Filling in missing piece of the puzzle

Jun. 21, 2013 @ 03:38 PM

Liberty Arts has put out the call for artists to create large-scale sculptures for the Bull City Sculpture Show that will be at Durham Central Park next May.
Out of that, one will become a permanent display in Durham, and one will remain on view for a year.
Artist Michael Waller, who also is facilities manager for Liberty Arts, hit perfectly on why this is an important component in shaping Durham. “We have all these pieces of the puzzle” – including vibrant music, food and sports scenes, which draw residents from other areas of the Triangle and beyond.
What is missing in this list for a creative, intelligent and artistically driven city is art that extends beyond music. It’s shocking that public art has not been more widely discussed when you consider the number of artists who call Durham home.
The addition of pieces of public art around the city, while a welcome one, likely will come with some controversy along the way because, well, it’s art, and subject to personal taste. Art that is created to provoke thought and discussion by nature will promote debate about its merits. And because it is public space, not everyone may agree with the use of the space.
One of the most controversial pieces of public art, for example, was a piece titled “Tilted Arc.” Richard Serra’s work, which was placed in the Federal Plaza in Manhattan, consisted of a piece of raw, black steel that cut the plaza in half. It angered workers, who said it disrupted their work schedules when they had to walk around the piece instead of cutting directly through the plaza. It didn’t fit well with the surroundings, which Serra said was actually the point of the piece. Court battles ensued. “Tilted Arc” was removed in the night of March 15, 1989.
It’s a cautionary reminder that not everyone will share the same vision. But that shouldn’t be a deterrent. Nor should the issue of funding, which also has fed public art controversies in other cities.
Liberty Arts has come up with an excellent fundraising plan that does not rely on government funding. The arts group already has raised some funds, and the Duke Tower hotel has agreed to donate rooms to house the artists while they are in town. Liberty Arts is looking to raise $60,000 moving forward to fund artist stipends.
We have a deep admiration how big, literally and figuratively, Liberty is dreaming on the addition of sculptures to the Durham. We’re looking forward to seeing what these artists bring to the Bull City next spring. And long-term, it a natural and important next step as our city continues to reinvent and reposition itself.