A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany asks ODOT to allow sculpture

Written September 15th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Albany is asking ODOT to allow a piece of public art somewhere on this site at Lyon Street and the offramp from Pacific Boulevard.

Whatever happened to the idea of public art in the shape of giant metal wildflowers sprouting near the Lyon Street entrance to downtown Albany? The $80,000 project was in the news last year, and now it’s up to ODOT to decide whether to permit it in the intended spot.

Last week, the city council unanimously passed a resolution asking the state transportation department to allow the sculpture on the ODOT right of way just off the Pacific Boulevard offramp on Lyon. The city parks department has maintained the grassy site for years under an agreement with the state.

Earlier this year, then-Parks Director Ed Hodney told the city’s urban renewal board that ODOT did not allow a big “wayfinding” sign there because it would distract drivers. His successor, Kim Lyddane, told the council in a memo that if ODOT nixes the sculpture too, the city will pick another spot. She mentioned Waverly and Monteith parks as potential sites.

The project is the result of a city ordinance pased in 1998 requiring 1 percent of the cost of public buildings to be spent on art. After spending some of that fraction of the cost of the new police and fire department headquarters on other items, the city allocated $80,000 to this effort.

The city has a contract with DeeDee Morrison, a South Carolina artist, to design and build the sculpture. Her design calls for an array of Oregon wildflowers, up to 12 feet tall, with images of pollinating bugs laser-cut into the petals. For a description of the design, check a report from last year here.

In her memo to the council last week, Lyddane said the city won’t ask the artist to start fabrication of the work until ODOT has approved it. She estimates completion of the project in April 2020.

Mindful that people might be wondering why the city wants to buy an $80,000 sculpture while contemplating cutting city programs like libraries and the pool, Councilor Rich Kellum made the point that it’s a “different pot of money” that’s not available for other things.

Editorial aside: This is the standard explanation when governments spend money on non-essentials while basics don’t get done.  But the “different pot” argument, while true, makes no sense to citizens who ask: Well, if one pot has extra money and another not enough, why not change the laws and the system to get rid of all those different pots?(hh)

City officials showed this rendition of the artist’s design last year.

28 responses to “Albany asks ODOT to allow sculpture”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    By dedicating silos of money, making them non-transferable, City Moms and Pops and their staff can claim they are doing the job but are hamstrung by the very processes they control. Stymied by their own rules, the self-imposed stagnation becomes the norm. City streets are allowed to deteriorate while months of effort are spent by multiple agencies to embellish the City’s boulevards with California art. It’s akin to coming into Pyonyang, North Korea. On the surface all appears bountiful. Just don’t look too deep.

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    How many back in parking spots at the Post Office?

  3. Michelle Tatum says:

    why not try beautifying the other end of town, like right off I5 area,its such an eye sore and for srangers entering Albany wouldnt be nice to see that a nice inviting area as well

  4. Stacy says:

    Sculpture looks like a bunch of wilted flowers. Just another way for the city to waste tax dollars.

  5. Peg Richner says:

    The key point here is: “The project is the result of a city ordinance passed in 1998 requiring 1 percent of the cost of public buildings to be spent on art.”

    This 1998 ordinance should be repealed. Artworks may (or not) be lovely, but let them be accomplished strictly by private benefactors.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      It’s for the public – not “private benefactors.” It should be very strictly adhered to! Not “repealed.”

      • J. Jacobson says:

        It would seem public attitude on this is “meh.” But remember, the 1% For Art is law (another silo) and, as a result, there’s nothing to be done but spend inordinate time and effort on learning how it is Albany-generated tax dollars are being used to “study” how it is we can pay a Californian to create art nobody’s crying out for.

  6. Bob Woods says:

    Pot is legal. Let art live.

    (What a bunch of whiners…)

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      The pot calling the kettle black.

      And spoken like a true blue ex-bureaucrat with the City of Albany.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      The author is on to something. Instead of the drooping, rusting “flowers” being pitched by the California-based Art huckster, why not a waving tract of Willamette Valley cannabis rendered in aluminum with glints of gold. Seems we ought to play to the area’s strengths. Imagine as you descend into downtown Albany on the Hwy 20 exit, a glebe of shimmering cannabis stalks waving gently in the breeze. Now there’s your “Welcome To Albany.”

  7. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The $80,000 comes from the bond proceeds for the new police/fire buildings.

    I wonder if the majority of voters who approved the bonds really understood that 1% of the proceeds was baked-in for whimsy and joy?

    Like Peg Richner said, the 1998 ordinance that mandates this nonsense should be repealed by the council.

    If the council doesn’t have the common sense to repeal, then a responsible citizen should lead an initiative effort to undo this ordinance.

    Let the people decide if whimsy and joy is an essential government service.

  8. Ray Kopczynski says:

    HH – “Well, if one pot has extra money and another not enough, why not change the laws and the system to get rid of all those different pots?”

    Sad that you have to state a very obvious civics lesson to the masses… Of course it follows that folks have to get off their hind ends and get involved to do that.

  9. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Perhaps the council should change Chapt. 2.96 of the Municipal Code to mandate 1% for street construction/repair instead of art. At least it would force the council to save for what is essential – street construction and repair.

    The cost of whimsy and joy should be funded by those who want to impose their own version of whimsy and joy on Albany taxpayers, subject to council approval, of course.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      It’s all in how one views things.

      Through skilled mind control techniques, it seems fairly certain that City Moms and Pops could be convinced that infrastructure and maintenance, while not glamorous, are whimsical and viewed positively by the public. Given that Albany and Linn County went heavily for Trump, it seems our fair city can be convinced of nearly anything.

  10. CHEZZ says:

    In today’s world, whimsy and joy is most welcomed. You all need to enjoy the wonderful art in the many cities that utilize the 1% for art. This community historically has not had a lot of art exposure. Thank you Albany Parks and Rec for bringing in Children’s Performing Arts Series, more art in the parks, concerts, private galleries, Albany Civic Theatre and more!!! We are doing much better.

  11. CHEZZ says:

    *LOL Centrist!! Hope some of Hasso’s bloggers take pause for an art appreciation moment, look up and out, and take in a little interpretation of our beautiful world….

    • J. Jacobson says:

      Art is in the mind of the viewer. Art appreciation does not exclude Art Un-appreciation. Art appreciation is subjective, open to interpretation.

      For any society to coerce it’s citizens into supporting “public art” in this manner creates a philosophical opening a Peterbuilt could drive through. The subjectivity inherent in the creation of any art form is precisely why all publicly-displayed art ought be paid for by private interests, not foisted on the public.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        “For any society to coerce it’s citizens into supporting “public art” in this manner creates a philosophical opening a Peterbuilt could drive through.”

        I’d rather live in the real world. But you ahead and dive into your philosophy…

  12. NancyM. says:

    Beauty and art are always in the eye of the beholder. The Art Commission demonstrated
    poor taste in their selection of this ghastly array of “metal flowers” . Looks tacky and
    cheap (?) . For 80 K you would think something more palatable could have been
    suggested. Why reaching so far East to North Carolina . Most of the funds have probably
    been expended to the artist for her prototype?

    • Julie Jackson says:

      This is an artists sketch. It will look very different when completed. Give the piece a look before you judge.

  13. Julie Jackson says:

    Hello All,
    as the chair of the Albany Arts Commission, I’d like to weigh in on this lively discussion. It’s important to know that the $80K does not represent 1%, but more like .5%. The city used the remainder of the money on elements that went into the Police Station and Fire Department. The Arts Commission worked diligently to find an artists and project that we felt was a good fit for Albany. There are many studies and statistics that you can research demonstrating the value of public art, but people will either like the idea or not. I ask that you wait until the project is completed, go look at it, talk to others about it and then comment. We look forward to hearing from you.

  14. DeborahO says:

    Why aren’t they using an artist from Oregon?


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