$610,000 for Courthouse Art? Better Be Good
|An example of public art at the Broward County Jail on the New River. It's a 32-foot high coral circle (or rice cake, as some call it). Cost to taxpayers: $480,000.|
So the Broward County Commission is going to discuss putting $610,000 worth of public art in the new courthouse that is being built against taxpayers' wishes.
You might think the Pulp, hard as it is on public officials and waste of taxpayers' money, might be averse to the expense on principle. Not so. As my former colleague Edmund Newton once wrote, "Public art is part of the glue that binds the community... sometimes it can deliver a jolt of cultural clarity."
South Florida needs more of it. Broward County requires that 2 percent of the cost of new public facilities go toward public art. Again, a well-founded policy.
The problem is that, as indicated by the photo above, too often the art commissioned is... both expensive and awful. Here again is Newton, who went on a public art odyssey in South Florida a few years ago:
"Taxes, though. There's the rub. We're paying for this glop. Big time. Millions of dollars of public money have gone into adorning our public buildings and parks with works that seem to have been produced by artists channeling the guy who invented the cinder block. There are cylindrical stairwells on the corners of the parking garage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport ($1.2 million), and the brand-new stone block assemblage in front of the Palm Beach County Courthouse ($350,000) is actually a security barrier to keep cars off the pavement. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport alone houses more than $3 million of so-called art..."
So it's the same story. Good ideas ruined by the government. Does that mean we give up? Hell no. And it's not always bad or ugly; sometimes it's actually good. Inside, some of the best and worst examples of public art I could find.
We start with one that I think delivers the jolt Newton was talking about. It's weird, it's fun, it wakes you up a little bit.
This is the one on the south side of Fort Lauderdale City Hall. It may just be the most reviled and creepy sculpture in South Florida. I actually kind of like it; it's just in the wrong place. I'll defer to Newton again: "Who's That Lady? 'Aieee! 'It's the witch who got landed on by Dorothy's house.' The 'big flat lady,' Robert Stoetzer's ironic depiction of Fort Lauderdale's citizens' being flattened by the steamroller of high-rise development, has been frightening children for years. Even smokers and exhibitionists avoid the ghastly fountain."
The thing is, I actually like the sculpture. It's just not in the right place. It belongs only in our nightmares. Moving along:
This thing is near the giant rice cake and not far from the giant coral ball. Enough said. Let's go to the airport:
I like this one, which you can see on the south side of the airport from Griffin Road. Here's what the artist, Lee Brown, said about it: "The pure abstraction sculpture was intuitively generated by working with the structure relationship of light and space. The material was used to reflect, refract, define and control space and light. Therefore, light used as material becomes an entity and an integral aspect of the visual experience."
Follow that? Me either. I just thought it was cool because it's in a green field and sort of looks like a giant steel flower.
This one poses one question: Why? You've probably had the misfortune to see this outside the BSO/Public Safety Complex on Broward Boulevard. Cost: $186,000. But I saved a good one for last:
It's titled "Olympic Form," and it was inspired by Mark Spitz. You have to see it and walk around it.
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