Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dictators and Public Art

Between Sandy and the election, does anyone need a laugh, as Ricky Gervais would say?

I've been much too humble here (of course) to mention my dedicated and extensive public service to the City of Manhattan. But a couple years ago, my friend the mayor Jim nominated me for the city's newly created Arts and Humanities Board. A ha! A chance to determine where Manhattan's massive arts budget goes, and perhaps the chance to help create new artistic programs for the public good (visions of Charlottesville's Art in Place program danced in my head). The reality, of course, is that this body was created almost solely to break a procedural deadlock over what statue should go up in the middle of the city's new and heavily trafficked roundabout -- that is, go on top of the existing base that has sat uncompleted since the money ran out.

Roundabout.phatch

Our advisory commitee has no budget, and the Tea Party-controlled city commission is unlikely to do anything except chip in a very small amount if we can privately raise lots of money to pay for something. Somehow I'm pretty sure they aren't open to pushing the artistic envelope, either.

But fear not. After 18 months spent drafting bylaws and setting up rules for a competition (imagine how much simpler it must be for a dictator to get a statue of himself up on a public square ...), the entries have rolled in. And to my mind the winner is clear! Clich├ęd statues of heroic pioneers? Hah, we are much too sophisticated for that around here. I give you, in the spirit of Claes Oldenburg (the Minneapolis Cherry anyone?), the brilliant proposal that will most assuredly get my vote:


Only two problems. We don't actually have a real bakery in town, and we don't grow wheat in the Flint Hills. Stay tuned for results. Excessively procedural democracy to the rescue!

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