Public Art Interactions

When the folks at The Portland Mercury wanted to dress up local public sculptures to help celebrate Portland Fashion Week, there was a little consternation at RACC. On one hand, public interaction with artworks is something to be celebrated, like the way we uniquely interact with our fountains. Some public artworks explicitly invite this kind of participation (think Pod or Dog Bowl) while others have a more shadowy history of public manipulation (Joan of Ark, or the Elk).

Portland Mercury

On the other hand, some of the city's more historical sculptures were, unfortunately, not built with interaction in mind. Rebecca At the Well, in the park blocks behind the Schnitz, is a good example. Situated within Shemanski Fountain, people who reach to touch the solid bronze figure often damage the more fragile sandstone surroundings. Thousands of dollars have been spent on repairs to the fountain, including several acts of deliberate vandalism, over the past ten years. In fact, RACC has a backlog of more than $100,000 in maintenance and repair that is needed for public artworks throughout the county.

Meanwhile, what should be RACC's role in maintaining the artistic integrity and/or physical condition of these artworks that are owned by you, the public? If it's out there on the street, does that mean it should be open to public manipulation? With what limits? Taken to the extreme, do we celebrate sillies who put a Hawaiian shirt on Allow Me, or a bedsheet over Abraham Lincoln, or do we try to preserve some level of decorum? Where do you draw the line?

1 comment:

MightyToyCannon said...

I recall that people complained when the gold finish on Joan of Arc was restored; because the sculpture no longer looked familiar, some felt the new sheen was "wrong." I like the idea of staying true to the artist's original intent. When I zip around the traffic circle and see Shiny Joan, I know I'm seeing her the way the public did when she was first unveiled.