them well in their next phase of projects. My advice for the city is to “use them or lose them.”