A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Roundabout ‘art’ threat is averted

Written October 1st, 2014 by Hasso Hering


The orange construction screening in the middle of Albany’s newest traffic circle may look kind of fetching, but as you suspected it is not the final answer. City officials have been giving some thought to what should go in the center of the new roundabout at Main Street and Salem and Third avenues. But don’t worry. It’s not going to be some piece of public “art.”

The advisory board of the Central Albany Revitalization Area talked about this at their last meeting, on Sept. 18. They reviewed three recommendations from Kate Porsche, the urban renewal and economic development director, for what should go in the middle island of the circle: Some kind of art, a lighted sign, or just landscaping.

To the relief of everybody including Porsche, the committee nixed the art idea. The problem with public art paid for with public money is that while some peope may admire whatever it is, others almost always hate it with a passion. The last thing CARA needs is a public spat about spending money on what critics would surely regard as “so-called art.”

Instead, the CARA board favored the idea of one or more lighted signs set against a masonry or concrete base. Chances are the signs will say something like “Albany,” just to remind people driving west on Salem Avenue where they’ve arrived. Other suggestions were to highlight the central area’s historic districts. The board got an estimate that this option might cost around $50,000 for sign or signs, plus $20,000 for the surrounding landscaping. (There also was some inconclusive discussion about a flagpole and a remote-controlled halyard so no one would have to cross the traffic lane to haul the flag up and down.)

Porsche offered to come up up with some designs for the board to consider. Once the decision is made, either this month or later, it will no doubt be months before the hardware is built and installed. In the meantime, that orange thing will have to do. (hh)

13 responses to “Roundabout ‘art’ threat is averted”

  1. Greg Sorms says:

    How about some kind of low profile landscaping. The last thing needed is something to distract your attention while attempting to enter this thing with traffic.

    • ScottRAB says:

      If you’re looking at the other side of a modern roundabout when you’re entering, you’re driving unsafely. Drivers entering a modern roundabout should first look for pedestrians, then watch for other motorists coming from the left and then watch for pedestrians when exiting. The motorist on the other side of the circle won’t get to you for 5 or ten seconds. Obscured views across the central island is one of the safety features.

  2. Steve Bryant says:

    Well, that’s actually pretty disappointing. I really like this new round-about but it presents a unique opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Bend has well over 30 traffic circles and every one contains a significant piece of public art. Some might be controversial, such as the piece locllay known as the “flaming chicken”, but even it serves as a directional guide (“take the second exit past the flaming chicken”) and it has been replicated on local beer labels and other Bend promotions. For a city of 50,000, Albany has a public art deficiency. Peter Kageyama, a renowned speaker and author on the subject of “loveable cities”, argues persuasively for the expanded use of public art as a highly effective means to help citizens feel better about where they live and to promote their home towns to others. Albany’s carousel project is a good example of that phenomenon, but we need more, especially on the east side of downtown which could use something to love, or at least something to talk about.

    • James Carrick says:

      Well, if BEND does something then we must copy it?

      I remember when Bend was a nice little town and I spent much of the ’80’s there…before it got CALIFORNICATED. I’ll take my chances here, thank you.

      I wonder if Mr. Bryant approves of using CARA funds for his “artwork”? CARA seems to have all kinds of money for art, benches, and sidewalks with bioswales…..but a mere $1.4 mil for something that would benefit all of Albany…..a new fire station downtown.

      Shameful if you ask me.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Who laid all that rubber down just outside that orange thing? It looks like someone decided to use the inner circle as a race track.

  4. Warren Beeson says:

    Rats! And I thought the cool-looking orange net fencing was their decision. Its every bit as artistic as a lot of the “public art” thats been perpetrated on the public. A little landscaping would be nice public art wouldn’t it? Just a suggestion… employ the KISS method when creating it.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Here’s an update. Kate Porsche says she’s working with a couple of engineers in public works and a graphic designer to come up with some options. “We plan to bring these back to the next CARA meeting for review and, hopefully, funding approval. We’re focusing on the version that looks like a short wall with lettering on it.”

  5. Bill Kapaun says:

    I agree that there shouldn’t be anything distracting. Riding my bicycle through it and having the bike lane “DISAPPEAR” is distracting enough.
    It’s a SAFETY ISSUE!

  6. ScottRAB says:

    Roundabout Art:
    French Video: http://tinyurl.com/87yhqts
    Video 2: http://tinyurl.com/d8t3zua
    Topito top 25, France: http://tinyurl.com/c7k34an
    Bend Art drive: http://tinyurl.com/855d4mr
    PixPlot Roundabouts: http://tinyurl.com/2e9dvn3
    Art in traffic circles, flickr: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=art+in+traffic+circle
    Art in roundabouts, flicker: http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=art+in+roundabout&m=text
    Podcetrtek Traffic Circle located in Slovenia http://tinyurl.com/9we2qz6
    2014 UK roundabout of the year http://tinyurl.com/rabUK2014

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Thanks for this giant mass of information on roundabouts around the world. Interesting, to say the least, to a transportation nut like me and, I’m sure, many of the readers of hh-Today.


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