Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Desperately Decorating Disorder
Speech to the Grants Pass City Council, 2/1/12
Mayor Murphy asked a very good question in the latest article in the Grants Pass Daily Courier about the endangered public art in our outrageously over-priced bus stop project: “What is public art worth in terms of tourism, livability and image? That is a valid question –especially when it can be had with zero local money.”
Without cleanliness and order, I submit, public art isn’t worth much. It is like an unkempt woman putting on makeup and jewelry without putting on clean clothes and combing her hair first.
When I first lived here for a couple of years in the mid-eighties, we didn’t have any public art that I can recall, apart from “The Dancer” at RCC, but I thought this was a beautiful town, because it was neat and clean, remarkably so for the West. I don’t recall litter lying everywhere. The lawns were mostly green and mowed, though some people, including me, began to let them go dry to save money and work, not realizing the work it would bring us later in weeds. Weeds there were, but not many, and not as obnoxious, apart from blackberries. Several weeds that we are infested with now—crabgrass, Bermuda grass, puncture vine, and bitter cress—were non-existent then. Star thistle was a noxious weed we heard about but did not see; it was not all over town.
Grants Pass was considered rather Philistine in those days; we went on art field trips to Eugene. G Street had bars, not art galleries; we had no First Friday Art Night. But retirees were coming here as tourists, finding the town beautiful, and buying houses, as my parents did. It reminded me of Goshen, Indiana, Dad’s home town.
They say that you can never go home again. In 1999, I came back to a different town than I had left in ’87. There were weeds everywhere that I’d never seen before, including that crazy grass all over town that turned out to be crabgrass. The cops had acquired a bad reputation regarding excessive traffic patrol and over-patrolling public events. Fine bark was the City’s choice for mulch, where they had been pushing leaf mulch in the 80’s. And as I practiced my new profession of gardening, I became sensitized to the litter that seems to have become worse every year over the last decade.
Grants Pass was a work of art in itself when I first lived here, like a clean, beautiful building without excessive decoration. Now, it’s like a messy, dirty house, cluttered with cute kitsch. We are desperately decorating disorder.