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Hall column: Salisbury takes step toward becoming city of the arts

Salisbury is in the midst of its sculpture show, “Discover What’s Outside,” which is generating high marks and high interest.
But when the Salisbury Post reported about the installations and showed photos of some of the works, the Web version of the article received a shower of anonymous comments poking fun at the appearance of the art works.
Some of the reader comments on the Charlotte Observer’s Web site support a project for a set of new public monuments, but more are along the lines of one that states: “install a large barrel and fill it with money and gasoline and then set the money on fire … It would provide the same artistic appeal and would keep people warm during the winter.”
What is it about the right of free and anonymous speech that seems to often stimulate the bully reflex in so many people?
Few artists achieve wealth, or fame, or even appreciation. But they persevere, often setting themselves up for ridicule when they display the product of their creative industry.
Much like telling a mother her baby is ugly, most artists take pride in what they’ve produced, and the criticism can hurt. But some artists like stirring things up, producing works that are puzzling or controversial, and welcome negative comments as a way of opening dialogue or making people think.
But who should pay for these artists’ statements, or protests in the form of public art? Especially if they are nontraditional and not what most would consider “beautiful.”
Paying for public art can’t really be compared to public television. You can choose not to turn on your TV, or at least not to the PBS channel.
If public art is placed along your path, you look at it. You can’t help it. You may choose how long to look, but you probably didn’t ask for the opportunity, and probably weren’t given any input as far as the art’s design. So should you be expected to pay for it in the form of tax dollars, or allowed to scoff?
According to Lynn Raker, urban design planner for Salisbury, the Salisbury Sculpture Show has a lot going for it as far as acceptance by the public at large.
“The fact that they are temporary and the placement of the pieces have been key to people accepting them,” she says. She also points out that there is nothing “outrageous” and they are all obviously well-constructed with quality materials.
All of the art is for sale, and a 25 percent commission on any of the works sold will go to a fund for future public art projects. In this way, those who appreciate and purchase art provide a legacy and funding. And Raker says people have been inquiring about the prices.
If the sculpture show perpetuates itself in this way, Salisbury takes a giant step on its path to being a “city of the arts” and a destination for art-lovers.
It is a goal of the Public Art Committee for one sculpture be chosen each year for the city’s permanent collection.
Salisbury may not have as many arts-minded philanthropists as the city of Spartanburg, S.C. with their “Group of 100,” but a circle of 50, or even 20, visionaries could make a big difference.

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