Thursday, March 19, 2009

That Was The Meeting That Wasn't

At least 50 members of the public (including notables Mayor Bogaard and wife Claire Bogaard, former Commissioner Sasha Anawalt, Planning & Development head Richard Bruckner and others) attended last night's Public Art Subcommittee meeting, convened to allow members of the Subcommittee to begin discussing the "amended artist selection process" with the Pasadena Center Operating Company. Interestingly, by the time the meeting rolled around, the folks on the dais had begun calling it a meeting to "create an amended artist selection process," causing some in the audience to wonder whether the distinction was intentional. None of what the Arts & Culture Commission nor the Public Art Subcommittee has been charged with carries a specified outcome, only that the parties concerned consider alternatives and make another round of recommendations back to City Council. Re-recommending the original Kuhn and Oppenheim sculptures as planned is still an option.

And that is what was urged, encouraged, implored and respectfully requested by many audience members who were allowed to make public comments after Cultural Affairs Manager Rochelle Branch's powerpoint overview of the planning to date. Artists, educators, philanthropists, community leaders, curators, businesspeople, even a public art administrator for the City of Los Angeles (and a Pasadena resident) expressed varied points of view -- support for contemporary art, for the public art planning process, for allowing Pasadena to move purposefully into an artful future -- but all exhorted the Subcommittee and by extension the Commission to return to City Council with a sustained endorsement for the Kuhn and Oppenheim pieces.

A minority opinion was expressed by a small handful of heritage adherents, whose position is that the Civic Auditorium is art enough on the plaza and that the proposed artworks would interfere with the sightlines to the Civic, that the contemporary Lightfield and Thinking Caps just "don't fit."

And then the weirdest thing happened. The meeting, or whatever it was, was adjourned. One powerpoint presentation, lots of public comment pro and con, and then -- no meeting. The Subcommittee and City representatives, including Cultural Affairs, were assembled with mikes before them. Representatives from PCOC were in their reserved front-row seats. It looked like a meeting. It sounded like a meeting. It was billed as a meeting. But, no meeting. No discussion, let alone creation, of an amended artist selection process.

Lip service was paid to a future meeting, and a date to return to City Council -- Monday, April 27th, if they can pull it off in time.

Turns out that PCOC didn't get its act together in time to nominate, according to its Bylaws, representatives to sit on a committee charged with working alongside the Public Art Subcommittee on the getting-thornier-by-the-minute public art debacle. Of course, they've had since January 27th, the day after the City Council authorized this Round 2. You'd think they would be eager to get on with this "amended selection process" in the hope that it would net them the result (no art on the plaza) they want. Or maybe they're just stalling.

In any case, it would have been helpful and considerate for the Subcommittee to have explained to the assembled public why the meeting was being adjourned so abruptly. It wasn't their doing, after all, that caused the shut-down. And adding yet another layer of obfuscation just tempts suspicious minds when the appearance of preferential treatment is hard to ignore.

1 comment:

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    Weston DeWalt said...
    The significance of the PCOC's having ducked out of last week's Public Art Subcommittee is suggested when you consider:

    January 26, 2009 - City Council makes its decision that Cultural Affairs and the Arts & Culture Commission consider possible alternatives to the Kuhn and Oppenheim sculptures proposed for the Convention Center plaza. It says come back in 90 days with a proposal suggesting how to move forward.

    March 18, 2009/Public Art Subcommittee meeting - 51 days have passed without the PCOC being involved in any public discussion of the Convention Center public art issue. The PCOC says it has not bothered to call an emergency board meeting to impanel an ad hoc committee to discuss the public art issue, an explanation that seems somewhat dubious given that the PCOC's standing Expansion Committee has historically handled public art matters.

    March 25, 2009 - If the PCOC should use this day - the occasion of their regularly scheduled Board Meeting - to credential a whole new committee, then, perhaps, they could make an appearance at a public meeting, but at this point 58 of the 90 days that City Council mandated have passed.

    April 8, 2009 - The next scheduled Arts & Culture Commission meeting date - unless a special session is called - will be the meeting at which the Arts & Culture Commission will have to vote upon what is to be presented to City Council in response to Council's January 26th decision. It cannot be done at the next meeting in May, because the 90 days will have elapsed. What this means is that - from the time PCOC puts their new committee together - if it bothers to do so - there will be only two weeks within which to hold another Public Arts Subcommittee meeting, to sort through the options and then for the Arts & Culture Commission to come up with a proposal to take to City Council.

    Bottom line: Only 14 days or less will be left to address one of the most important art issues to be considered in this community in decades. The fact that the PCOC wants to toss aside the previous art selection process that has consumed three years and has accrued expenses of nearly $200,000 is troubling enough without their now heaping on a considerable dose of disrespect for a mandated public process.