Letters to the Editor

Monuments to ‘ideas’ instead of people? Most of these Trib readers aren’t feeling it

Calm down, people

People should stop being so alarmed about the SLO City Council’s decision to no longer erect statues to people. For one thing, this might help decrease our current cult of celebrity. For another, it will expand your mind to try to conceive of what a statue to a concept might look like. For instance:

Liberty: a bell.

Justice: scales.

The artists can take it from there.

Bonnie Thompson, Los Osos

SLO’s art policy too limiting

I am troubled by the impending plan to limit San Luis Obispo’s public art to illustrating pure ideals and concepts using imaginary figures, banning any representation of any specific person or persons.

Anne Frank or an imaginary girl hiding in an attic?

Rosa Parks or an imaginary woman on a bus?

Shakespeare or an imaginary playwright?

Amelia Earhart or a fictional woman pilot?

All human beings are wonderful but also flawed. Even though this is so, individuals sometimes do things in their lives that affect and inspire us all. Ideals and concepts are abstractions. They do not walk our streets or inspire us by their behavior to be the best we can be. Fictional characters cannot inspire us in the same way because they are not real.

I cannot understand why now our society seems to have embraced a concept that humans must be perfect in every way, that we cannot acknowledge someone’s shortcomings but still recognize their accomplishments because they are reminders to us all of our own ability to bring concepts and ideals to fruition despite any failings we may have. Ideals and concepts may inspire us, they may be purer than people, but individuals are far more inspiring than imaginary figures.

San Luis Obispo’s citizens deserve a public art policy that evaluates each application on its individual concept and not a policy that is based on ideals and concepts.

Mary Wood, San Luis Obispo

Where was the debate?

I believe politicians should leave art alone, and it was a big mistake on the part of our council to vote against all figurative representations of well-known individuals without conducting any serious public debate.

I personally do not support building a sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt in Mitchell Park because this president did not have any special ties to San Luis Obispo and, most of all, because art should mirror the ideas of our time. A recent Tribune viewpoint mentions Maya Lin, but Lin’s masterpiece has nothing in common with the uninspiring bronze statue of a man dressed in everyday garb.

However, this does not excuse the council’s decision to strike important historical or local figures from future city artworks without first consulting residents.

Council members may choose to reject one particular project, but they may not try to impose their artistic values upon everyone, especially sweeping values that cover all local public sculptures in the future. This is undemocratic and therefore unacceptable.

Odile Ayral, San Luis Obispo

Kerouac statue?

Time to make our move if a Jack Kerouac monument at Triangle Park is to slip under the impending SLO city public art policy change.

At least Kerouac actually stayed a while in town at the historic Osos Street hotel, and did something here to boot.

Our fallback monument proposal will be a sculptured replica of “On The Road” — no mention of the author, of course.

Robert E. Griffin, San Luis Obispo

A form censorship

I am very concerned with the recent action of the SLO City Council regarding a new public art policy. It proposes the prohibition of any representation of an individual in their public art program involving monuments/statues. My hope is that they recognize their folly and delete this new public art policy. Monuments are the oldest form of public art in our nation. To not allow the depiction of a human being in a work of art is ridiculous, but more seriously, it is a form of censorship. In my view it sets a dangerous precedent. The council is on a slippery slope. What is next, the burning of books that deal with human beings? Have we not learned the lessons of history?

I understand the SLO Mayor has pushed for this policy because she personally objects to the historical male subject of a statue proposed for Mitchell Park. She has every right to object to something, but that is no reason to create bad policy, especially one many consider oppressive. I encourage the SLO City Council to withdraw their new policy.

Trudy Jarratt, Chair, Arroyo Grande Public Art Committee; Past Co-Chair, Art In Public Places (Countywide) Coalition

SLO, the nanny state

The SLO City Council’s proposal to ban monuments of people combines political correctness run amok with the nanny state and 1984.

The council appears to believe residents and visitors are rather dim children unable to comprehend context or history.

This proposal is a caricature of Fox “News” portrayal of liberal governance. Is the goal is to make SLO a national laughingstock?

The answer will come when the council votes on this issue.

Tom Murray, Arroyo Grande

What, exactly, does an idea look like?

Group decisions frequently kill or maim the integrity of a singular idea or concept. The irony should not be lost in considering the SLO City Council vote on public art policy to not include humans, but concepts and ideas only.

I ask Mayor Heidi Harmon and the council to tell us, what does an idea look like? How would it be cast?

Indeed, humans are flawed, but are they not the progenitor of concepts and ideas, movements and history?

I think I understand the decency and sensitivity behind their desire not to lionize those who may have said or done something offensive, but that kind of action is a pathway to revisionist thinking and makes silly policy.

Imperfect humans have done extraordinary things. Celebrating the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, the Chinese gandy dancers, Crazy Horse, Madame Curie, the Marines on Iwo Jima, and many others is a good thing to do. How would any of these singularly inspirational women and men be displayed as concepts or ideas?

How would the libraries and learning citadels of the world look, void of their busts of Socrates, Plato, Voltaire, etc.?

Tom Cochrun, Cambria

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