Posted by pancho from ? (220.127.116.11) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 at 3:46PM :
I attended the monthly meeting of the San Jose City Arts Committee meeting last night. I was on the agenda, having sent them all the information they required previously, as well as a selected site for the Shumirum.
note: It is a little embarrassing I'll admit travelling around looking for a place to put the monument, a place other Assyrians wont try to ruin ahead of time.
I sat off to the side, against the wall and waited my turn. The had unfinished business to attend to first. They discussed some other community Art projects, heard a presentation from one artist and viewed slides for proposed artist's to add to their stable, as well as pieces in consideration.
There were some fourteen members seated round the tables facing in on each other in a sort of a square. When my turn came I moved to a seat at one table of the square facing them. They passed around some photos of the Shumirum, not very good ones and not one of it completed. They were obviously uncomfortable.
The impression I got is that the people on the Committee are in charge of deciding what goes where, what is appropriate for what site. We have sort of come at this ass backwards. The city of San Jose had a lot of money to spend on public Art. Maybe it was the boom times or its redevelopment plan, but they discussed community art projects at the $150,000 to $250,000 level.
Money is not their problem. What usually happens is that a site is chosen for sculpture, usually because development funds specify that a certain portion must be spent on "art". The committe looks through its files and selects a small number of artists and asks them to offer suggestions for that site. each artist usually gets some money to cover expenses. These plans are submitted for review and community input...and the "best" one is chosen and all are happy.
We, on that famous other hand, have chosen our own subject, raised the money ourselves and to add insult to injury, I chose myself to be the artist. At a single stroke, I am afraid, we side stepped their entire process and come now, almost as an after thought, asking for a place to put a monument that asked nothing of them except that they accept it.
I can understand their discomfort. This is not the way civil servants like to work. people who spoke were a little uncomfortable. I can imagine that they don't want to offend, yet they don't want to roll over either. They asked if we would consider an open competition and would the community be offended if a non-Assyrian got the nod to create something entirely new and different, and more familiar to them and in harmony with their own plans for what Art should be...at least for that city, at this point in time, and acceptable to them.
I said I thought it might go a little hard if that were to happen...although a non-Assyrian artist would receive a lot more respect from us than I ever could hope to...after all, I AM Assyrian and you know what we think of ourselves.
One member reminded the committe that they had chosen a non-Mexican for one project and the Mexican community hadn't minded. I replied that the entire state bore a Mexican name as well as the very city we were in and half the street names were Mexican names etc. We on the other hand had not much anywhere to reflect our heritage and rather than leaping into the "cutting edge" of Art, wanted to plant a marker from our very earliest history...as the whites and others had already done. I also said that during the 60's the arts committee would hardly have suggested placing a monument of Dr, King made by a white man...right after he was killed by one.
I don't think I was a hit.
They concluded by agreeing to go out and look at the site I had proposed and suggesting some others to us. Now this was what should have been suggested way back when, before Jackie got her shorts caught in a fan. I told the committe that she had me drive around San Jose four times looking for a site to "suggest". That was a little silly and calculated to take forever, or just so long as it would take me to leave for Mexico so she could sing at the unveiling and take the credit for bringing it there for all us chittlin babies.
What was I supposed to do, I asked them...say "third rock from the tree at the corner of..." only to have them say..."no, not there"? This way, they will tell me where they will let us put it and we will decide if we want to put it there. We are not asking to put it in the middle of a street, or anywhere that it will intrude upon their sensibilities...but then neither do we want it shunted off to a corner because it doesn;t "fit"
In the 50's America was a melting pot...more an injection mould really, where everything had to conform to a white standard. What we have now in Art is another standard to which everything must conform. These monuments of ours are too "ethnic" the way garlic was too ethnic back in the 50's. The committe want us, I think, to make a "Thing". like the ones I see all over 'younger" cities. But here we are...garlic reeking off of OUR sculpture and they feel uncomfortable...even though not everyone on the committe is strictly speaking 'white"...yet the standard is most definitely Wonder Bread...it is wheat bread...but Wonder wheat bread...if you know what I mean.
In the words of Helen Nimrod when she saw Shumirum in bronze for the first time..."Fred", she said with a twinkle in her voice, "she's kind of BOSSUMY isn't she?"
Yes...members of the San Jose Arts Committee...our queen is most definitely BUSSOMY! And so are we.
Let me put this in perspective. I saw examples of "art" there that I could easily do, and better. That's no reflection on my genius, just on what passes for Art. But I didn't see any kind of work that would lead me to believe that any one of those artists could do what I can. I don't mean not have the talent for, but the skill.
Imagine falling down and cutting your arm badly and being taken to a nurse for treatment. You feel you're in good hands. Imagine being taken to a brain surgeon for the same injury. You would probably feel just as secure, and maybe he could check to make sure you aren't suffering anything more serious.
Imagine you need brain surgery...and they take you to a nurse.
note: Jackie, be fair. At least send the entire post to the Arts Committee.
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