Funds Sought for Eastern Market Plaza Sculptures
Barracks Row Main Street Plans Marketing/Branding/Place-Making Element
by Larry Janezich
Last Tuesday night, ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee endorsed a request for support from Barracks Row Main Street (BRMS) for its application for a Public Art Building Communities Grant to create public art for Eastern Market Metro Plaza.
Martin Smith, Executive Director for BRMS (sort of a local Chamber of Commerce for Barracks Row) presented the concept to the committee in a bid for ANC and community support for the project. He told the committee the current ideas on the drawing board (pictured above) would provide interim beautification of the Plaza pending its redevelopment (See here: http://bit.ly/1duqZJd) and would become part of the design following completion of that redevelopment. As envisioned, the 36 inch-high letters comprising the pieces would be fabricated from polycarbonate, and would serve a marketing and branding purpose for both Barracks Row and Eastern Market. Smith said the pieces would be interactive for both children and adults. The grant requires matching funds, and BRMS would have to raise half the projected $200,000 cost of the project.
While the Committee seemed to be fully behind the idea of public art for the Plaza, the proposal that Smith presented was greeted with some skepticism. Committee Resident Member Ivan Frishberg said he was “not thrilled with the design” and questioned whether the concept was primarily art or primarily marketing. He said he was a “little skeptical” about the piecemeal adding of art to the overall concept for redevelopment of the Plaza and expressed concern that an ANC endorsement of the project might end up being represented before city agencies as an endorsement of the design.
Commissioner Oldenburg said she fully supported the idea of sculpture for the Plaza on an interim basis, but that she, too, was “not crazy about the design.” She said she would support BRMS going after the grant for some kind of sculpture for the Plaza.
Resident Member Ken Jarboe said he didn’t “love the concept”, but “It may be the only thing that gets done given the way things have been going – I hope that’s not the case.”
In response, Smith told the Committee that it would be a long process, that several agencies would have to pass on the project before final approval, and that the concept drawings presented Tuesday night might well bear no relationship to the final design.
The Committee voted to recommend that the full ANC support the grant application provided that if granted, the applicant returns to the ANC for further consultation. The vote was 8 – 0 – 1 (Frishberg abstaining).
Subsequently, in an email to ANC Commissioners and Smith, Frishberg detailed his concerns about the project. “As presented, the proposed installations are nowhere close to being a proposal that is ready for approval or consideration by the Commission or community…. I fear that a simple statement of support for public art, even with a request to be involved in the process down the road leaves too much opportunity for problems given the excessively vague nature of the proposal presented to the committee…. My concern is that BRM has not engaged artists or experts in this endeavor, and at present is not yet equipped to present real plans or manage a serious process….I applaud the efforts to do more for the Metro Plaza and to support public art. However I think to serve both those goals fully the Commission needs to require a greater level of planning and engagement from the advocates of this proposal”
Asked for his reaction, Smith told CHC: “I did not go into the technical details of the proposal during the Committee meeting given the limited time for presentation and the very full agenda that night, however the proposal is fully developed and I am happy to go over any of the technical elements of the proposal (budget, implementation plan, maintenance plan, etc.) in detail if anyone would like for me to do so….we have engaged an artist that CHAW recommended to us, Charles Bergen of Charles Bergen Studios LLC, who developed the proposals we presented. We are aware, though, that if we were to be selected as a funding recipient, this process is very fluid and the design will likely change over time.”