Peninsular Thinking

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High Civic and Spiritual Ideals

June 15th, 2010 by Steven Gardner

“During the 20th century the United States emerged as the richest, most powerful nation in history. And yet the quality of its civic art — its community planning, institutional architecture, and public monuments — deteriorated to the point of catastrophe. Such a coincidence of unrivaled political and economic might with profound cultural dysfunction is unprecedented. At the dawn of a new century, the public is largely unaware that architects, sculptors, painters, and craftsmen can still play a vital role in the perpetuation of civilization through the creation of monumental works that symbolize our highest civic and spiritual ideals.” — From the “About Us” page on the National Civic Art Society web site.

We had a brief discussion here on the fish and fisherman statues, which as I write are in the process of installation at Fourth Street and Pacific Avenue in downtown Bremerton.

It may seem a stretch to suggest that someone would get on a boat specifically to come see them, perhaps. Some do that from here to Seattle to see the sculpture park, but that is a whole park. Even then, I am not sure I ever met anyone who did it. I do not hang around with an artsy crowd, other than my wife and children.

Is it possible, though, a single piece of art might add to the collective personality of a city, enough to add to whatever it is that influences one to make a visit. Have you ever gone to Seattle, simply because it is Seattle? You may have nothing more planned than a walk around town, with nothing in mind. And yet you know there could be something of worth that you will stumble upon, be it unique architecture, streetscapes or people. It might be art that you stumble upon and accidentally enjoy. Without something unique as a possibility, you may as well go to Ikea.

Bremerton spent a lot of tax money on things for which the value cannot be quantified. There are fountains, imported greenery, a tunnel, refurbished old buildings, offices, condos and art. Along with those there are private projects in Kitsap Credit Union’s headquarters, Tim Ryan’s building, the potential for Ron Sher to do something special, two new hotels, more condos and the work downtown building owners have done to make their buildings look nice.

Do the fish and fisherman add something of value to downtown? On their own, without everything else, they might certainly be a ridiculous starting point for a conversation about a new Bremerton. In the context of everything else, are they worth $250,000?

If you do not want to see them with your own eyes before weighing in, you will have plenty of company in the comments after the stories that will appear. What I would really be interested in seeing here, is your experience after you see them with your own eyes. Tell me, do you think they are “monumental works that symbolize our highest civic and spiritual ideals?”

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5 Responses to “High Civic and Spiritual Ideals”

  1. Jane Rebelowski Says:

    Saw it with my own eyes, the National Civic Art Society I doubt would agree that art designed by an ad agency several states away, given the thumbs down by our local Arts Commission, is the way to go.

    Have you ever connected fly fishing with Bremerton, ever? I am sick of everything military as represented by most of Sexton’s art choices but damn, the ten foot high pink flamingo off the alley behind Star of the Sea church says more about Bremerton. Why does the ego of Mr. Sexton, who lives on Fox Island have more standing than people who live in Bremerton & pay his salary?

    The question isn’t public art yes or no, the question is why are over payed outsiders such as Sexton & Spencer deciding on what the taxpayers spend our money on. Is it so terrible to say we don’t have a great idea, send the money back?

  2. Dianne Gardner Says:

    I haven’t seen the statues but when I heard that Bremerton had a company from Colorado do them I was appalled! There are so many really good artists here and I know a few sculptors that would have loved to have built something of this calibar for Bremerton and for a lot less too. Shame on you Bremerton for not supporting your talented residents!

  3. Al Hansen Says:

    Mr. Gardner, The wife and I took the time to drive downtown to tatke a look at the new statues. Short and simple, we think they are great. To those that feel they do not fit the area, I’m not sure that the intent of art is to fit into specific box. We already have an extensive memorial to the Navy on the Boardwalk and within the new downtown park. Time to move on to other forms of art and this is a great start.

  4. Lea Says:

    I saw these yesterday and all I could say was, “Really? Really.”

    We should have sent the money back. Obviously we did not have a good idea on what to spend this money on, and thinking in haste lead us to choose something of poor quality.

    I like quirky stuff. I think supporting art and artists is a great idea. I was against us putting up these statues because I found it frivolous. But, since the board decided to go ahead, I had high hopes, especially since there supposedly wasn’t anybody local who could do something of this caliber.

    Well, maybe I need to look a little harder. What I saw yesterday were glorified cardboard cutouts. And I still ask, “Really? $250,000 for that?? Really??” I hope the board acknowledges the mistake they’ve made and take this as a learning experience.

    On another note; maybe people will come to see these statues. Maybe word of the expensive cardboard cutouts will get out. Maybe people will say, “They can’t be that bad, nobody local could DO what they wanted.” Maybe the controversy is what board counted on.

  5. JL Says:

    My reaction was an abject horrified cringe mixed with incredulous disbelief. And now that I know the price tag, I am apalled and filled with scorn for whatever cute overload guzzling, taste impaired nitwits thought this was a good idea. I wince with shame every time I go past that stupid fisherman. Basically, I walk on the other side of the street and make a point not to look at it so I won’t get into a bad mood.

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