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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Wednesday, August 17

Artsy politics

Monday, Saratoga Arts (Or the artists formerly known as the "Arts Council") Executive Director Joel Reed sent a mass e-mail that "went viral" according to the person who sent it to me Tuesday morning.
In it he accuses both parties of playing politics with 9/11 and the memorial.

"Democrats attacking a community arts project created by a rainbow coalition of artists, unions, small and large businesses, and individuals from all walks of life? Republicans minimizing the significance of the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 and shunting aside a project that deeply resonates with veterans and first responders? And both throwing Saratoga Arts and the chance for community unity on 9/11 under the bus in the hope of picking up a few votes?"

I posted it at the bottom of the previous blog post, thinking of it as just another blip on the political radar. (Read the full e-mail at the bottom of the post here) Of course all of this is political -- it involves politicians, committees, city property and DECISIONS.

However, I have seen not personally seen and party or parties using it as political fodder, and Tuesday night the Democrats (who are singled out as specifically "exploiting those reasonable grounds for debate into a wedge issue and identifying this as the Mayor's project") reacted to Reed's e-mail.

"As Chair of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee I state categorically that neither the Committee nor the Executive Committee have even discussed the sculpture, its merit, its opportunity or its placement," stated Thilo Ullmann in a letter read Tuesday night by Jeff Partridge during public comment at City Council (see the full message below).

Partridge then added his own comments.

"I worked as a volunteer rescuer at that site. I dug through steel, rocks and garbage looking for survivors, or pieces of bodies which when found were placed in a five gallon bucket. I was among about 3,000 construction workers, cops, and firemen doing the same thing.
So I guess I can speak firsthand about this situation.
I can state categorically that no one within the Saratoga Springs Democratic Executive committee or the standing committee has ever raised an objection to honoring our brothers and sisters who were murdered at the World Trade Center.
You can rest assured that I would be the first one to reeducate anyone in our midst who tried to make political hay out of our national tragedy.
Mr. Reed, you've made a dreadful error and I demand an apology on behalf of all the resident of Saratoga Springs, Democrats and Republicans alike."

Next up in line for public comment was the man of the hour -- Joel Reed -- with his apology.

Later, Commissioner John Franck, the sole Democrat on the city council, also laid into Reed for his comments. "This is not politically driven," he said.

Executive Chair of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee's statement:
"Joel: I must take strong exception to your interpretation of individual (his italics) opinions as representing the Democratic Party of Saratoga Springs.
Surely all citizens of Saratoga Springs have a right to express personal opinions on any public exhibit and its placement. That so many have done so only points to insufficient outreach on your part.
As Chair of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee I state categorically that neither the Committee nor the Executive Committee have even discussed the sculpture, its merit, its opportunity or its placement.
We are not in a position to support it or oppose it.
We have not received any information beyond what each one of us has been able to glean from the public streams and media.
As I discussed with Carrie Woerner last week my PERSONAL concern is that all the necessary legal consultations have been completed and exhausted.
I do not know what the sculpture looks like, I have not searched any websites nor requisitioned any information on it or its artistic merit.
I only know it is very big.
The final decision on its citing does not rest with me or with the Democratic Committee, but squarely with the City Council.
Whatever they decide will no doubt give rise to controversy.
Remember the citing of the Carousel?
That you should decide to launch such a diatribe at this point seems to signal your surprise at the opposition that has arisen.
Any public manifestation meant to represent the feelings of all the citizens will logically bring out everybody's reaction, in favor or against.
You should have expected that, and given more time for discussion and more information to the public.

Thilo Ullmann, Chair "

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone who was at an age to remember 9/11 does. Everyone who was of age in the early 60's remembers the JFK assasination. These were the two most traumatic events in the past 50 years for our country.
This article centers on a piece of art work done with private funds. I assume that no one commissioned the piece of art??
It appears as though the artist is useing his "cloak of creativty" on the statue in question..The statue is a modernistic sculpture that stands 25 feet high.
Kicker on this particular piece of art is that it incorporates pieces of steel from the twin towers and the artist is using this fact to gather "sympathetic" feeling towards his sculpture.
Sorry guy..I along with many Americans grieved inwardly as well as out. WE WILL NEVER FORGET.
What we are trying to forget is the fact that any organization or respected individual is trying to use a national tragedy for a "buck".
In plainspeak ..greedy people are trying to recover the heartfelt loss of 9/11 for a profit today.They trade on America's one weakness...COMPASSION!! thanx

August 17, 2011 at 1:23 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does Carrie Woerner have to do with anything ?? Is she representing the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation ? (her old job)

August 17, 2011 at 3:11 PM 
Anonymous Romana Clay said...

I suspect that the real reason this sculptural object is having a hard time finding a home is simply because it's ugly. There, I've said it! The cat's out of the bag! Who wants a hideous piece of pretentious "art," regardless of its symbolism, in front of their building, anyway? Then to foist it off on the fire department is particularly insulting. Contrast this ill-conceived homunculus with, say, the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial in DC.

There's enough junk on our streets already. If I were Joel Reed, I'd be working on my letter of resignation right now.

August 17, 2011 at 3:43 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that Mr. rees would send out a letter like this, one would assume that the message was condoned by the Board of Directors. Mr. Reed should resign his position if he wants to play political games.

August 18, 2011 at 12:19 AM 
Anonymous Kyle York said...

Well-said Anon.

The PUBLIC has not been TOLD and does not GET that this project is a HYBRID... a reprehensible meeting of two opposite-bound trains on a single track called Broadway.

The ARTS COUNCIL started a private venture to make a SCULPTURE. There was no need to follow the traditional widely-used 11-step process to create successful PUBLIC ART...pages 1 and 1-13 are the meat and potatoes--

That PUBLIC PROCESS was not needed in Joel & Co's PRIVATE venture.

BUT... it seems they weren't able to find a landowner/merchant to DISPLAY their 13-ton sculpture. So they "GAVE" it to the City.

After the City's January 5-0 vote to ACCEPT full and sole Ownership of the sculpture, the City was obligated to move forward with an OPEN process... the one outlined in PDF above.

And so we have a trainwreck, an irresistible force meeting an unmovable object. A massive over-sized jungle-gym for drunks ready to honor 9/11 with a string of injury lawsuits arguing... AND WINNING... that the City was irresponsible and negligent in placing the structure where unsupervised access was a certainty.

Yes Virginia, even stupid drunks can hire a personal injury lawyer.

-Kyle York
Victim of the Arts Council's loco motives.

August 18, 2011 at 11:49 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, the City has yet to repair the structural damage to the Visitor Center walls, continues to allow the Trask Memorial, the Katrina Trask Gateway and other pieces of outdoor public art to deteriorate.

City can't seem to steward the outdoor art and significant buildings already entrusted to us.

August 19, 2011 at 5:20 PM 

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