Flaws Emerge in Awarding Public Art



(This letter was sent to the Arts Commissioner and the city’s cultural arts manager, Sian Poeschl.)

The art in public places program could use some help in regards to the selection process.

Let’s start with stipends. The latest competition was for the LBPD memorial project. Each artist received a $300 stipend for about three weeks of hard work preparing for their presentations. This included concept, visual materials and a scale model. Hardly adequate compensation. For an important project such as this the stipend should be a minimum of $1000. Let’s show artists that we respect and value their time and professionalism.

Verbal presentations. Each finalist is asked to make an eight to 10 minute verbal presentation to the Arts Commission. In the case of the LBPD memorial project, the commission had already made their final choice prior to the artists making their presentations rendering this part of the process moot and pointless. In the future, the verbal presentation should be integral to the decision-making process, helping to inform the commissioners as to the intent of the artist’s proposed design. The final design should then be selected at the following commission meeting allowing time for the verbal presentation to be considered in the decision-making process.

Deadlines. Major public art projects as important as the LBPD memorial should be given a minimum of one year from conception to final installation. Laguna Beach should never run the risk compromising on the design and execution of very complex AIPP projects based solely on unreasonable and unrealistic deadlines.

Temporary public art sites. It is clear that there are limitations on the type of public art that is acceptable to the Arts Commission and the City Council. I would suggest that the city find several prominent locations for public art installations and set aside funding, (materials and installation only), for artists to submit concepts for public art that has a more “global” perspective and may challenge all of our ideas on what constitutes art. These works would be installed for two to three years after which they would be removed and replaced with new work.

Let’s face it. Laguna Beach is viewed as a very provincial art community. Commercial and safe. Art by committee lends itself to outcomes that are very predictable. We don’t need more “frosting on every corner”. It is time to elevate the cultural heritage of our community by placing a piece or two of public art that is truly “world class”

Jorg Dubin, Laguna Beach

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