The English phone booth on Forest and Beach has turned into an archetypal gauge of what does not work in public art. This recently unveiled project of Laguna’s Art Commission has undoubtedly proven why we must start to rethink art in Laguna now!
The phone booth in question has been stuffed with foam bodies in bathing suits pretending to break a record. The execution is flawed, giving the impression of a high school afternoon project using scraps. The false motivation of being associated with the arts for personal adornment instead of championing the spirit of the arts suffocates the arts in this town. Consequently, there is a lack of interest in understanding how art functions, which further wanes the sensibility when it comes to artists and creativity.
The phone booth is such a great example that teaches us how volunteers with anointed art-authority often lack the understanding how art functions. Case in point, the chosen idea of stuffing people into things is at best a stale idea that was only clever when it was done first.
Results like this are the very reason why no one attends arts commission meetings. The process of institutionalizing art is the commission’s primary focus, instead of capturing the values of art and communicating them with passion. Additionally, the Arts Commission forgets its own functions and reverses its priorities of exposing as many people possible to art with available funds.
Be the champion for all arts and artists, relating to them and help them to expose their creations as best possible. If necessary, fight for creative freedom in the confines of government. Be the liaison between the City Council, the artists and the people (not just the commission and council); and select the city’s art adhering to function first and personal choice second. Curating by jury panel fails because it needs group consent, which usually yields to the lowest common denominator. Most art commissions aim to please, which science and history show is impossible.
One function is to accept that there are no ways to determine good or bad art, nor can we select what others will like or dislike. Rotate commissioners if you want, but to be effective, only one person can be the curator to select art.
Disclaimer: I have applied for this same project.
Michaell Magrutsche, Laguna Beach
The author is a multi media artist.