Dyster, City Council pleased with “Public Art,” Especially when it’s at “Public Expense”


The statue of Nikola Tesla may have been a more dignified and better public art – at a lower cost to taxpayers – for the traffic circle on Rainbow Blvd.

One-time Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill had a favorite saying when he had to accede anything of legislative significance to the Reagan administration, which was not infrequently, given the political skills of “the Gipper”.
“You know,” O’Neill would say, “the Irish gave the Scottish the bagpipes as a joke, and the Scots took it seriously.”
It appears to us that the Buffalo artistic elite is playing a joke on the city of Niagara Falls, considering the recent selection of an abstract “sculpture” that is soon to adorn the traffic circle at Third and Rainbow Blvd, and with a price tag of $435,000, it’s clear somebody wants us to take it seriously, that somebody being Mayor Dyster and his city council.
“Really? You’re trying to tell me that $435,000K could not have been better spent? How about taking that money and bulldozing some of the hundreds of abandoned houses?” asked an anonymous commenter on the Buffalo News website.
In fairness, the city of Niagara Falls’ share of the total cost is “only” $50,000. The remaining funds are to come from USA Niagara and the Niagara Greenway, contributing taxpayer and NYPA ratepayer dollars respectively, which, on the merits of being administered by state agencies, are generally regarded here as free money.
According to news reports, the Curator of Public Art at Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery, an individual by the name of Aaron Ott, was instrumental in bringing together the city, USA Niagara and sculptor Jeff Laramore, who was ultimately chosen to create the towering steel structure. Painted red, white and blue and overwhelming the traffic circle, the piece will present a stark contrast to its surroundings, which include the stately facade of the Hotel Niagara.
Curator Ott’s LinkedIn page states that his “curatorial philosophy is grounded in the notion that the shared landscape of our lives is abundant with the opportunity to create, experience, and talk about notions of beauty, culture, originality and innovation. Art that is generous in spirit, conceptually affirmative, and participatory in format will serve as the heart of the Public Art Initiative. Mr. Ott’s goal as Curator of Public Art is to create spaces of dialogue where our diverse communities have the ability to socially engage, actively respond, and cooperatively produce great public art that is capable of empowering individuals, generating stronger neighborhoods and establishing our entire region as a critical cultural center…” And so on.
Ott’s appointment at Albright-Knox was entirely in keeping with its new focus on obtaining “modern” art, funded primarily by selling off its inventory of classic medieval and Renaissance works as well as ancient Roman, Indian and Chinese artifacts. The change of mission at Albright-Knox caused a near sensation a decade ago. Many museum members and leaders of the Buffalo arts community thought the transition ill-advised, to put it mildly.
“They sold off all their beautiful things, all their timeless things, to buy a bunch of crap,” one successful local artist told us.
On an interesting side note, despite the exceptionally temperate weather that was visited on the area through late December, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for some reason has not yet demolished the pedestal of the Nikola Tesla sculpture on Goat Island and moved the statue temporarily indoors for restoration, something that they had announced would occur in November.
Many wanted to see Tesla installed at the same traffic circle, but Mayor Dyster turned down talks with State Parks to obtain the statue, which is valued at nearly a half million dollars. State Parks publicly offered to discuss the possibility with local officials after the Niagara Falls City Council, the Niagara County Legislature and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area board all passed resolutions asking for it, but Dyster refused to act on the proposal.
Why accept a free masterpiece when you have a half million bucks to throw at an out-of-town artist?
Not to mention reinforcing the mayor’s preoccupation with all things Irish, rather, Buffalo.

NTCC chief John Percy once remarked at a meeting that the Tesla statue would not fit in the Rainbow Blvd. traffic circle, however, the Boundary Waters sculpture will measure 38 feet tall and 35 feet wide. Considering the attractiveness of the Boundary Waters public artwork, some have suggested it be placed in a different location.

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