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Letter Writer Missing Point of Public Art

July 04, 1991

With his incessant letter writing, William P. Banks is becoming the Jesse Helms of Claremont. Mr. Banks' letters (Times, June 13 and 30) have focused the discussion, about Donna Williams' art installation, on the issues of his misinformed idea of the project's budget, and his confusion about why he wasn't personally consulted before Ms. Williams' art was temporarily installed in the park at Bonita and Harvard avenues in Claremont.

Public art is by its nature political and invites participation by a wide audience not usually involved in fine art. But it is also art and deserves open consideration by that audience on aesthetic and other less obvious levels. Public art should certainly be accessible and involve its constituency. It should not be the dumping ground for narrow-minded rhetoric.

When we are so desperately wallowing in our own lack of self-esteem that we spend millions of dollars on "victory" parades, we should be delighted to have $4,000 of private money spent on art.

We understand war and fund it with hardly a hesitation. Art is, of course, something else. And art's own mystery makes it seem somehow defenseless against attack. We really are living in an Iron Age when the entire budget for the National Endowment for the Arts is less than what the Pentagon spends on military bands.

I applaud the Claremont Community Foundation for their intentions, Ms. Williams for her efforts to suggest alternative perceptual and physical appreciations of the park and the town. Most everything else that has happened connected with this installation is a community embarrassment.

MICHAEL WOODCOCK

Claremont

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