Friday, June 22, 2007

Art project rusts while costing city plenty

Ventura CA - In an event that is more common than most think, yet another piece of art that adorns a transit facility is being damaged by the elements and costing the taxpayers much more money than the art is worth.

The City of Ventura built a transit center at the north end of the Pacific View Mall in 2002. This art work, which the city calls a shelter, cost $2 million. Since its installation, the structure has started to rust away. Fingers are being pointed and now is in court, wasting even more taxpayer money.

The city isn't maintaining it and trying to get the contractor to pay for restoration while the contractor insists that the city should pay for it since they didn't maintain it. The artist had final say in what paint and undercoating were to be used and he blew it. The result is a $2 million dollar rusting hulk that will take a few hundred thousand to restore, not including the money spent on the legal proceedings.

Anytime Federal funds are involved, art is mandated. If Federal money isn't involved, the local cultural community whines and complains until they can get art installed. Both scenarios are fully at taxpayer expense.

What few seem to understand is that these artsy-fartsy designs, sculptures and other permanent art work cost millions and the cost is on-going for maintenance. In some instances, the artwork takes priority over the facility itself due to the agreements over the artwork. If the piece doesn't get pristine maintenance, the artist and cultural groups begin hiring lawyers.

I have always had a problem with the rules requiring artwork, especially in transit projects. Most of what I see in these public art projects that cost millions to have is pure junk. I've seen better junk being tossed out on trash day.

Art is an acquired taste as well as one of personal taste yet the cultural community has succeeded in shoving their vision of art on everyone at the taxpayer's expense.

Transit systems are especially hit hard by having to maintain the mandated art due to the threat of expensive legal proceedings if they don't. In addition, if the art isn't maintained, it makes the facility look shabby. There is nothing wrong with a clean facility using easy to maintain materials, especially when the taxpayers are footing the bill.

Here's a solution, if the cultural community insists on art then let them pay for it as well as maintain it on their dime. It will never happen as it is just so much easier to spend your money than it is to spend their money.

The last two paragraphs in the article say it all and are sentiments expressed by the vast majority if the public in every city:

“It’s just rotting away and they paid $2 million,” Comstock said. “Somebody should be paying for the upkeep since they spent so much money on it. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I guess it’s art. They call it art. I don’t understand it.”

Sally Ramos, owner of Allison’s Country Cafe which faces “Bus Home,” echoes Comstock’s sentiments. “I think it was a waste of money. I think they should have built something practical like a structure that people could stand under when it’s raining and not get wet,” Ramos said, then added, “You look at it and just kind of wonder ‘Why?’”

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