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Jessica Kittams

Public Art Stirs Debate

OPB | July 24, 2013 12:30 p.m. | Updated: Sept. 11, 2013 1:12 a.m.

Allison Frost/OPB

A sculpture on Portland’s eastside is causing some controversy among some Portlanders. A new libertarian-leaning caucus of the Oregon Republican Party is protesting the use of public funds to pay for the sculpture, called “Inversion: Plus/Minus.”

The debate over “Inversion: Plus/Minus” calls to mind other recent publicly funded arts projects that didn’t make it through the vetting process. “Rebirth” — a 30-foot-tall deer sculpture with the face of a baby — was abandoned after public backlash. And a plan to engineer the new Portland commuter bridge with musical grooves that would “play” Simon and Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song” as bikers rode along them was canceled when it was deemed too expensive.

Some of the new Portland Arts Tax will go to the Regional Arts and Culture Council, which funds public art programs and organizations in Portland.  A TriMet policy directs 1.5 percent of construction budgets go to public art. We’ll hear how the art projects are chosen, and what the vetting and public input processes are like.

What do you think of the latest public art installations in Portland? What do you think the public input processes should be? What is the role of public art in the city?

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