LETTER: Culture department doesn't know much about art

Thursday, July 7, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

The Tribune has printed a series of supposed news stories about opposition growing to the merger of the city's culture department with the visitors and convention bureau. This propaganda effort culminated with an editorial by Hank Waters on June 26, which told Columbia residents their city manager is meddling. Mr. Waters suggested this merger "should be politely removed from consideration."

In this writer's opinion, Mr. Waters is attempting to intimidate your new city manager because the good old boys like the good old special-interest ways. It seems curious that Mr. Matthes chose the culture department to pick on, perhaps because that department and its advisory board have done a pathetically poor job and wasted so much money.

Case in point — the tinted glass (art?) at the new parking garage at Fifth and Walnut. If you were to descend an unconditioned 10-story stairwell on the northwest corner, you would see expensive dirt-covered blue glass panels showing the various shades of blue sky on a solstice day, a sight that would not even make the pages of a most-boring science textbook.

This pathetic idea of art cost $140,000 plus a ton of interest to come. Let these artsy folks defend this if they can, but I speculate they don't have anything like it in their own window panes. They just want to experiment on the citizens at taxpayer expense. I call on the citizens of Columbia who have common sense to contact their councilperson. Tell them to stand behind Mr. Matthes and his excellent accountability/merger idea.

In recent days, I ventured to the second floor of the City Building to view three large paintings near the manager's office that are the latest 1 Percent for the Arts project. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

The worst painting was on the north wall. I asked a city employee what he thought. He said it looked like a dragon on a red field. I saw glaze runing down on the margin. Perhaps this was meant to represent the heat of Dante's Inferno. However, faint lettering spelled out "digital landscape."

I'm at a loss to fathom what this has to do with Columbia. The color used in all three works are scarlet red, white and black. I believe the use of red, white and blue would have been appropriate.

Look for yourselves. Could the arts committee have done better? You decide if your tax dollars are well spent. .

Roger Gadbois is a retired tradesman who is concerned about civic affairs. He is a Boone County resident.

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Robin Nuttall July 7, 2011 | 3:21 p.m.

Roger, respectfully, you do not get to be the arbiter of what is and is not art. Nor do I, though I bet I know more about it than you do.

Everyone has their own view of what constitutes "good art." For some, that means Thomas Kinkade paintings, complete with little glowey lights behind the windows to make it look even more... well glowey. Obviously I'm not a Kinkade fan. But for the most part I have approved of the various art projects around town and think they are indeed money well spent.

It's always easy to sneer and disparage art and say we don't need it and it's a waste of money. But more and more studies show that art is as essential to the well rounded human condition as is math (and in fact is connected to math in many more ways than we used to think).

I support the tribune's position on this issue. And I suggest you relax a bit, open your view and release your prejudices. You might be surprised at what you discover.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire July 7, 2011 | 7:54 p.m.

What? You pulled my comment? But I had such a good idea, painting the parking garage red, white, and blue!!! They wouldn't even need to take it down at night!

Crazy stained glass. Nobody uses that anywhere. Maybe they should have made it red, white, and blue too! And then we can have the painters do up the french fries. Then they will be freedom fries!

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