October 20, 2018

City Considers New Bronze Statue: Bike Racer Levi Leipheimer

A new bronze statue is apparently in the works for Golden, part of the preparation for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge scheduled to return this August. As I understand it, the city’s contract with the bike race includes a commitment to commission and install a piece of art related to the race. The city’s plan: install a statue of Levi Leipheimer, the winner of last year’s race.

Personally, I’m not that excited about another bronze statue in Golden … we’ve got quite a few already … but I’m even less enthused about a statue of someone with no relationship to Golden at all except that he spent a few hours here during a bike race last year.

But the bigger issue, I think, is whether the public gets any input into the city’s decisions about public art. As it stands now, the community itself has virtually no input on our public art program, not on how the program works, what type of art we install on public property, where this art is installed, how much more art we want, or anything else.

Whatever you think about the proposed Levi Leipheimer statue or about the bigger issue of public input on Golden’s public art program, if you’ve got an opinion you might let City Council know:

citycouncil@cityofgolden.net

(Photo from Wikipedia).

Shelton’s “Reflections” Awards Ceremony

“Reflections” is one of Shelton Elementary’s coolest events. Students are invited to create an original work of art in visual arts, photography, literature, film production, music composition, or dance choreography. I swung by Shelton a couple of weeks ago to sit in on the PTA meeting and then to watch the Reflections awards ceremony. It was awesome . . . tons of Shelton kids participated and their impressive artwork filled the hallways. Twenty students are advancing to the Jeffco PTA’s Reflections contest, and some of those may advance to the statewide and even national Reflections event. Huge congrats to all the kids who participated, huge thanks to all the parents that helped make it happen, and good luck to all of those who are advancing to the next round. (Thanks to Jason & Michele Cummings for the photo.)


Michelle and Jason (who helped make the event happen) and Ashley (with a 1st place Award of Excellence).

A Few More Thoughts About Golden's Public Art Program

I really, really appreciate the widespread and energetic interest in this conversation about Golden's public art program.  I strongly support all of our arts and cultural programs, and think they are a vital part of what makes Golden the amazing community that it is.  The number of folks that have written emails and posted here on the blog in support of our art program is a testament to how important it is to Golden and how much support it enjoys.

This all started with my asking about how the decisions about public art in Golden are made now and are there ways to do it better.  I was aiming for a thoughtful, respectful conversation among City Councilors, the Civic Foundation, and others in the community, at the end of which we'd either decide to keep doing exactly the same thing we are doing now, make a few small changes, or do something entirely different.  I think that part of my job on Council is to ask questions about how we do things and how we might do them better.  Sometimes the answer is simple:  what we are doing right now works great.  Sometimes there are ways to make bad things good and good things better. 

Some folks thought that simply by asking these questions and offering a proposal about how we might improve on our art program that I was attacking the program.  I wasn't.  I was asking if we could take something good and make it better.

Some folks thought I was attacking or criticizing the Civic Foundation.  I wasn't.  I deeply respect and value their considerable contributions to our community, and despite the hoopla I've been having really good conversations with the Civic Foundation board about these questions.

Some folks thought I was criticizing the art we have now around Golden.  I wasn't.  As I've said before, in my view the Civic Foundation and others have done a tremendous job creating our public art program.

Some folks also thought I was suggesting the City Council take control of the art program.  I wasn't.  I think that having City Council make decisions about art is a terrible idea and wouldn't support it.  My suggestion was that we create a citizen advisory board – that has public meetings (that anyone can attend), that accepts public comment, and that makes its decisions in public – to make those decisions.  That may not be a good way to do it, but it's very different than taking control of the program.  Councilor Weaver did seem to support that City Council get to make decisions about our art but I don't share her view.

All that said, I have heard loud and clear that lots of folks like the way we do it now, and I will gladly respect that.  I've also heard a ton of support for installing Checkmate, and as I told the Civic Foundation board several days ago, I will gladly support installing that as well.

A Few More Thoughts About Golden’s Public Art Program

I really, really appreciate the widespread and energetic interest in this conversation about Golden's public art program.  I strongly support all of our arts and cultural programs, and think they are a vital part of what makes Golden the amazing community that it is.  The number of folks that have written emails and posted here on the blog in support of our art program is a testament to how important it is to Golden and how much support it enjoys.

This all started with my asking about how the decisions about public art in Golden are made now and are there ways to do it better.  I was aiming for a thoughtful, respectful conversation among City Councilors, the Civic Foundation, and others in the community, at the end of which we'd either decide to keep doing exactly the same thing we are doing now, make a few small changes, or do something entirely different.  I think that part of my job on Council is to ask questions about how we do things and how we might do them better.  Sometimes the answer is simple:  what we are doing right now works great.  Sometimes there are ways to make bad things good and good things better. 

Some folks thought that simply by asking these questions and offering a proposal about how we might improve on our art program that I was attacking the program.  I wasn't.  I was asking if we could take something good and make it better.

Some folks thought I was attacking or criticizing the Civic Foundation.  I wasn't.  I deeply respect and value their considerable contributions to our community, and despite the hoopla I've been having really good conversations with the Civic Foundation board about these questions.

Some folks thought I was criticizing the art we have now around Golden.  I wasn't.  As I've said before, in my view the Civic Foundation and others have done a tremendous job creating our public art program.

Some folks also thought I was suggesting the City Council take control of the art program.  I wasn't.  I think that having City Council make decisions about art is a terrible idea and wouldn't support it.  My suggestion was that we create a citizen advisory board – that has public meetings (that anyone can attend), that accepts public comment, and that makes its decisions in public – to make those decisions.  That may not be a good way to do it, but it's very different than taking control of the program.  Councilor Weaver did seem to support that City Council get to make decisions about our art but I don't share her view.

All that said, I have heard loud and clear that lots of folks like the way we do it now, and I will gladly respect that.  I've also heard a ton of support for installing Checkmate, and as I told the Civic Foundation board several days ago, I will gladly support installing that as well.

A Robust Discussion About Golden's Art Program

Heard those rumors that Golden’s public art program is under attack?

Not true.

I strongly support our public art program as well as the rest of our arts and cultural organizations and opportunities, but it seems I’ve caused a bit of a fuss by suggesting that maybe the community should have more of a voice in its own public art.

Rather than engage in a thoughtful dialogue about the questions and issued I raised, some inflammatory emails are circulating that mischaracterize my suggestion.  Those kinds of email are an effective way to get people fired up – if I weren’t on Council and read those emails I’d be upset as well – but it makes it difficult to have an honest community conversation.

For a long time, decisions about what art the city spends public money on and where this art is installed have been made by a group of folks known as the Public Art Committee. This committee formed about fifteen years ago, and with the blessing of the then-City Council proceeded to create a public art program in Golden where one didn’t really exist. Basically, the committee raised money to purchase art (or managed to acquire donated pieces), tapped into a small city fund to supplement its own fundraising, and decided where the art would be installed. As best as I can tell, City Council ok’d pretty much everything that came its way.

I am deeply grateful for the committee’s hard work over the years, the result of which is a robust collection of art throughout the community, but just because it’s the way we’ve always done it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to move forward.  I asked this question because under the current process City Council is basically asked to rubber stamp decisions that involve spending public money and using public land without any public participation. The current process isn’t transparent to the community, the community has no meaningful opportunity to participate in the process, and the process has essentially no accountability to the community.  I’m not criticizing the existing process but I am asking if it’s the way we’d like to proceed from here.

My suggestion:  that we create a community advisory board to make decisions about public art in Golden, and do so in the open, in a way that allows for meaningful public participation, and in a way that’s accountable to the community.  I suggested that City Council appoint the committee for the simple reason that it’s the only entity that is directly responsible to the community.  Interestingly, it turns out that tons of our neighbors do exactly what I’m proposing. Lafayette, Aurora, Littleton, Arvada, Broomfield, and Greeley, and western Colorado towns like Delta, Breckenridge, and others all have City Council-appointed committees that are appointed openly, work in the open, invite public comment and participation, and have primary responsibility for making these kinds of decisions.

Every one of the folks who serve on City Council are going to have ideas about good ways to make decisions and make good things happen in Golden.  Some of them will be good ideas and some will be bad, and it seems to me that the best way to sort it out is to have thoughtful, respectful community conversations.  I don’t mind at all if folks disagree with this proposal, but at least now you’ll have the benefit of knowing what exactly I proposed and why.

In that spirit, I invite everyone who has some thoughts on this question to either write a reply to this blog post (which you can do below) or send an email to the City Council list (citycouncil@ci.golden.co.us).

A Robust Discussion About Golden’s Art Program

Heard those rumors that Golden’s public art program is under attack?

Not true.

I strongly support our public art program as well as the rest of our arts and cultural organizations and opportunities, but it seems I’ve caused a bit of a fuss by suggesting that maybe the community should have more of a voice in its own public art.

Rather than engage in a thoughtful dialogue about the questions and issued I raised, some inflammatory emails are circulating that mischaracterize my suggestion.  Those kinds of email are an effective way to get people fired up – if I weren’t on Council and read those emails I’d be upset as well – but it makes it difficult to have an honest community conversation.

For a long time, decisions about what art the city spends public money on and where this art is installed have been made by a group of folks known as the Public Art Committee. This committee formed about fifteen years ago, and with the blessing of the then-City Council proceeded to create a public art program in Golden where one didn’t really exist. Basically, the committee raised money to purchase art (or managed to acquire donated pieces), tapped into a small city fund to supplement its own fundraising, and decided where the art would be installed. As best as I can tell, City Council ok’d pretty much everything that came its way.

I am deeply grateful for the committee’s hard work over the years, the result of which is a robust collection of art throughout the community, but just because it’s the way we’ve always done it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to move forward.  I asked this question because under the current process City Council is basically asked to rubber stamp decisions that involve spending public money and using public land without any public participation. The current process isn’t transparent to the community, the community has no meaningful opportunity to participate in the process, and the process has essentially no accountability to the community.  I’m not criticizing the existing process but I am asking if it’s the way we’d like to proceed from here.

My suggestion:  that we create a community advisory board to make decisions about public art in Golden, and do so in the open, in a way that allows for meaningful public participation, and in a way that’s accountable to the community.  I suggested that City Council appoint the committee for the simple reason that it’s the only entity that is directly responsible to the community.  Interestingly, it turns out that tons of our neighbors do exactly what I’m proposing. Lafayette, Aurora, Littleton, Arvada, Broomfield, and Greeley, and western Colorado towns like Delta, Breckenridge, and others all have City Council-appointed committees that are appointed openly, work in the open, invite public comment and participation, and have primary responsibility for making these kinds of decisions.

Every one of the folks who serve on City Council are going to have ideas about good ways to make decisions and make good things happen in Golden.  Some of them will be good ideas and some will be bad, and it seems to me that the best way to sort it out is to have thoughtful, respectful community conversations.  I don’t mind at all if folks disagree with this proposal, but at least now you’ll have the benefit of knowing what exactly I proposed and why.

In that spirit, I invite everyone who has some thoughts on this question to either write a reply to this blog post (which you can do below) or send an email to the City Council list (citycouncil@ci.golden.co.us).

Public Art in Golden

I mentioned that one of our more colorful conversations at last week’s City Council meeting had to do with public art in Golden. The issue came up because of a proposal to install a new bronze statue at the north end of town adjacent to Highway 93. I asked for an explanation of the process that leads up to a decision to spent public money to install a new piece of art on public land. If I understand it correctly, a common process involves the Public Art Committee (which includes representatives of the Golden Civic Foundation, the Rotary Club, and someone from Foothills Art Center) selecting a piece of art, selecting a location, raising much of the required funding, and then asking the city to throw in whatever additional funds are needed and to give permission to actually install the piece at the desired location.

I want to be clear that I have enormous respect for the Civic Foundation, Rotary Club, and Foothills Art Center, and I deeply appreciate their contributions to Golden’s public art. Nonetheless, because we are talking about spending public money to purchase and install art on public land, I think it’s really important that the process be more transparent and that the public have a more meaningful role in establishing guidelines and making decisions.

I understand Mayor Baroch’s point that the Civic Foundation (and presumably the Rotary Club and Foothills Art Center as well) contributes to these public art purchases and installations because they like those specific pieces of art in those specific locations, and if we have a more public process that reaches different conclusions then those organizations may no longer want to contribute to the program. I think that’s entirely reasonable. All three are private organizations and they have every right, in my view, to make their own decisions about what art to support. But even if it means that we as a city have less funding available to purchase art I still think it’s really important that the process be entirely transparent and that the public gets to play a meaningful role.

The idea I suggested at last week’s Council meeting was the creation of a citizen advisory board on the city’s art program much like we currently have citizen advisory boards on historic preservation, parks and recreation, and the like. City Council could select members of the board in the same way: anyone interested could apply and City Council and the Mayor would select people we think would provide good expertise and good representation. Presumably the board would be charged with recommending to City Council a set of standards for making decisions about purchasing and installing art, and much as we do with other boards we could let the board apply those standards and make recommendations to City Council (as the group most directly accountable to people in the community) for final decision making.

I’m not sure that this is the best way to do it, but it’s one approach and I figured I would suggest it so that at least we might start a conversation and perhaps spark some alternative suggestions as well. By the way, I’m pretty intrigued by Grand Junction’s approach (which Mayor Baroch mentioned) of installing art and then letting the public vote on whether to actually purchase it after it’s been installed for a while. I am curious to learn more about how they do it and how well it works.

The more fundamental issue is that there is clearly a cynicism in our community about how city government makes decisions that affect the community. Although I don’t think decisions about public art are the most important ones we make, I do believe they matter – everyone who lives or visits Golden sees and experiences our art – and the only way to overcome the cynicism is for city government to actually be more transparent and accountable.

I welcome reactions to my tentative proposal and alternative proposals.