That All Sounds Like a Lot of Fuss

September 20, 2011 at 1:40pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I love so-called “public art”. The frequently larger-than-life, typically eye-catching, and often just a bit odd sculptures scattered around town help create memories and build a mental sense of place. Pioneers Park, for example, includes the iconic “Smoke Signal”, not to mention the bison and elk sculptures; Sunken Gardens has “Rebecca at the Well”; and UNL has “Torn Notebook”.

It was with some excitement that I dove into this article describing a proposal to help coordinate efforts to bring more public art to Lincoln and to maintain the art that’s here. Unfortunately it all sounds so complicated. There’s a committee to buy art. There’s a committee to approve art. There’s indirect City Council involvement. There’s mayoral involvement. It all feels so ... well, un-artsy.

I’m not sure how you make the process simpler. Public art is so often controversial, and frequently unnecessarily so. People freak out about the silliest things. But freak out they do, and their panic often drags processes to a halt. I wish I had some answers to remove much of the red tape from this proposal while still appeasing the panickers.

As an aside, what is “public art”? Isn’t nearly all art “public”? Is public art merely art that is outside? Is it art on public grounds? I realized I’ve often used the phrase “public art” to mean “big outdoor sculptures”, but surely “public art” should encompass more than that. So what is it? Or flip that question around: what isn’t it?

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