From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 40 - 6/1/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Is There a Place for Public Art in Pinedale?

I must admit to watching the current debate about public art in Pinedale with a morbid curiosity somewhat akin to that with which I would watch the brain scan of an unfortunate person experiencing a seizure. No doubt there is something to be learned here, I just can't tell what it is. A number of local citizens, most of them either natives or very long-term residents, are trying to bring something to the community they feel is of value. This is being vigorously resisted by the behind the scenes maneuvering of a small group seemingly opposed to any form of creative expression. The Town Council has joined the wind sock school of government, abandoning its leadership role if the project receives anything less than unanimous support. What, if anything, is the role of public art in Pinedale?

Assuming the caves of Lascaux were communal, public art has a history of at least 25,000 years. Throughout most of this time, its main role has been to record major events and celebrate those values held by the local population as being of more than ordinary significance, be it the hunt in pre-historic Europe, heroism in battle, the Greek ideal of beauty, or the various deities. This role was often compromised to serve a propaganda function in support of its sponsor, encouraging loyalty to the heroic monarch being portrayed, or continued fidelity to the teachings of the religious hierarchy. Still, public art represented the values of the society and strengthened the bonds that held it together.

A later development in public art has been the increasingly important role of challenging the values held by most members of society. Perhaps no piece of public art has been more successful in this role than the Vietnam War Memorial. Breaking with the long tradition of glorifying the leaders of a war (think of Trafalgar Square) it celebrates the common service person who gave it all for their Country, and quietly asks the question "was it worth it?" The Memorial was initially controversial specifically because it wasn't heroic. It is now the most popular monument in Washington, indicating its success in representing values common to those on both side of the war issue.

The process that is now moving forward in Pinedale is an effort to discover those values we hold in common, to use art as a unifying force. So, what does the way that this process is progressing in Pinedale have to say about our town? Of the 56 towns where this process is being conducted, Pinedale is the only one in which it has been met with hostility. Is this an indication that we have no common values? Instead of a true community, are we just a collection of warring factions? If indeed Councilwoman Boyce is being "bombarded" on a daily basis by opponents, why do these people not have the courage of their convictions and come to the public meetings? Can we not tolerate diversity? The objective of this project has never been to inflict some conspicuous monstrosity on the good people of Pinedale. I would think that the people of Pinedale would give their neighbors credit for having at least that much common sense. If the outcome of the public input process is the realization that we have no common ground, I fear the legacy of that discovery will be more enduring than any art work Mr. Kennell could produce. It will be a dark future in which all initiative will be defeated by the forces of negativism. I urge you to contact your Town Council representative or County commissioner to support the Millennium Project, not just to support the arts, but to preserve the idea of possibilities.

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