Thirty-two hours. That’s how long it took, from the unveiling of the new piece of public art by Steve Knutson at the crossroad of Broadway and Main to the first complaint I heard about it. In a weird way, I’m happy to hear chatter about the work from the general public, even if it’s negative. Art in the public sphere – whether funded by taxpayer dollars, private entities or some combination – necessarily delights some and irritates others. I think that’s great, because it creates conversation and exchanges of ideas.
For the record, this is not The Arts Partnership’s project. TAP did help get the word out about the Request for Proposals and I served on the selection committee, but this is not a TAP project.
I’m not irritated that people are telling me they are hearing grumbles about the art (that’s fine – people can like or dislike it) or the process (less fine – it was a public and fair process). As an advocate for and communicator about the arts, I feel that every time someone talks about art, it helps shift the conversation to a better understanding of the role art can and does play in our community.
So I don’t take issue with the back-and-forth conversation about the merits of the artwork. But as an advocate for the arts throughout the Metro, I do take issue with the complainers.
Where were you during the process?
For those of you who didn’t hear about this opportunity, I say follow The Arts Partnership on social media, sign up for our weekly newsletters, read our blog, get engaged with us. We communicate about these kinds of opportunities all the time.
To those of you who heard about it and didn’t apply, where was your proposal for a “more sophisticated piece of art” or the image that “better represents the community than another Bison?”
Do you feel that you shouldn’t have been asked to submit a response to an RFP? How would that have been “public and fair?”
Did you call the Park District and ask to be part of the process? Did you offer your services as an advisor or a panelist?
Given the extraordinary number of talented artists we have in this community, I was staggered by how many didn’t reply to an opportunity such as this. Not only was it an opportunity for great exposure, it was actually a paid gig. The Park District extended the deadline hoping to garner more interest in the proposal process, to give everyone ample time to submit something. If you didn’t, that’s on you.
I’ve heard that some artists were upset about the panel that chose the art. You are right, I was the only “arts” person on the panel, so you certainly can be upset about that. I didn’t beg to be on that panel; I was asked, and I said yes.
Let’s take this to a larger level: how many of you artists have participated with the Fargo Arts and Culture Commission or the Moorhead Arts and Culture Commission as they are working through Public Art Master Plans and other strategic plans? How many of you have applied to be appointed to those Commissions? How many of you have submitted ideas or attended meetings or contributed your thoughts on how to ensure that we are thinking more strategically about growing our public arts programs and collections?
I don’t care that there are people who don’t like Steve’s Bison.
I do care that we live in a community full of talented artists who are largely not engaging in the hard work that is being done around the advancement of the arts. You do understand that there are just a few of us doing the heavy lifting while you sit and complain about how much isn’t being done or how simplistic what is being done is, right?
Stop being part of the problem and figure out how to be part of the solution.