There's no doubt that these are trying times around here. As mentioned before, my hometown is recovering from it's first (and hopefully last) political scandal in years, Long Beach's economy is in upheaval, with city council candidates not just entertaining the idea of city employee furloughs but picking it up, taking the idea of furloughs out to dinner and chatting endlessly with it from sundown to sunrise. So it's encouraging to see that the local powers that be have the time, resources and money to make things like the orange abstraction you see on my left. Actually, it's not an orange abstraction. It's an Orange Twist by Kathleen Caricof; capitalized and italicized because - as you might guess - it's the title of Long Beach's newest addition to a long line of expensive, bad public art. This particular piece sits idly at the intersecion of Atlantic and 45th and ran the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency $104,000. And yes, it's almost all bad. Don't take my word for it, visit the Long Beach Art Council's map of local public art (don't click on districts 8 and 9 though, as they're apparently no-mans land and you'll get a 404!).
And do artists like Kathleen Caricof (who lives in, Denver, by the way) make their livings off of this kind of money? I ask because Caricof's online CV is rife with "Select public art commissions" like Orange Twist ("select" implies she's omitted a few sculptures, I assume) and it's actually pretty light on real exhibitions. Moreover, only one of those exhibitions took place in a museum (the rest of the entries are either for galleries or too ambiguous to discern). I know I'm not one to judge, really, but I'll offer a better alternative. Actually, it's not even my idea. Long Beach came up with it 14 years ago:
On Belmont Shore's well-to-do and beach adjacent Second Street, the Long Beach Arts Council decided there was a need for public art. The first smart moved they made was by hiring a local resident. And for cheap! Craig Cree Stone was paid just $50,000 to paint dozens of drawings of animals, people and vehicles on the ground and walls. The clever part: at first glance the drawings look like shadows cast from Second Street's numerous parking meters. The cleverest part: the entire project was funded by change collected from—you guessed it—parking meters.
Why not make more art like that? Or at least, if we're not going to hire a local artist, maybe hire one so famous that he or she will attract outside spectators? Whatever Long Beach decides to do, it won't change the Orange Twists' fate, it doesn't look like that thing is going anywhere. Thanks, Long Beach.