So it seems that our city has gotten so predictable that I can make up fake news and then watch in horror as it unfolds in real life. Case in point: The preemptive strike I announced last week against any local attempt to replicate the terrifyingly popular Cows on Parade concept that has made a public-art laughingstock of Zurich, Chicago, and New York. The concept involves hiring "artists" to decorate between 200 and 800 fiberglass cows, which are littered across whole cities for the summer, then auctioned off as a lucrative charity fundraiser. My whimsical report had Seattle launching a similar effort within the next two years, using the locally omnipresent icon of the salmon in order to avoid having to pay anyone for use of the idea (which originated in Switzerland, and whose ownership is now claimed by no less than four separate groups, including the Swiss government).
So imagine my shock when I learned that Seattle will likely be blighted with two separate animal "parades" next summer. The Downtown Seattle Association is producing a downtown Pig Parade of some 200 porkers to benefit the Pike Place Market Foundation, which helps fund health and shelter services for the poor. Meanwhile, a group with the terrible name "Soul Salmon" has an ongoing project to cover the entire Puget Sound region with eight-foot-long fiberglass renditions of that lousy-tasting, gummy fish.
Stale, terrible art jokes surround the incompetently decorated bovines of Chicago and New York: Mootisse, Picowsso, Moondrian, etc. As for the artworks' style, imagine that someone saw Seattle's amateur-painted bus shelters and trash cans (a horridly failed attempt to mitigate their unattractive, cheap design) and decided the city needed several hundred more sloppily decorated objects littering its streets. Worst of all, because the causes involved are the Market Foundation and various salmon preservation groups, criticizing the proposal makes you--well, me--into a big jerk. This will make it almost impossible to protect this city from the cloying, cutesy, crappy, culture-destroying onslaught of fiberglass kitsch. It's just not fair!
Earlier this year, when Mayor Paul Schell asked that a city council vote on expanded percent-for-arts funding be tabled until he could create a comprehensive arts plan, the general assumption was that he was just giving cover to a losing proposition. With Schell, "comprehensive" is often a euphemism for "well-meaning proposal that will never be implemented." So it was a lovely turn of events last week when Schell instead announced a proposal to devote 20 percent of the city's admissions tax receipts to funding the Seattle Arts Commission. If passed, the proposal would increase SAC's annual funding by 50 percent, from 2.2 million to 3.3 million dollars.
This proposal has two big advantages over percent-for-arts funding: First, percent-for-arts rises and falls from year to year, depending on the city's construction budgets for those years. Admissions tax revenues will also fluctuate with the economic cycle, but not as dramatically. Second, this new money will be raised without restrictions on how it's spent: It doesn't have to buy sculptures for city office-building lobbies or relate in any way to the city government. It can pay for yams in asses, burning American flags, snuff films, whatever the city's artists can convince the Seattle Arts Commission to fund.
Incidentally, in Schell's e-mail message on the previous subject, he writes, "artists are partners in our drive to build a great city, a catalyst to creative thinking...." And yet he's going to tolerate all those paint-flinging fiberglass-pig-and-salmon decorators who want to make Seattle look like a kindergarten classroom for an entire summer? What a hypocrite!
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