High Civic and Spiritual IdealsJune 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?”