Saturday, January 08, 2011

"Art" In Very Public Places

Recently I posted this photo to my facebook pages as an example of what can happen when committees respond to a government mandate to put "art" in public places. Pretty awful, huh?

This glorified hitching post stands about four feet tall at the corner of a medical arts (no pun intended) building in South Miami. Even as a phallic symbol it's pretty wimpy and disgusting. A dish of water at the base seems to allude to it being a fountain, but it more closely resembles some kind of monumental pet feeding station.

You only have to go a few blocks further east to find another such example. When this twenty-foot tall construction was first unveiled -- or perhaps a better word is "installed" -- it was instantly dubbed "The Giant French Fries," or, even better, "MacDonald's After The Blast."

We're told that its real name is "Patience," though there is no explanation of why. Oddly enough the name acquired additional meaning when the, um, sculpture was lost and we had to wait a long time to get it back.

How could we lose something so large, you ask? Simple. Just remove it temporarily (hold that thought) while the ground it was on got razed in preparation for building a low-income housing project. Unfortunately, the contractor involved pocketed most of the money he was supposed to get while going no further than scraping the dirt and putting a chain link fence around it. By the time he'd been prosecuted, the whole idea of putting low-income housing on the site had been abandoned. (Obviously it was way too expensive!)

The earth turned and revolved about the sun, the years passed, and those crumpled Golden Arches became no more than a fond memory. Are you still holding that thought? Then where would YOU put a ton of steel "temporarily?" Give up? So did everyone else who worked for the county.

One day an inspector doing an inventory of the county's art collection discovered the piece had been lost. Then it was miraculously found in a scrap yard, identified as "rusting pieces of metal." To make up for this embarrassment the county took down the fence around the weed-grown construction site, covered it with grass, and placed the prodigal artwork, now decked out with a new coat of yellow paint, on a concrete and gravel pad. This part cost us only $40,000 -- surely a bargain.

Oh, and the place is now called a park. "Patience Park," of course.

Renaissance Florence had the Medici and Leonardo, but we've got Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places and the Professional Advisory Committee to insure that 1.5% of the construction cost of our public buildings goes to acquire, well ... art. Enjoy!

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