Letter: Public Art to be Proud Of

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602 S. Gay Street
2nd Floor
Knoxville, TN 37902

I read, with great interest, your cover story on the state of public art in Knoxville. [“The Artful Dodge” by Holly Haworth, June 13, 2013] It seems that since little funding is available to the Public Arts Committee, next to nothing can be done. So the program limps along with only modest gestures on occasion. There’s plenty of money in the Knoxville community that could support public art if the interest can be captured. For example, soliciting donors to fund a major commission as the prize for a competition, occurring, maybe, every three-five years. Going along trying to find small works with marginal serious artistic merit, but won’t offend anyone, is rarely going to achieve anything but street decoration. Knoxville deserves better than that.

Consider, for instance, sculptor Anish Kapoor’s internationally celebrated “Cloud Gate” (easily found on the Internet) in Chicago’s Millennium Park. If that marvelous piece had depended on public voting based only on Kapoor’s proposal, the piece might not exist. Kapoor’s vision was to invite the sky to become part of the park’s landscape through the sculpture’s highly reflective surfaces. It is an otherworldly, magical piece to experience. Although the public might not always grasp the larger concept and simply calls it “The Bean,” I dare say there would be public outrage if anyone tried to remove it.

Knoxville deserves public art that expects more than a quick glance to understand, then dismiss as decoration. That’s not to say that good public art has to be mystifying. Knoxville is the home of a major university and the anchor city of one the country’s most beautiful areas. It should have art that justifies taking up public space. Thousands go to see Chicago’s “Bean.” Most of them likely leave being proud it’s theirs. We deserve being able to do the same.

Harold Duckett


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