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Budget Woes For Less Than Literal Art

You can blame the economy, but even in a good year communities can be spending-averse when it comes to abstract sculptures for public spaces.

Bedrock City teeth.Take Neptune Beach, Florida, for example. Its city council just voted down a $250,000 proposal for “Pathfinder,” a 26-foot-high series of metal rings that would swivel on bearings. According to the Florida Times-Union, “a packed council chambers erupted in cheers from residents who were opposed to the sculpture.”

On the same day, on the other side of the country, the city council of Olympia, Washington, voted down a $180,000 proposal for bronze sculptures of “comic-strip bubbles” on the outside of the new City Hall. According to The Olympian, the councilman who led the opposition said that, “I really don’t want something in City Hall that has to be explained.”

Perhaps these communities are trying to avoid the flack currently flying in Arizona. Already smarting from its $100,000 tumbleweed, the state has just unveiled a 100-foot-tall floating sculpture in Phoenix that cost $2.5 million. Its artist claims that “Her Secret is Patience” was inspired by a cactus flower, but critics have mercilessly mocked it as everything from a jellyfish to a basketball hoop to “just plain ugly.”

Happily, every trend has its exception — such as these four giant things that will be built next spring in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (It helps, a lot, that their $1.7 million price tag is being picked up by local casinos.) We’re big fans of massive-scale industrial cast-off art, and eagerly look forward to 2010, when these four piles will start shocking travelers on I-80. As one of their supporters explained to the Des Moines Register, “If everybody loves public art, it is probably not very good.”

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