Thursday nights art’s conversation was well-attended. After the introduction and welcome speeches by Mayor Romeo Thekan, Jack Clark, and Judith Hoglander the audience broke into small groups to answer three questions: 1.) What values or vision informs your thinking about the selection and placement of public art. 2.) What suggestions do you have for reaching out and including the community in the process? 3.) What criteria should we use in the selection and placement of public art? After which the audience reconvened to share the small group’s answers.
There was a shared vision and commonality in many of the responses. A strong desire for transparency throughout the entire process was stated often as was the position that our public art choices tell the story of Gloucester.
In our small group, Gloucester sculptor David Calvo shared the story of Maritime Gloucester’s humble beginnings and how it grew organically, with the full support of the community behind its development. There are a number of reasons why there is such a community-wide viscerally negative reaction to the proposed David Black sculpture and one of the solutions suggested was to put a policy in place which would allow the community to say no to an unwanted gift. Another suggestion was to identify places where we would like to see public art so that the community is not in the position of scrambling to place very large-scale works of art in very small parks.
A suggestion that resonated with many was that we investigate and learn from neighboring communities about their policies toward selecting and placing public art. The meeting was productive and we’ll be hearing more from the Mayor and Committee for the Arts in the coming weeks about Gloucester’s developing public arts plan.
Mayor Romeo Thekan and City Councilwoman Melissa Cox