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Prescott, AZ Censors Public Art Again – Mosaic Bench Destroyed
In spring 2010, a City Councilman in Prescott Arizona attacked an elementary school mural for featuring a brown student as the prominent subject. 17 months later he draws fire on another student project, this time, its over a mosaic bench placed by 200 members of the community. The student was ordered to stop work and soon after the City of Prescott destroyed it in the dead of night. The reason? Religious Intolerance and the lack of an art policy.
Prescott, AZ Censors Public Art Again – Mosaic Bench Destroyed
Prescott, AZ - Just 17 months after an international controversy over a mural depicting ecological themes and brown children, Prescott, Arizona is at it again.
A mosaic bench was destroyed last night without warning after complaints about tiles depicting images of a religious nature. This lead to the resignation of city council member Lora Lopas, who cited the incident as “the last straw.” The original letters of complaint to the city Parks and Recreation department are attached to this email.
Prescott College student Kristin Anthony created the bench as her senior project. She allowed all members of the community to decorate tiles to be placed on this bench in Granite Creek Park in Prescott. About 200 people participated. The eclectic mix of tiles depicted police badges, animals, a few Christian crosses, the star of David and a couple of Taoist and Hindu symbols. Though the religious symbols comprised a small portion of the bench, they seemed to be enough to draw complaints. One of the complaints referred to a plastic Buddha, not part of the structure, that was there temporarily as an offering to the memorial tree that the bench surrounded.
Following the complaints was a cease and desist order from the City of Prescott. In early October, Kristin was prevented from completing the project after seven weeks of daily visits from the Parks and Rec Projects Director and other officials who are now under gag orders. Joe Baynes was the supervising Parks Director.
After these seven weeks of purely verbal oversight, the City of Prescott suddenly claimed that there was an original proposal, a crudely drawn flyer inviting the community to make a bench that Kristin did not follow. Baynes cited issues of functionality, safety and maintenance, despite a lack of written guidelines for such projects.
The former Parks Director Debbie Horton temporarily became the “Parks Director” in a meeting with Kristin during which she claimed that the issue is content. “This is not about maintenance or safety. Government does not like controversy,” said Horton. Horton then ordered Kristin to remove all tiles with images. You can view the entire meeting with Horton at http://www.youtube.com/user/savethebench (Click “see all” to view the entire selection). Horton was visibly offended by Kristin's recordings and ordered her to remove the videos from YouTube. The videos were down for two days last weekend before going back online Monday.
Debbie Horton stepped down last Friday to go back to her new job, and Joe Baynes insisted that the issue was still “functionality, safety and maintenance.”
Kristin entered another negotiation with officials last Friday, this time with a lawyer who walked out half way through the meeting. Her landscaping and architecture advisor, Ryan Gates, presented a sketch for a new mosaic design and insisted that Kristin sign off on it. She did so and regretted it later.
After “finally coming to (her) senses,” Kristin called a council of 30 people to take over the project. At the meeting, Kristin said “I would rather see the bench destroyed than compromise the voices of 200 community members.” Kristin claims she was pressured into the agreement after the lawyer left.
The Granite Creek Park Mosaic Bench Committee issued a statement to the city Monday declaring all past agreements null and void. They demanded that all specifications for the completion of the bench be put in writing by the city so that the committee knows exactly how to comply. They also insisted that the content would not be compromised. The full statement is below.
Joe Baynes refused to recognize the committee as the negotiating body or make any compromises, and the city destroyed the bench in the middle of the night of October 24th.
The city’s full statement is below. The original letters of complaint about symbols are attached to this email.
Statement from the Bench Committee, submitted Monday:
Monday October 24th, 2011
Granite Creek Park Mosaic Bench Committee
Contact; Jean Lutz jlutz [at] cableone.net
To whom it may concern,
Granite Creek Park Mosaic Bench Committee statement;
The Granite Creek Park Mosaic Bench Project began under the vision of Kristen Anthony for the purpose of gathering community for creative expression and the beautification of Prescott Arizona. The project is a statement of collective vision and offers a vehicle for the expression of diverse opinions, free and open dialogue, city beautification, and provides a unique feature to attract tourism.
The responsibility of the mosaic bench project has, of necessity been transferred to a citizen action committee which will henceforth be responsible for all activities related to the bench. Miss Anthony is long past due returning to her home to fulfill familial obligations. Therefore, Miss Anthony has transferred all responsibility for the completion of the bench to the Granite Creek Park Mosaic Bench Committee effective immediately. All previous proposals submitted on Miss Anthony’s behalf are to be considered null and void.
Whereas; Miss Anthony proposed a revision of the Granite Creek Mosaic Bench Project under duress and without appropriate representation.
Whereas; All tiles represent a unified voice of the community. This committee is formed to save the bench as is and finish it according to the Mosaic Committees best judgment.
Whereas; we have had no written clarification on what the city wants concerning the mosaic bench, we therefore respectfully request that whomever the authorized voice of the city is in respect to this project, submit to the committee, in care of Jean Lutz, written direction regarding any alteration or adjustment pertaining to this project. The committee would like this to be delivered (in writing) by Wednesday at 5:00pm on Oct. 26.
Time is of the essence; it is our intent to create a safe and beautiful project and to complete the project before weather dictates nothing can be done until spring. The project will now provide professional oversight by mosaic artists and masons in good standing with the community.
Sincerely, Granite Creek Park Mosaic Bench Committee
Witnessed and signed this day of Monday October 24th, 2011 by representatives of the Granite Creek Park Mosaic Bench Committee.
Jean Lutz, Kristen Anthony, Eric Adam, Jeff Rome, Hannah Mawn, Jeremy Riddell-Kaufman, Craig M. Peterson, Danielle Demik, Lee Bradley, Cozetta Lamore, Mona Chase, Susan Deal, Jeffrey Brooks, Chad Castigliano, Charlette DeJesus, Tom Atkins, R.E. Wall, Ken Goellner, Jasmine Nordman, Sue Bryan, Maria Johnson, Tom Von Deck, Rachael Young, Shawn Devaller, Denver Risley, Margaret Dewar, Jacob Devaney, Richard Elkins, Delisa Myles, Gary Elbert, Skylar O’ Harrow
Statement from the City of Prescott About the Bench’s Destruction:
Tuesday October 25th, 2011
Despite the best of initial intentions on the part of each of Kristen Anthony and the City of Prescott’s Park & Recreation Department, a compromise on design of the bench partially constructed by Ms. Anthony in Granite Creek Park could not be reached.
The rendering submitted by Ms. Anthony for which approval was initially granted by Parks & Recreation staff was not representative of what was actually built. Although a modified proposal was submitted by Ms. Anthony for City review on October 21, 2011, it was withdrawn on October 24, 2011, prior to entering the City review process. Ms. Anthony, who submitted the original proposal and caused the bench to be built, is the sole party responsible for the outcome of her project.
The City of Prescott does not grant unlimited license to any party, public or private, for construction within its parks and other public areas; all such work is subject to review, inspection, and approval as to safety, functionality, and maintainability. With the City having been notified of the departure of Ms. Anthony, the withdrawal of the modified design submitted on October, 21, 2011, substantial variation between the original design sketch and what was built, and in the absence of any credible evidence that a structure meeting all City requirements will be achieved, the bench has been removed this date.
Warning; Many of the comments posted on the Prescott Daily Courier web site are charged with intolerant and cruel statements.
City Removes Removes Controversial bench; http://www.prescottaz.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=99363
Breaking News; City Removes Park Bench Monday Night- http://dcourier.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=99363
Lopas resigns from council, citing bench removal as 'last straw'
Park Bench Supporters will Make Their Case at City Hall Tuesday http://dcourier.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=99097&SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1086&S=1
The Granite Creek Park Bench Controversy; Community Art Or safety Hazard http://dcourier.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=98989&SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1086&S=1
Another Public Art Fiasco by former Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson