Over the past few months striking progress has been made on the Memorial Art Gallery’s Centennial Sculpture Park, as well as the ArtWalk Extension project that has transformed the surrounding neighborhood. Sections of the forbidding iron fence that previously surrounded the gallery’s grounds have been removed, and the at-one-time boiling controversy over the large-scale sculptural installation by internationally renowned artist Tom Otterness has been reduced to barely a simmer. City spoke again with representatives for the MAG, with protestors, and this time with Otterness himself to learn more about the sculpture park and its place in the context of the Neighborhood of the Arts, as well as the greater Rochester community.
The Centennial Sculpture Park is projected to be completed by October 2013, and will include more than 20 sculptures, new gardens, and a word-laden walkway through the museum’s campus. A year’s worth of celebrations kick off this month with the premiere of Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik’s original composition based on work in the MAG’s collection. Future programming will include major speakers, gala events, and unveilings and dedications of monumental works by Albert Paley and Wendell Castle.
A letter from director Grant Holcomb to Gallery members
As I’m sure you know, the Gallery has recently come under some criticism. In light of this, I thought it important to share my thoughts on Tom Otterness’s selection as one of the artists whose work will be featured in our new Centennial Sculpture Park, and to provide some perspective.
A letter from Jack Daiss
Imagine that the cruelest act you ever committed were exposed for everyone to see and discuss and analyze. Then imagine that that single act is all that we know about you and, by that act alone, you will be judged. Who among us could bear such scrutiny?
Thoughts from Librarian Lu Harper
“When you are trying to decide whether someone deserves your forgiveness, you are asking the wrong question. Ask instead whether you deserve to become someone who consistently forgives.” –D. Patrick Miller, A Little Book of Forgiveness
April 2008, Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
“Thirty years ago, when I was 25 years old, I made a film in which I shot a dog. It was an indefensible act that I am deeply sorry for. Many of us have experienced profound emotional turmoil and despair. Few have made the mistake I made. I hope people can find it in their hearts to forgive me.” – Tom Otterness
Mary Anna Towler, editorial in City Newspaper:
The critics – in Rochester and elsewhere – have every right to protest, but important principles are at issue here. The broader one is whether we should forgive people for an indefensible mistake in their youth. The narrower issue: whether public controversy should influence a museum’s exhibitions and acquisitions.
Let me get down in the weeds, briefly: If the past actions of an artist should influence a museum’s selection, where do we draw the line? Do we consider only acts committed when the artist was an adult? Only acts committed within the past five years? Within the past 10 years?
Do only actions by an artist matter? What about the subject matter of the art? Should museums avoid purchasing or exhibiting anything that offends anybody? Only if it offends a large group of people?
If the artist apologizes, is a verbal apology enough? If not, who should determine the proper atonement – and to whom that atonement is paid? Should the artist pay that atonement for the rest of his life? On every commission? Who should decide?
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