Art In Public Places Meeting Minutes, April 2012

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MetroJacksonville recently did battle to get access to the records of the Arts In Public Places Committee---the shadowy group in charge of acquiring and maintaining works of public art for the City of Jacksonville. People nearly died. Well, not really. There were some terse emails however. Anyways, now we have them, and are sharing them one month at a time. Join us after the jump for the details.

The Art in Public Places Committee administers a fund set aside for creating and providing Public Art.

The funds come from a percentage set aside from each public building constructed in Jacksonville.

Millions of dollars have been collected and disbursed by the committee, of varying effectiveness and importance.

There have been a few real successes under the cap of the group, which had previously been an independent commission.  This year it begins the transition into a committee under the auspices of the Cultural Council, and along with it, is subject to a different ethos and set of procedures, as well as becoming less of an autonomous body.  We join the committee in the fourth meeting of the year, as they puzzle through new priorities and programs.

First an update on the players involved with the committee:

Wesley Grissom is the refreshingly young strawberry blonde assistant director of J. Johnson, where she works for a living legend, Bruce Dempsey, under the auspices of Jennifer Johnson. (The eponymous owner of the gallery and a recognized power in the gallery business.)  Of all the people present, Wesley probably has the most access to what is currently happening in the Art World.  The importance of her connection to Bruce Dempsey simply cannot be overstated.  However, we find out that Wesley (who was part of the 'deaccession committee') is not going to be present at this meeting.

John Bunker was one of the longtime stewards of the Jacksonville Art Museum, during its sunshine years as well as the darkness that characterized it before its rebirth in downtown.

Holly Keris is the owlish, stylish young woman who has led the restoration of the Olmsted Gardens at the Cummer.

Sandra Hull Richardson is the amazingly connected woman whose nephew, Shelton Hull is familiar to many Folio readers.

Ben Thompson is the elliptical studio artist serving as curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville.

David Engdahl, the sculptor and one of the winners of 2013's Cultural Council Award recognition.

Here are the notes, keep scrolling down for the editorial notations:

In addition to the news that Brandon Choy has finally been approved by Council, we are told that Jeffrey Shalev, (the eccentric architect and IT professional who makes his home in the Springfield dwelling designed and built for Jacksonville's most beloved Prairie School Architect, Henry Klutho) is apparently winding his way through the rounds of committee towards final approval for a seat on the committee.

Shalev is an interesting choice as he is very involved in Jacksonville's street art and indie community, and at one time operated the Null Space Gallery on Adams Street, next to where the current Burro Bar is.

We leap right into a glowing description of the Photography Collection Unveiling, including a certain triumphant observation that new low UV lights had been installed.  While there is no mention of the ill fated Deaccession attempt on the works of Linda Broadfoot and Anna Tomczak, there is no doubt that the notation about the lower UV lights is a reference to the (apparently overstated) concern that too much UV would damage the photographs by the two artists, necessitating their removal from public view.  Lower UV lights would probably have been a less time consuming solution in the first place, but here they are presented as a bit of a breakthrough compromise in true understated Southern  fashion.

The concerns and opinions of Councilwoman Lori Boyer make their first real appearance in the deliberations of the Committee, as Lori has pointed out the lack of community involvement in the process and introduced a real note of panic striking cognizance that there is no sustainable "Maintenance" for the works of Public Art already acquired.

In response to the whole 'community involvement' thing, several suggestions are made.  Although absent from the meeting, we are informed that Miss Grissom had suggested a Charity event of some sort, possibly in conjunction with the Duval County annual student art show.  Engdah further suggested tossing a bunch of the winning student art at the Mayor's Office.

In fact this would seem to be an elegant solution to their actual problem...If public officials want some evidence of community involvement in the public art process, there is no easier way to drown every elected official in a sea of art quicker than dropping the bottom out of the Student Art Resevoirs.  It usually doesnt take long to quell any further requests for community involvement under that kind of extreme duress.

We are left to keep this ideas smoking in our collective pipes for the time being however, as Jim Robinson the new public works director lobs a few art grenades over the levee himself.  Perhaps the fund could curry favor with the city by sponsoring a city employee photography exhibit to raise morale.  It could be called "Our Hidden Talent Exhibition".

To the everlasting credit of the Arts in Public Places Committee the suggestion is met with polite non elaboration, and is never ever mentioned again out loud.  Is there any idea less appetizing and more narcissistic than employee talent shows?

Centuries (actually millennia) of experience have done nothing if they haven't pointed out that if a culture has largely chosen to 'hide talent', then there is usually a very good reason why it remains hidden.

The entire discussion is brought to the magical kill words of any art committee: ' Project efficiancy through City Departments'  Once those words, in that sequence have been uttered, it is the solid and lasting proof that the idea has been strangled right in the cradle.

In the meantime, the committee moves on to more important subjects.  (and really, was there any hope of discussing anything else very seriously once the 'non sustainability of the ________ account' is mentioned---in any context?)

Nobody really has a grasp of it, but it sounds worrisome, and Christie Holochek asks for a sparate meeting with Sandra Hull Richardson to discuss this whole 'money' thing.  Maybe the Parks Department can be talked into paying for it

Also mentioned at this meeting is the "EPOCH" Event.  Which is happening in April 2013, people.

John Bunker forecasts a major event, and it is the general consensus of the committee that they better go ahead and delineate their obligations and boundaries before any of this comes back to haunt them (anyone guess that the recent 'deaccession' recriminations are very fresh in everyone's mind?  People and their issues....!)

It is decided to summon *Wayne Wood the organizer of the EPOCH event to the June Meeting.

Finally amongst the updates, we are told that "The App" seems to be percolating right along.

Also, meeting will now be every other month during the summer, so May or July Committee Meetings.

notations by Stephen Dare

*This would soon become unnecessary as the redoubtable Dr. Wood would announce his withdrawal from anything EPOCH related, which would shift a few shoulders on the totem pole downward and be rebranded (unsurprisingly) the "One Spark" event.  (Can we say Parking Spark crossbranding anyone?)

To read other meeting minutes from 2012, click the links here: