Friday, September 16, 2005

Dolphin statue put on hold

Public art in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park was put on hold for two weeks Tuesday as Beaufort City Council members said they need to decide where sculptures should be placed, what themes are appropriate for Beaufort, and how much the city is willing to spend.

Backpedaling from a 2003 resolution to spend 1 percent of capital project costs on public art, the council was hesitant Tuesday to pay a St. Augustine, Fla.,-artist $55,000 for a sculpture for the park -- 1 percent of an original $5.5 million estimate for a year's worth of park repairs and construction.

Mayor Bill Rauch said the resolution is a "guideline" for public art purchases and Councilman Gary Fordham said that it was unreasonable to spend so much for art, especially in the case of the city's proposed municipal complex at Boundary Street and Ribaut Road.

With repairs estimated to cost more than $10 million, Fordham said it "knocks his socks off" to spend $100,000 on art for the municipal site.

The council heard from a number of residents who both endorsed and criticized sculptures proposed for the park by artist Thomas Glover W. of fish, surf, sun, dolphin and mermaid.
"The mud is in my blood and this is not Beaufort," said Priscilla Trask, who disliked the mermaid statue that the city's Public Arts Commission endorsed for the park.

Former City Councilwoman Edie Rodgers said the sculptures were "borderline grotesque, because here are fish with human faces on them."

Penny Russell, who was a teacher for 26 years, said she found it harder and harder to elicit creativity in her students each year and realism contributes to that dearth of imagination.
"I'd like to see a mermaid," she said. "It's in the fairy tales, and we have so little of that anymore."
Offering no opinion was county councilman and developer Dick Stewart, who urged some type of public art be installed.

"The sad thing in America is when we sink to a level of no conflict and vanilla and chocolate and no flavors," said Stewart. "Please don't take the easy way out and abandon a program of great merit."
Rauch said the city will determine the placement of the sculpture in the next two weeks and contact the artist with the city's desires.

The council also unanimously approved final reading of a land swap with developer Bill Jones, giving a small piece of land at the corner of Carteret and Bay streets to Jones in exchange for the BB&T bank teller alley and a small strip of land running along BB&T parking spaces.


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