2018-08-30 / Editorial

Public art displays not to be rushed

Jamestown is an arts-loving community that supports local artists in myriad ways.

From local associations to the Jamestown Arts Center to various independent artists who display their work at venues throughout town, the island is bursting with creative minds and spirits.

Peter Diepenbrock, whose work includes the 9/11 memorial at the Rhode Island State House and the Foundry Clock Man atop the former Brown & Sharpe factory across the highway from Providence Place, has been asked by several residents in town to make a replica of the 10-foot-tall “Whale’s Tail” sculpture that graced the East Ferry parking lot for two weeks in July. The 2,000-pound piece would be donated to the town and placed in the greenspace north of the bus stop at East Ferry, although the final location is pending.

While we applaud Diepenbrock’s work, we’re concerned this sets a bad precedent and opens a Pandora’s Box for similar proposals in the future to be OK’d by just three town councilors without any public or stakeholder input — potentially for as myopic a reason as they’re friends with the artist.

In a community as methodical as ours, in which a tree committee does plenty of due diligence before allowing a planting, this seems rushed. A definitive process for public art in public spaces should be established to ensure continuity and fairness.

We’d be better served by having the council solicit anonymous input from affected stakeholders, in this case residents of Shoreby Hill and the Bay View Condominiums, East Ferry business owners, preservationists and historians to get their take on such a project and how it would impact their neighborhood.

There’s no reason this sculpture needs to be fast-tracked and approved at next Tuesday’s council meeting.

Better we take our time as a community and establish some basic ground rules and seek comment from as many people as possible before we do anything to permanently change the landscape of our home.

Like art itself, Jamestown is not a one-size-fits-all community, and we should be cognizant of that before setting a precedent we may regret later, no matter how talented the artist involved may be.

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