On Tuesday, the Brentwood City Council punted a decision to a later date on a proposed $192k art project that would be placed on Balfour Road near Highway 4.
Per City Staff, the agreement for the street art project was with Seth Palmiter of Motivated Metal after being selected by the Arts Commission and Ad-hoc Committee. The artist, who is out of the State of Maine, was chosen after a national search which resulted in around 125-applicants before being narrowed down to 5 artists. The process has been two-years.
The funding for the project comes from the Public Art Acquisition, Public Art Administration and Capital Infrastructure Funds which means the city could only use the funds for public arts projects or they would have to give the funds back to the developers.
According to staff, the artist chose the sunset pallet of colors after spending several days in the city which he saw a sunset over Mount Diablo. Staff later said the triangles in the art display were representing Mount Diablo sunset–not kites. The structure was also elevated in case of a traffic crash, it wouldn’t have structural damage to the art and the bottom was planter boxes.
Mayor Bob Taylor wanted to clarify the funding and that the art commission helped select the design followed by the ad-hoc committee which included two city council members to create drafts with the artist.
Staff explained the funds for this project were collected through developer fees which if the city did not use these specific funds for art, the city would have to return the money to developers.
Not everyone agreed with the art project.
During public comments, Rod Flohr called this art project “awful” and just yesterday the city said they had no money to help their neighborhood but are spending money on art.
“Now we are being told the city is contemplating erecting a project for 9-months on Balfour Road right before the Interchange where we have been living with construction for the last 3-years and that thing is just going to be a monument of how the city just doesn’t care about their communities. Its grotesque, its ugly, it reflects a trend of municipal artwork of just putting up sole-less abstract art that has no meaning, no connection with the community,” said Flohr. “If we have $200k to spend on a piece of art, why don’t we get a piece of art that says something. You can put up a statue of Martin Luther King, a statue of Mayor Taylor and that would say something more about Brentwood than this thing. Its going to be right in the line of sight and going to be an eye sore.”
Francis Webster also spoke stating her displeasure with the proposal but suggested they start placing art where they develop in the community, not near a senior community.
“When I saw the picture and the amount of money being spent on this on social media it absolutely sent my blood pleasure to a boil,” said Webster who said she loves art. “I want it to say something and want it connect with the people. This might be beautiful for somebody who is into total contemporary, but this is a farming community… this does not represent a connection with the people in the community.”
Mayor Taylor said the project is a lot of money, but he could not recognize “bad art” from “good art” and wanted to hear from his council on their thoughts.
Councilwoman Karen Rarey stated the location was “odd” and when they discussed it that the artwork would be placed closer to the off-ramp near Highway 4 and asked if there were other location options. Staff said they would look into it.
Taylor asked if there were other sketches available which staff explained that for this specific project this artist was the only artist they were working with at this time and this drawing was his second design after the arts commission requested changes.
“I don’t think I like the location of this, but I think there are other parts of the city where this might look good in or fit better in,” said Taylor.
Staff said the ball was in their court where they could ask them to find another location, get another artist, or another sculpture.
Vice Mayor Joel Bryant highlighted how he understood art was subjective, but locations are also substantial in whether or not it frames a piece or not. He said he was okay with taking more time with this project.
“I would like to see if there is another location we can find. If this is the artist we are working with, what were the close seconds,” said Bryant.
Taylor said he believe Sand Creek Road would be a much better location for this in which he asked the council to delay a decision on this item. He wanted to ask the art commission to look for another commission.
Rarey explained that originally, there were four gateway locations into Brentwood where they identified where monuments would be placed. There are already some spots they could look at.
The council agreed to postpone a decision and continue this item to another meeting date not yet to be determined.