Now, I'm no stranger to the utilitarian use of art. I am after all, a commercial artist. I am a hired gun. One of the causes that I champion is the understanding of industrial and utilitarian design as art. But I can't help but get an initial gut reaction to this that says "Wait a minute. Shouldn't art be made public for the sheer appreciation of it?" Many artists have an instinctual aversion to being used as a marketing tool. Art for the sake of appearance is anathema to the soul of many an artist I know.
It is great to convey a visual message that Ashland is a town that supports the arts and its artists. But only if that message is true. Lets not put the cart before the horse. You can plaster a town with public art, and still not support local artists.
I'm not saying that Ashland is not such a town. Just that artists are tuned into such nuances, and if you want them to come and live and work and create and shed their life's passion in your town, you might want to be aware of how language is perceived. If you don't know what I'm talking about, look up the word "Shill". Artists like to use that word a lot.
There is another part that gives me pause:
The implementation of these ideas will take the participation of several parties: the Town government, the property owner and Ashland Main Street. This combination of ideas works to build and strengthen an arts and cultural district.
And there's the rub. "for a period of up to 10 years". See, I've seen this before. You start by making it all comfy cozy for artists. You suck out their life force, using them as your side show carnival act. We are the bearded ladies, the fish boys, the dog men.
And then... when your carnival takes off... becomes successful... grows into a bona-fide theme park... you toss us out on our ears.
The artist can no longer afford to live in the place (s)he has toiled for 10 years, watching as the area grows and prospers. See Gentrification.
Again... I'm not saying all this to be a pain in the ass. I'm not being a nay sayer. I'm not discounting the efforts toward making real change in Ashland. I am merely the herald.
When the soothsayer told Ceasar to beware the Ides of March, it wasn't because he was planning on knifing Ceaser in his sleep.
It was because he felt the change in atmosphere, long before the storm.