Challenging the implication that remonstrators are an obstacle to creative placemaking.

8 May

At the April 19th workshop on creative placemaking sponsored by the Reconnecting To Our Waterways group, one of the attendees, from the Mapleton-Fall Creek area, asked a question of the panelist “What do you do about remonstrators?”  He was not specific about the reason for his question.

But the negative implication was clear: instead of having legitimate personal or community concerns when art projects are proposed, remonstrators are deemed an obstacle to be overcome.  When subsequently consulted, staff of the Mapleton Fall Creek Neighborhood CDC (Community Development Corporation) confirmed that there had been a recent case in the area in which neighbors objected to a proposed art piece (a painted mural on public property) and that those objections had caused some adjustment in the planning process, and in fact, had ultimately resulted in a modification to the plan (“part of the project was not undertaken”).

I also made inquiry about the details of that situation with Doug Day, the  project’s principal proponent (and the same person who asked the question about dealing with remonstrators), but he did not respond with any of the requested specifics.  Subsequently, one of the affected neighbors indicated that a number of the near-neighbors had stepped forward to say that they didn’t want to be forced to look at big (and “loud”) painted letters on the retaining wall (at Fall Creek Parkway and the Monon overpass).

As our unsettling experience with the planned so-called Art2Art trail (targeted for the historic, scenic Central Canal) has shown, all-too-typical of many zealous public art advocates is disdain, if not contempt, for those who would step forward to question a proposal or advocate against it.  They presume that they know what is best for the community and are irked, often even incensed, when others publicly object to, or oppose, their plans.

Another question to a panelist at the workshop from a representative of the Big Car arts collaborative asked “What are the desirable skills in an arts-organizer position?”.  The answer was: “Two qualities– “humility and the ability to work with different points of view”.  Perhaps this answer was also an apropos answer to Mr. Day’s question of how to handle the remonstrators who dare to challenge the presumed authority and expertise of proponents of public art on public property.

Clarke Kahlo

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