ArtBeat: Public Art Speaks Volumes [Get Visual]

Clown Soldier - Rensselaer Riverfront Art Park
Clown Soldier - Rensselaer Riverfront Art Park

By David Brickman

If you haven’t had public art on your mind lately, there are two current reasons that maybe you should. One of them is the 9/11 sculpture commissioned by Saratoga Arts to be made out of World Trade Center steel by two prominent local sculptors, John Van Alstine and Noah Savett, which should have been unveiled last weekend but wasn’t (background here). The other is the Living Walls project that also launched last weekend and will be the focus of a broad spectrum of events this weekend in Albany.

Amid all the hubbub surrounding the 9/11 anniversary, there was the unfortunate story of how this significant piece of art has been turned into a political football by various folks in Saratoga Springs, who decided they didn’t like either the initially approved siting of the 25-foot-tall abstract memorial, or a second proposed location (for a good overview of the debacle, read Tom Keyser’s coverage from the Times Union).

It always galls me when people who otherwise do not involve themselves with art suddenly feel entitled to act against it when they see something they don’t like being given prominence in public. A couple of significant examples from the recent past include the removal of a long-standing sculpture, which critics compared to a collapsed staircase, from its spot near a government building in downtown Albany; and the very controversial and expensive removal of a monumental Richard Serra sculpture from a public square in Manhattan.

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