This is a rendering I did of what I was told the Bunker Ramp mural would have looked like. A Native American taking a nap next to a river dreaming of buffalos frolicking in a rainbow sky. I still have NOT seen the image.

Mr. Lalley is suggesting that is what the mayor exactly did when rejecting the selected mural choice and cancelling the project all together, mitigating risk;

This wasn’t a commissioned piece, as Boice had to explain to me, which could include parameters on the theme or content.

In this case, the intent was to allow the chosen artist “control the narrative,” as Boice put it.

That’s new.

It’s a great idea when you’re fostering and supporting artistic endeavors in your community.

For a government, for people who want other people to approve of what they do, it’s risky.

But you have to know that going in.

Rejection from the wider public is always a possibility. In my experience uncertainty is the artist’s constant companion, whether they are painters, musicians, sculptors, writers or quilters.

There’s always risk in art.

City government is inherently about mitigating risk.

We may never know the content of what was intended as a short-term mural, that was recommended by the Visual Arts Commission and rejected by the mayor.

Which highlights a more perplexing theme.

We may never know if the mural in question was patently offensive to one or more groups of people in the community.

We may never know if the mayor was reacting to some real or perceived public consequence if he approved it.

With public art comes public scrutiny.

Artists usually want that.

Government usually does not.

While I still struggle with this supposed offensive mural, you can only look a block away to a naked dude that has been standing there for 50 years (with a short stint in a parks and rec boneyard).

While it appears that the mayor was mitigating risk, it also suggests to me he was more worried about what Taupeville would think of the mural and not everyday folks.

Just another shirtless Native American in front of the Bunker Ramp of Democracy.

Which brings us to Ben Black Elk;

As the unofficial greeter at Mount Rushmore, Black Elk spent 27 years welcoming guests and promoting Native American culture. A Huron Daily Plainsman article noted that he posed for an estimated 5,000 photos daily during peak tourist season, earning Black Elk the distinction of being the most photographed Native American in the world. In addition to his photo record, the Sioux City Journal reported that Black Elk was the first person to have a live image broadcast over the Atlantic — via the Telstar satellite that launched in 1962.

It seems the state did a fine job of mitigating the risk of having a shirtless Native American pose for pictures in front of Mt. Rushmore now if we could just figure it out in Sioux Falls.

9 Thoughts on “Should the city be mitigating risk when it comes to public art?

  1. Merrill Gate on February 27, 2023 at 7:04 pm said:

    What about an hispanic guy napping against a desert cactus, with his sombrero covering his head and one eye, as he dreams about working at Smithfield?

    Or, how about a mural of a brick wall with an archway entrance in the middle, where there stands Hultgren holding the arch up?

    How about a mural of a TIF application?

    What about a mural of sweat dripping down on a cell phone which is open to the FB App?

    Better yet, what about a mural, with multiple dates scratched-out, announcing the opening of Dillard’s?

  2. Jeff Barth on February 28, 2023 at 7:35 am said:

    Good one Merrill!

  3. D@ily Spin on February 28, 2023 at 10:04 am said:

    Merrill has a sense of humor. Makes it easier to accept the all time Huether mistake.

    Maybe hieroglyphics from long ago before Home Rule Charter.

    Rapid City has an alley with graffiti that has become a landmark and tourist attraction. Take this mistake and do the same.

    Carve a keyhole at the bottom and spread rumors that it’s a time portal to back before Home Rule and Huether.

    Hire one of those ghostbuster teams for a seance. Sell holy water and burning sage. Need food trucks too.

    Show full wall evening movies of Huether crying and deliriously walking around downtown. Need a snack bar.

  4. i imagine the city wants discourage, not encourage, people from sleeping by the river.

  5. paint by numbers on February 28, 2023 at 12:23 pm said:

    i would prefer a mural depicting all the current and former city councilors, mayors and other city officials responsible for it with a big sign saying “We Did This!”

  6. Archie Bunkerramp on February 28, 2023 at 2:23 pm said:

    I think they should do a mural that depicts how the first three floors of the once proposed hotel parking ramp would have looked like, then shoot some lasers from the top of the Bunker Ramp to graphically depict the rest of the once proposed skyscraper…. Oh, and maybe pipe in some Reggaeton music to go with it…. Else, maybe just a mural which depicts in huge letters the word: “SOMEDAY”

  7. D@ily Spin on February 28, 2023 at 4:24 pm said:

    Confinement of Native Americans in a state with the most reservations is not something to be proud of. Then, kill off the Buffalo and seize the Black Hills for gold mining. The city should rethink what goes on the Huether Wall.

  8. D@ily Spin on March 1, 2023 at 8:01 am said:

    Maybe just one large text bubble with “YOU ARE HERE”

  9. "Woodstock" on March 2, 2023 at 2:20 pm said:

    “‘Reggaeton music’?”…. “Wouldn’t that be some sort of cultural appropriation?”…. (…. “Although, I do enjoy some CA when I’m in that posing mood”… (…. “But man, I hate sombreros, because they tend to engulf my small entirety”… ))

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