December 7, 2013

Stump Art and Monotony

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 8:59 am


Steve Anthony is the Recreation Services Director for the City of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and he is also the City’s liaison to the City’s Arts Commission.  Jennifer (Riggs) Drake is the Chairman of the Arts Commission Selection Committee which chose a sculpture titled Allium Spring Chorus by Somerville, Massachusetts, artist David Tonnesen for the McEuen Park Third Street entrance.

The final approval for the $110,000 purchase was made by the Coeur d’Alene City Council at its December 3, 2013, meeting on a tie-breaking vote by outgoing Mayor Sandi Bloem.   While the local skewspaper, the Coeur d’Alene Press, reported some of Anthony and Drake’s comments to Council , its article omitted others which some people believed were arrogant and disparaged local artists.  Here are audio recordings of the disquieting comments:

Anthony’s comment (Duration: 12 seconds)

Drake’s comment (preceded by Councilman Kennedy’s predicate question) (Duration: 61 seconds)

Readers may want to view the online video of the December 3rd Council meeting to get the entire context of their remarks.  The discussion of the piece of art began at 24:57 and ended at 49:38 on the video time stamp.

ADDENDUM on 12-09-2013 at 4:10 PM:  Apparently Boise is proud of its local artists.



  1. Mrs. Drake did not choose the art. The Art Committee (I believe is a group of 8 people) chose the art, Mrs. Drake did not have a vote, did you miss that part?
    I’m don’t see the importance of timing the statements down to the second, is there a point you are trying to make?
    And last question, does anyone expect the Press to report word for word the entire council meeting or just the part one person is upset about?

    Comment by Mike Teague — December 7, 2013 @ 11:02 am

  2. Mike Teague,

    The post wasn’t a criticism of the Arts Commission for selecting one piece over another, so no, I didn’t miss anything. The post was a disclosure of apparently disparaging comments about the work of our community’s artists made by the City’s Recreation Services Director and the person who chaired the Arts Commission selection committee.

    I included the duration of each sound clip so that readers would know the duration of each sound clip. It’s included a courtesy to readers.

    One of the purposes of OpenCdA is to encourage readers to either attend or at least listen to recordings of local government meetings to evaluate the performance of public officials. The Arts Commission and the City’s Recreation Services Director apparently have some influence on the decision how public money will be spent on public art in Coeur d’Alene. Anthony’s and Drake’s comments give the public (which includes many extremely talented artists in not only visual arts but performing arts as well) some additional insight into the City’s selection process and possibly into the biases and prejudices of some of the City officials who are decision makers.

    Comment by Bill — December 7, 2013 @ 11:30 am

  3. On Art –

    I understand Bill’s selection of clips to exemplify direction and perhaps some misaligned commentary related to our local artist, but the hearing in its entirety combined with recent art installations also point to how all city funded art will eventually become–as homogeneous as 2% milk in Wisconsin.

    If you look at the large, more expensive art installations that have been approved by the City in the last couple of years as a collection you will easily recognize a common theme. A theme that very well could have been presented in a wholesale package from a single artist or studio. A colored iron/steel pine tree replica at Lakeshore and Sherman (with color coordinated bum-bench), drooping colored steel flowers in a roundabout, the carnival-esque “Rainbow Bridge” leading to McKuen, the multi-colored plastic-esque playground equipment in the center of McKuen, and now the steel (dead) dandelions (variations of which grow pretty much anywhere in the world)set at a predominate location leading to the park. A consistent theme is being promoted whether you see it yet or not.

    When questioned, Drake (Pita-Pit Riggs) justified the reason for not hiring local artist was because [they] the Selection Committee did not want art installations becoming “monotonous.” I would suggest to Drake, (who according to Kennedy will be the next Chair of the Arts Commission)that when the same people or any relatively small socio-economically similar class of people are making all of the decisions related to aesthetics–the end product will always be the same–not the other way around as insinuated. She went on to say that artist “naturally have a certain style.” To a degree, I agree.

    But–will suggest that, 1) Since the ultimate decisions of which art installation are chosen only needs to be made by four individuals, and 2) Since the decision-makers are only given the choice of a couple of pieces (out of hundreds), and, 3) That since the “call” for proposals was based on documentation prepared by a hand-chosen subcommittee of a committee of which both were appointed by the ultimate decision makers, and 4) Since the same Art Commission and Selection Committee were chosen by so few like-minded individuals–the outcome then becomes a predetermined homogeneous blur of beige, not “monotomy” as described by Drake-Riggs.

    It could very well be that the reason the Drake team had, err, chose to advertise globally (via a pre-selected, subjectified, commercial ad-based internet site)was that local artist weren’t promoting the artistic mode as the chosen few who define what is “good” art. I would suggest to the Arts Commission that next time a request for proposals is drafted for art installations, that they define the specifics of what is envisioned and then let the artist interpret that idea. Instead of an open-ended cost-plus call for proposals that become subjective to the eye of the beholder, (i.e. Drake and Co. and 4 elected Councilman), try a more directed call and let cost be more competitive rather than the practice now employed that allowed each applicant to spend to the limit (%1.33 of infrastructure cost).

    Mr. Edinger represents alot of common-thought people when he said we (CDA) are losing too much of history. I think it fair to say what he was saying is that we are losing identity inherent to our specific location and why people– since the natives–chose to live here in the past. Drake’s response essentially boiled down to her argument that we (Her new CDA) are becoming a more global destination–and that even people from California are entitled to be reminded of Californian art. That is homogenization at it’s finest–a blend that leads to water washed taste buds. Or in the words of Drake the (4) out of +180 submittals recommended to the Council and Mayor from the Committee she managed and chaired, “came to the top naturally”. Naturally? Really.

    The only “natural” act in the selection of recent art installation pieces it that a very few controlled the submission requirement specifications, screening, pre-selections, and the final selection–and they are all of the same [ilk] cliche. What Drake was really saying is that it was “natural” to her that a few get to choose for the many–and that’s just how the “natural” system works (by law and practice). To go out on a limb here–it won’t surprise me that we start to see a theme carry over from the Pita Pit logo and color scheme. We already have design requirements that make downtown construction look like the CDA Resort, so why not art that looks like cheap fried lunch meat? Lunch Meat on Flatbread America Awards, here we come. Nice to hear though that the City took votes in order to decide some elements for city decor, glad they take votes on such irrelevant social expenditures and can recite the most minute details about such a trivial public process came to a head.

    From a broader perspective, the “art” mandated by the City’s %1.33 allocation of pubic infrastructure cost is not really art in the most basic understanding of art. Rather, its a commercialized, now an accessorized pig with lipstick project. Leave the poor in the cold, the hungry to the dumpster, the sick to a painful death–but I sure do like those new steel flowers I saw on my way home from church Sunday–makes me want to drive around and around in glory, hallelujah. Reminds me of a song from the late 80’s:

    One last jab – For some misdirected reason there are those on the Council who believe that if art creates debate and discussion during city council meetings that it [art] must be doing it’s “job.” First, art does not have a job per se, decorations on the other hand do. Second, if the city continues to stick with this assumed function of art, there are alot of really ugly used-up middle finger-ish body parts that could be cast in bronze in front of the Resort that I’m sure would create debate and discussion. Would that be art or high art?

    Comment by Old Dog — December 7, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

  4. “Jennifer (Riggs) Drake” –RIGGS– as in Jack Riggs that just purchased the Coeur d’Alene mines building. Where? Right across the street from the biggest taxpayer funded project in CdA history.

    Comment by concernedcitizen — December 7, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

  5. Concerned –

    Ergo, the Drake arts commission appointment and the way she dissed the current Chair of the Commission after he began to respond to a question from the City Council, which leads us to the winner of the first annual “Fried, Imported, Bologna U.S.A.” competition.

    Comment by Old Dog — December 7, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

  6. Old Dog

    Appropriately short-titled the FIB-USA competition.

    Not to be confused with the proposed short-title of the agency created by combining the CIA and FBI — the I C A FIB.

    Comment by Bill — December 8, 2013 @ 6:30 am

  7. Bill,

    Glad you understood the humorous metaphor in my post. Equally, I hope you and others understand that I was only using “art” installation decisions as commentary as an example of how I fear the new administration will make decisions that really tip the proverbial boat.

    Comment by Old Dog — December 9, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

  8. I was surprised to hear Steve Anthony state that the artist had two similar installations of this piece. Tonnasen’s website has a picture of one installation that appears to have the stainless globe stylized heads but a different base. The video of another similar installation has sound that might be coming from wind through the piece. That being said, my concern is that this is not a totally original piece. I cannot recall reading anything about accepting public art that is a duplication/triplication of art installed in another location in another state.

    Comment by Susie Snedaker — December 10, 2013 @ 10:47 am

  9. Susie,

    Considering that the city advertised via a huge, commercial based website my guess is that the studio already had one in stock on the shelf. All they had to do was a couple of minor modifications so it “fit” the allotted space. Did the city get a deal on a reproduction? Hardly, but then since when was the city ever original – those days are gone.

    Comment by Old Dog — December 10, 2013 @ 11:35 am

  10. Old Dog,
    I concur with all you have posted above. That the public was not informed that this piece is not original was, in my opinion, a serious omission.

    Comment by Susie Snedaker — December 10, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

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