Would Neon Colored Ashtrays Have Been Acceptable?
In case you missed it, at yesterday’s Public Works Committee meeting a previously contracted public art project was halted, because some of our Alderman didn’t find the art to their liking. The art in question would consist of five kiosks attached to light poles that would contain old fashion flip machines displaying uniquely Milwaukee scenes. Maybe some would prefer a serious of neon colored ashtrays or a bunch of automobile parts lining the pedestrian walkway. I don’t know, but that really isn’t the point. The point is, public art is supposed to add some interest or intrigue to a street, sidewalk, park, or public place that helps create a novel experience and encourages more people to utilize the space which in turn creates a better city. It’s unfortunate, no it’s shameful, that a few Milwaukee Alderman have halted yet another improvement to our city and find art “ridiculous” because clearly they aren’t seeing the forest through all of their smoke.
I am no art critic, this isn’t an art blog, so I couldn’t tell you if Janet Zweig‘s work is a master work or not, but again that’s just not the point. For example, I love the Calatrava wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum, arguably a piece of art in its own right, but there are certainly detractors in the architectural world that think it is more a monument to ego than anything particularly timeless. And there are others who thought the Bronze Fonz was the end of all art in Milwaukee, but again to each their own. What matters, is that it is time for Milwaukee to recognize that we have to value, we have to be open to, we have to be tolerant of, creativity, if we ever want Milwaukee to move forward.
It seems that anytime art is brought up in Milwaukee it is immediately tarred as “a waste of money,” or “ridiculous” whereas in cities like Portland and Seattle public art moves ahead with creating a vibrant urban environment, that in turn helps grow their city. To be clear, no one small public art project is going to attract thousand of new visitors or residents to Milwaukee, but by creating a vibrant and unique environment, that is open to creativity, we can eventually grow our city. So the question really is which way does Milwaukee want to go?
For me, I hope it is to move forward.