Last week, the Forum reported that the City of Fargo Arts and Culture Commission selected the new Fargo water tower design.
Ethan posted it on our Facebook page because it was newsworthy and timely. And people began to comment. Boy, did they comment. Thirty-four plus comments and six shares later, the verdict was cast. And quite frankly, a lot of it was negative.
Of course it was. Because people live and love to criticize the work and efforts of others. Particularly on social media.
I’m not here to defend or critique the selection of this piece of public art–my staff and I had absolutely nothing to do with the submission or selection process, and it’s not our job to make judgment calls. Our job is to #SupportLocalArt – be that art made by local artists or art made by nonlocal artists – that exists in our community.
So let me do that.
It’s abundantly clear that we are in the middle of a pandemic. The mere fact that public art is even being considered much less supported in this epic time of uncertainty should give people a glimmer of hope that we will somehow survive this. City leaders across the entire Metro are putting time, energy and dollars into something that isn’t utilitarian but rather spirit-lifting. That indicates that our advocacy work and the work of so many other people and organizations is starting to resonate with decision makers.
But you know the work of The Arts Partnership well enough to know that we believe, and can support the fact that, the arts have additional benefits that far transcend good feelings–benefits that lead to economic boosts, an easier time attracting and retaining businesses and employees, better neighborhoods, growth in tourism and so much more. And that consistent messaging is being heard, too.
So I’m here to say, go ahead and like or dislike the new design for the water tower; everyone is entitled to an opinion. But before you write your snarky criticism and move on with your day, take a moment to consider the fact that there is public art to even criticize.
It wasn’t all that long ago that this community was nearly devoid of public art. The tide has turned–each of our tri-cities is making investments in it. They each have a body of people who come together regularly to discuss and recommend ways for their city to utilize the myriad benefits of the arts to promote and enhance their larger infrastructure and growth agendas. Public art is slowly starting to be a piece of the initial design process for new development. City employees from Planning, Engineering and more are working with developers and arts leaders to implement the arts into public-private partnerships all over the Metro.
Will you like every single piece of public art that goes up? I sure hope not. Art that pleases everyone has no meaning, no soul and no real point; it ultimately serves no one. So my challenge to you is to stop and recognize that we are now living in a community where public art is happening with such frequency that we can have multiple conversations a year around the merits or lack thereof of this piece or that. That’s a significant shift for the Metro, and from where I stand, it’s an incredibly positive one at that.
You don’t have to like the new design for the water tower going up in Fargo, but I implore you to appreciate that there’s a design to comment on in the first place. And then, if you still have a bee in your bonnet, find out how to get involved in the next round of public engagement and let your opinion be heard in a useful, productive way on the front end. It’s easy to be a sideline critic; put your neck out and help be part of this exciting artistic evolution happening all across the Metro.
And then set your ego aside, because someone is going to hate it – like the work of art in the featured photo above – and they are going to feel empowered to let you know. And that is the hallmark of a sophisticated, well-rounded and arts-rich community.
This is the first of a multi-part series by President & CEO Dayna Del Val. Next week, she’ll look at the pros and cons of local art projects made by nonlocal artists.
Photo caption: Dayna standing next to a piece of public art in Lillehammer, Norway, that surely someone hates for one reason or another, but it was a memory I loved making.