Accept failure; remove the Spot

Monday, May 28, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:44 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

In response to the May 11 article on the Tiger Spot: Those of us who walk past that sad eyesore on the way to work have a twice-daily opportunity to contemplate what it symbolizes, namely:

  • MU’s manifest failure to bring together art with science, or require its contractors to do so, when erecting outdoor art.
  • MU’s tendency to freeze instead of taking action when taking action requires unpleasant conversations with major donors and members of the MU and Columbia communities who donated in good faith to the Tiger Spot effort.

Regarding Mr. Edwards’ comments about the role of jackhammers, I will point out that while the jackhammers undoubtedly hastened the deterioration of the tiles, they are a distraction from the real issue. Consultant Stephen Miotto found significant problems with the Spot’s 2001 construction in January 2003, well before the jackhammering started. From last summer’s Tribune:

“Miotto said he found cracked and loosened tiles and empty joints between tiles. He concluded that the tiles were too thin to be used on exterior pavement and that there were no expansion joints around the exterior of the mosaic. In concluding his report, Miotto said he didn’t know if the mosaic could be saved and he predicted that it would require a ‘great deal’ of maintenance in the future.”

It’s time MU stepped up and swallowed the bitter pill of admitting failure. Jackson’s design is attractive, so work with the artist to keep it on MU’s mugs, coasters, T-shirts, stationery, you name it. Maybe after awhile, if it feels good, wise and brave to start over, commission a new attempt at a glass mosaic — indoors. Outdoors it did not work, for the reasons Miotto outlined, and we at MU need to learn from our mistakes and create new memories.

In case anyone is looking for fundraising ideas: I bet if you put a sledgehammer out there during homecoming week, alongside a dunking booth for every MU official who was a part of the ill-considered decision to use a material-science experiment as a fundraising tool, you’d find an army of us who’d line up to pay $50 for a good whack with a sledgehammer and another $20 at least per dunked administrator. Recent alums from the classes of 2005-2007 who never knew Lowry Mall without the cloudy-whitish coated, chipping-off Spot should get a discount. Me, I’d pay full price.

Then, dig up the remains of the site, plant a tree, and put in some benches. Better yet, set up a suggestion box where ideas for creative ways to use the space may be submitted.

  • Down with ugliness!
  • Down with neglect of the physical properties of matter!
  • Down with MU taking itself so seriously it can’t admit its mistakes!
  • Up with institutional humility!
  • Up with accountability!
  • Up with scientific scrutiny!
  • Up with MU!


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