Change of art - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Change of art

As 13 new pieces are installed downtown, debate continues on whether city dollars should help fund decorations

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Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2012 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - At 8 a.m. Friday, Ganesha will come down.

The five-foot statue of the Hindu God, who earned some criticism for its apparently un-American and un-Christian ways, will leave its spot on the corner of Sixth Street and Sherman Avenue and head to an art studio in Spokane.

It its place will be a 7-foot statue called "Art and Soul."

It's a creation by local artist Jason Sanchez, and one could describe the futuristic machine as something that stepped out of a Terminator movie.

"We got some unusual ones," said Joseph Sharnetsky, Arts Commission member, on this incoming crop of artistic creations - which he described as "more abstract, more colorful and more unusual" than the current fleet. "It's a little different than last year."

The program is called ArtCurrents and Sharnetsky introduced the idea to Coeur d'Alene last year.

It displays art pieces, which are for sale, on public property for one year before they're switched out. If they sell, the city recoups some of the cost since it covered the cost to put the pieces up.

While only one piece sold in the inaugural year, organizers are calling the freshman campaign a success. The program cost around $30,000 to implement last year, of which the city recouped little money back. This year, with the mounts on which the pieces will stand already in place, it should cost half that to bring in the new pieces. The one statue that did sell, however, was donated to the city to be displayed permanently.

Headlines and sales

While the pieces weren't selling like hotcakes, they did make headlines.

Genesha drew protests, which earned it media attention all the way to India.

The blue heron statue, the one piece that was donated to the city, was stolen, then returned to its perch after the theft was publicized.

"Personally, I think all publicity is good," Sharnetsky said. "It created conversation and discussions and we got a lot of people visiting town. ... I think it was a success. The second goal is obviously to sell some more."

The new wave of 13 pieces will be installed over the next two weeks, kicking off a busy summer for public art. Joining ArtCurrents will be $100,000 worth in pieces at the Coeur d'Alene Wastewater Treatment Plant and inside the education corridor. Signal boxes will be turned into canvasses for creative designs as well. Those pieces will be permanent. And including ArtCurrents, around 20 new displays will be put up by fall - one of the biggest additions since the city identified public art as a priority over the last decade.

"I think we've been very progressive," said Steve Anthony, city liaison on the arts commission.

Art's history, future

In 1999, Coeur d'Alene was the first Idaho city to adopt a percent-for-art ordinance. The ordinance dedicates 1 percent of city capital projects to public art. It's not a fee attached to private developments, only city projects, such as the recent wastewater treatment expansion.

Since then, other cities, including Boise, have adopted similar ordinances.

But not everyone is thrilled how the program is funded - that is, using public money for decorative art.

In addition to city's money, the arts commission receives a lump sum every year from Lake City Development Corp., the city's urban renewal agency. The agency, which allocates property tax dollars for economic development, gave around $100,000 to the arts commission each of the last two years.

"I'm not against public art, I'm just against it being publicly funded," said Steve Adams, first-year City Councilman, who won his seat in November along with fellow first-time councilman Dan Gookin after both advocated for a smaller municipal government. "I think the artists should pay us to put their art up, honestly."

Gookin, too, said he enjoys the aesthetic qualities of good art.

But at a time when the country is crawling out of a recession, he said, it would be better to repeal the city ordinance and hold off on all projects until things are better. Until they are, LCDC and the city should save every otherwise art-dedicated dollar they have.

"It seems to me that isn't a priority we should have," he said. "I would just pause it. We need to check our priorities."

Both he and Adams said there are too many city issues ahead that need addressing ahead of trying to change the art ordinance right now.

But look at how far those dollars stretch, Anthony said.

The arts commission has a roughly $190,000 budget, which is relatively small in the city's approximately $77 million financial plan. And around 20 new pieces fit under that cap. The art projects are also slated to coincide with the city projects that generated the cash, so it's a nice match, he said.

For example, the money construction on the wastewater treatment plant generated will be used for art pieces of 6- to 10-foot-tall statues, called "Frolicking Creatures," depicting the microorganisms that break down human waste.

"From the artistic standpoint," Anthony said. "We get a lot of bang for our buck."

Tastes divide

Public art is not a necessity.

Few people would say it is, even the arts commission, which classifies its mission as enhancing quality of life in the region.

Does it?

On Friday, The Press polled tourists around downtown Coeur d'Alene for around an hour, asking them what they thought of the public pieces by which they wandered.

Around a dozen people, from Canada to California, all said they liked it. None said it detracted from the area.

"Tastefully done," said Ginger Peter, visiting from San Jose, Calif. "It definitely adds to the charm."

"My opinion on public art is it enhances any community," said Tim Smith, visiting from Seattle, whose family likes the statue of Native American feathers on Northwest Boulevard most of all. In fact, the children point to the feathers from the back seat of the car as the family drives into town as affirmation that they've arrived in Coeur d'Alene, he said.

But what about for locals?

Art is subjective, of course. So for every person who protested Genesha's presence, there was someone who praised the statue's craftsmanship. For every person who marvels at the creativity of educational display at the wastewater treatment plant, there's someone who thinks its a waste to spend public money to beautify something so unglamorous.

"At the poop plant," city critic Sharon Culbreth mocked at a seminar two weeks ago on where the city was dedicating money.

"Some of the art in town is just childish and ugly," Gookin said, pointing to the bicycle racks that double as art pieces on Fourth Street in midtown as examples of his personal dislike. "I think they're a joke. I think they're an embarrassment. Anyone who has culture and class and comes to Coeur d'Alene would say, 'what the hell is that?'"

Artistic taste aside, Adams points to Ken Roberge as a perfect example of how public art should go up. Roberge, a local art lover, bought a $5,000 art piece called "Spirit Rising" and donated it to the city to display on public land so everyone would be able to appreciate it.

"Obviously we have a multitude of really talented artists, locally," Adams said. "I think it's cool they want to display it. I'm not against art at all - providing the location and working with the artists. I just don't think we should have taxpayer money involved."

Soon, the Hindu statue Genesha will be taken down and shipped to Spokane. Protests, headlines, it was quite a year for the elephant god. Discussion, isn't that art's objective? To create dialogue? And Friday, when the statue comes down, a sleek, steel-looking robot will take its place.

Some people will love it, others won't.

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  • inclined posted at 11:58 pm on Wed, May 30, 2012.

    inclined Posts: 681

    Our consideration is not of the $45,000 subsidies given by the National Endowment for the Arts to the work of photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano. These might have been preeminent photographers of their generation, but some of their work was less than lofty.

    Objecting to paying for that which desecrates one's deeply held religious and moral beliefs is not censorship, is the appeal Muslims and Atheist make of the presence of the Cross on graves and at memorials in this country.

    Consider for reference the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the public display each Christmas of a creche in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. The high court ruled that the creche violates the constitutional ban on state establishment of religion. Justices writing for the majority explained that religious symbols on public property implicitly exclude and offend those who don't adhere to that same religion even thought this creche was bought with private funds, not tax dollars. But those offended by Christian symbols applauded the Court's decision as an appropriate recognition of their sensitivities.

    The problem in our city is, who even thinks that that monkey god might offend a Christian? Should that be the case, there is easily a ready justification and rationalization. But doesn’t the court ruling apply to us? People of Skumsky's god, have no objection to the monkey. He obviously doesn't.

    The monkey god is going, but not by law, not by principle. Serrano’s crucifix in pee is protected, but the weapon to destroy the Christ should be obliterated from man’s consciousness. The crèche is outlawed; pi_s on that too. Monkey god: OK. Whose religion is increasingly exalted even right here?

  • E Kim Skumsky posted at 8:16 pm on Wed, May 30, 2012.

    E Kim Skumsky Posts: 445

    Nickygums on art reminds me of Van Gogh, he was criticized as garbage by the experts in his time. I find the scupltures interesting, will they ever be considered masterpieces? Maybe not, but Nickygums not liking them doesn't mean anything.

    How about things Christians say?

    "This is America, we can believe as we choose; we should alll respect each others beliefs".
    "You're of Satan and will burn in h3ll." (How's that for respect?)
    "I don't beleive in blahblahblah because the Bible tells me so, so we need to pass laws to keep you from doing it"

    Ahura Mazda bless America!!

  • Nicotinegun posted at 11:59 am on Wed, May 30, 2012.

    Nicotinegun Posts: 1367

    Enough Already, you want in on my art deal?

    I'm going to sculpt a giant sandwich with a shark fin in the middle-SHARK SANDWICH. I think it's what the public wants and needs.

    Then I want to paint a picture of a giant white canvas on a giant white canvas!

    You in?

  • Nicotinegun posted at 11:55 am on Wed, May 30, 2012.

    Nicotinegun Posts: 1367

    As far as The Ten Commandments being removed if anyone did any research they would find they can fight the removal based on "tradition." If they have been there for a certain number of years or from the beginning they can stay based on court cases. It's a complete joke that people get so uptight over the Decalogue and say "Don't force your religion on me!" Well sorry, but the legal system is rich with Christianity and our history is soaked in it. The fact that you are even in the United States living freely is because of Christianity. Without the original Christian colony, you wouldn't be here.

    If the Ten Commandments is forcing religion on you, then so is the elephant.

    Things Atheists Say That Contradicts What they Say

    "Don't force your Christianity on me or I'll get the law to force you to keep quiet!"

    "Don't force your thoughts on me! Shut up!"

    "There is no absolute truth and that is absolutely true!"

    "We all create our own reality." Okay, then that means you create everything you don't like or believe in?

    "Whats good for me is good for me and whats good for you is good for you." UNTIL I TAKE FROM YOU WHAT I WANT EVEN THOUGH YOU DON'T WANT ME TO TAKE IT. Kind of funny how they think.

    God Bless you. God bless America.

    I'm going to make an art piece. It's going to be a giant hotdog eating a live rhino on top of Herbie the Love Bug. It will make me millions! that's art, Baby!

  • Enough Already posted at 7:45 pm on Tue, May 29, 2012.

    Enough Already Posts: 216

    Wow Humanist you are like the amazing Kreskin or something? You nailed it, I’m at “rather it instead be a highly inefficient direct democracy” not sure exactly what that means though but you were right on, I think, kinda, maybe??? You got that from just a couple of my posts – amazing truly amazing.

    I’m glad you’re fine with our representative democracy form of government and “where we trust those WE elected to make good decisions for the general populace even though you cannot make every single citizen happy all of the time.” However Idaho law allows such a democracy to form together and address who may not be so happy with those elected who have not performed as promised or to expectations blowing ones trust to simply recall them as thousands have apparently signed on the dotted line to do. That’s democracy alright, what a great Country.

    And those who feel UR entities have gone to far have taken issue with them across the State with more of that democracy and freedom of speech at work that is obviously not about any favorable long-term ramifications but simply where they have just gone too far. Glad you’re happy though – really!

    My2sense – that’s funny, and I agree art represents culture, with that thought in mind, art and a lot of it down by the sewage plant speaks volumes for our leaders. Happy days!

  • My2sence posted at 3:29 pm on Tue, May 29, 2012.

    My2sence Posts: 317

    They say "art" represents a culture, has a deep meaning, expresses the will some one please tell me what the stupid forks and chain link on 4th st. represent.

    This is what I think the forks mean.....

    1. we bite off way more than we can chew
    2. every 15 steps you'll find a restaurant
    3. FORK YOU !
    4. "watch this fellas, next year I'm gonna sell those suckers....spoons hahahahaha"!
    5. yeah....those will fit in some peoples mouths around here

  • petand posted at 8:32 am on Tue, May 29, 2012.

    petand Posts: 376

    If any of the complainers posting here had bothered to pay attention or perhaps even read the complete article they might have noticed that the City did NOT buy the art but rather is only covering the cost of installation which is expected to be less than last year. Same as last year. But no, common and typical of so many posters, the reaction is City spends money! Bad!

  • Bob Loblaw posted at 8:22 am on Tue, May 29, 2012.

    Bob Loblaw Posts: 413

    Folks, what we have here with the LCDC and public art is two wolves and a sheep voting on what is for dinner. That is not democracy.

  • Humanist posted at 8:33 pm on Mon, May 28, 2012.

    Humanist Posts: 3224

    @Enough Already: I am fine with our representative democracy form of government where we trust those WE elected to make good decisions for the general populace even though you cannot make every single citizen happy all of the time. Apparently you are not happy with our form of government and would rather it instead be a highly inefficient direct democracy.

    I am also fine with spending not related to "essential services" if it is for the betterment of the governed community with favorable long-term ramifications. McEuen is a good example of a good investment for the future of our community.

  • Enough Already posted at 4:41 pm on Mon, May 28, 2012.

    Enough Already Posts: 216

    Wow to each their own. If anyone is alright with such spending that is not related to essential services that a government exists for and is responsible for especially when funneled through the LCDC with no representation voted for by the public in its operation and spending then have I got a deal especially for you!

  • Humanist posted at 1:51 pm on Mon, May 28, 2012.

    Humanist Posts: 3224

    Quote CClavin: "so we should separate Church & State right, with taxpayer funded art we should have drawn the line just like the 10 commandments at the court house right?????
    It should have never been allowed right?"

    That would be correct. The 10 commandments have no place in our government structure since it implies government endorsement of one religion and one religion only. They are being removed from court houses nation-wide for this reason and that will eventually reach CdA. In the case of the publicly displayed art, there were simultaneously pieces representative of different religions last year. Ganesha, St Francis of Asissi, and Rachel from the Old Testament.

    I, for one, am fully supportive of publicly funded art and the way that it has been gone about in CdA is very smart and costs the taxpayers minimal dollars. And I am happy to see some of my personal taxpayer dollars go to that purpose.

  • LTRLTR posted at 1:39 pm on Mon, May 28, 2012.

    LTRLTR Posts: 1171

    "In 1999, Coeur d’Alene City Council enacted a Percent for Art program that designates 1.33 percent
    of the budget for each City capital project to purchase art for placement in public places."

  • Enough Already posted at 12:11 pm on Mon, May 28, 2012.

    Enough Already Posts: 216

    Art is simply like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. But here it comes with a cost to the taxpayers and is now tied to human waste – seems fitting given the disconcern for how public money is spent in Cda. again and again. And now the arts commission equals blight with a healthy donation from the LCDC yearly – what a joke. Time to flush those who are responsible for doing this!

  • cgent47 posted at 8:31 am on Mon, May 28, 2012.

    cgent47 Posts: 193

    I would fire the person responsible for this piece of trash.

  • local res posted at 8:11 am on Mon, May 28, 2012.

    local res Posts: 1165

    Bob Loblaw I totally agree with you.
    The arts should not be funded with public dollars. Surely the poster from this blog are willing to pay to see the arts exhibited? The city should charge a permit fee for the art to be located on the sidewalks that covers the cost of the permitting process.

    Please identify yourselves if you are willing to pay for the public to view the arts.


  • kBled posted at 10:58 pm on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    kBled Posts: 70

    "Also for blzer "Read the U.S. Constitution." so we should separate Church & State right, with taxpayer funded art we should have drawn the line just like the 10 commandments at the court house right?????
    It should have never been allowed right? Is that what you are saying blazer???"

    Yeah actually, it never should've been allowed.

  • DoBaLSOS posted at 10:34 pm on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    DoBaLSOS Posts: 33

    Calvin Baby
    I love it when a hypocrite brings Leviticus into the discussion. Let's do a review of how many of these Leviticus laws you are following.
    Don't let cattle graze with other kinds of Cattle (Leviticus 19:19)
    Don't have a variety of crops on the same field. (Leviticus 19:19) There goes your garden
    Don't wear clothes made of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19) To heck with a cotton blend
    Don't cut your hair nor shave. (Leviticus 19:27) Hippie!
    Any person who curseth his mother or father, must be killed. (Leviticus 20:9) Have you ever done that?
    If a man cheats on his wife, or vise versa, both the man and the woman must die. (Leviticus 20:10). I wonder if Dr. Laura, Gingrich, Rush would like that one to be enforced?
    If a man has s@x with a woman on her period, they are both to be "cut off from their people" (Leviticus 20:18)
    If a priest's daughter is a wh0re, she is to be burnt at the stake. (Leviticus 21:9)
    And as for as worshiping false idols, I hope you don't have any posters of any sports figures or teams.
    If you are going to quote the bible you better be able to quote all of it. But there is a big difference between quoting and actually living it.

  • kimknerl posted at 3:21 pm on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    kimknerl Posts: 286

    I say we call the piece in the above photo, "Mayor's Vision"

  • CClavin posted at 2:37 pm on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    CClavin Posts: 221

    Flalpgob & blazer do what you want, believe in what you want, and justify it any way you see what is best for yourself. As for God I am sure he objects to the Buddha god idol and you are right it sure was ugly along with most of the taxpayer funded art.

    Also for blzer "Read the U.S. Constitution." so we should separate Church & State right, with taxpayer funded art we should have drawn the line just like the 10 commandments at the court house right?????
    It should have never been allowed right? Is that what you are saying blazer???

  • Bob Loblaw posted at 2:23 pm on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    Bob Loblaw Posts: 413

    I have a problem with taxpayer-funded art. Government should only provide basic services. If people want art, let them volunteer to pay for it. Many worthwhile programs are funded voluntarily. It's not like we wouldn't have any art without the government spending our money for it. It is especially troubling in a poor economy when we are all getting by with less. The government should do likewise.

  • blazer posted at 1:13 pm on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    blazer Posts: 17


    I'm eternally grateful to live in a free society where art is protected free speech. Whether the theme is religious, spiritual, secular or whatever, it's public display here in my country is not controlled or affected by any religious doctrine. Questions of artistic value or taste are open to discussion. But don't tell me that it shouldn't be shown in public on religious or biblical grounds. Read the U.S. Constitution.

  • Fralphgob posted at 1:12 pm on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    Fralphgob Posts: 54

    Ccalvin, please take your own advice: " shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it". This scripture deals with human action toward an idol, not the actual statue. It only becomes offensive to God when it it is worshipped instead of Him. If you have objection then let it be on the merits of the artistry. I found it ugly. It did not fit in with the other pieces of Art on display. If you follow your logic the we should avoid Christmas trees, Easter Eggs, and quite possibly the cross itself.

  • CClavin posted at 12:45 pm on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    CClavin Posts: 221

    DoBaLSOS please read your bible or my guess you don't even know the what it says so here I will help you. Leviticus 26:1:

    “You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God.

    My faith is strong and your faith is weak and threatened by your lack of knowledge of what a piece of metal on a street corner represents.

  • DoBaLSOS posted at 12:26 pm on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    DoBaLSOS Posts: 33

    I find it sad that one's faith is so weak that they are threaten by a piece of metal on a street corner.

  • blazer posted at 11:38 am on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    blazer Posts: 17

    It's worth mentioning, too, that during the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill’s response: “Then what are we fighting for?”

  • local res posted at 11:28 am on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    local res Posts: 1165

    Wow another high priced coat rack!

  • Old Hayden posted at 10:25 am on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    Old Hayden Posts: 33 pick the art objects you'll allow and I'll pick the religions I'll allow. How's that for tolerance? This Memorial Day holiday honors the memory of those who have fought and died to defend religious freedom.

  • CClavin posted at 10:16 am on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    CClavin Posts: 221

    Steve Adams is right. The art is bought with citizen's tax dollars funneled through the LCDC. Steve Anthony thinks everything is nice & flowery who would'nt when you are being paid $109,000 plus benefits to supervise "Park & Rec". Not to be confused with the Parks Department Doug Eastwood has that handled for $109,000 plus benefits.

  • Fralphgob posted at 9:27 am on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    Fralphgob Posts: 54

    Tax dollars for athletic venues...OK! Tax dollars for UGLY bridges...fine. Tax dollars for Art...NO! We judge ancient civilizations by the quality of their works of art and architecture. We will be remembered for what? Beer league softball fields? Big, plain, ugly bridges? Buildings with no lasting architectural merit? Put up some publicly funded Art and listen to the outcry.

  • babydriver posted at 9:00 am on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    babydriver Posts: 1393

    Your government bought it.

    You paid for it.

    LOL Isn't it wonderful?

  • cougar posted at 8:14 am on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    cougar Posts: 230

    I would like to know who classified this junk as art?

  • my own opinion posted at 6:36 am on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    my own opinion Posts: 397

    Who is lining the pockets of the person who forces us to look at these ugly sculptures?? They are downright hidious! I ask WHY, WHY, WHY????

  • 1voice posted at 6:07 am on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    1voice Posts: 56

    I personally don't have a problem with the funding of artwork in principle, however, the specific artwork that is chosen is a major problem. Yes. . .Ganesha - why the blazes would we put this ugly, yes ugly, Hindu god smack in the middle of our downtown! Forget the money issue - it was a slap in the face to all who adhere to western religion, much less the overwhelmingly Christian population in Coeur d'Alene, and also to anyone who has any taste! Now we get a robot?? THAT will emote the kind of feeling we want to put forward in our city, not! Bacteria, really?? Who, precisely, is making these decisions? No one with any heart or soul. If there is no beautiful artwork available, none should be put up, period. I want it stopped!

  • rexaroni posted at 5:15 am on Sun, May 27, 2012.

    rexaroni Posts: 190

    I realize that art is subjective, but perhaps if the art were also selected with an eye for salability, the city would be able to recoup more of its costs. Then, there wouldn't be so much cause to complain about tax dollars going to art. I personally had no objection to Ganesha as the subject matter for the statue downtown. But it really was not an attractive piece, as art goes. I certainly wouldn't want to purchase it, even if I could afford it. That goes for most of the other statues that were placed downtown.

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