Public Art as a Yardstick

I love the fact that I’m now living in a city where public art is the norm. I often pass by sculptures and murals here in Seattle, and they never fail to make me smile. It’s always a pleasure to have a bit of beauty and humor or a dash of whimsy injected into one’s day. I love having my thoughts provoked and my perspectives challenged. And some of these sculptures kind of feel like a part of my family now.

I used to live in Jacksonville, Florida, where public art was rather thin on the ground. It was often viewed as too controversial, or not in keeping with family values. (Though I wonder if their statue of Andrew Jackson astride a stallion still stands? I bet it does.)

Some artists in Jacksonville have been known to go rogue, I think, out of sheer frustration. They’d paint any flat surface they could find. Sadly, they always seemed to be quickly shut down and/or painted over.

Allowing art in one’s city takes a certain level of political courage. (And I’m not talking about historical monuments and statues, here. That’s another debate entirely.) There will always be people who don’t like a particular piece, or they will misinterpret it. It is easier to offend than to delight or inspire, it seems. It’s a confident city council that allows self-deprecation and social commentary to be out in the open, for all to see. It’s a brave mayor that doesn’t see creativity as a threat.

I think one of the many factors one should consider when deciding where to live is the amount of public art in the city in question. That will tell you much about the quality of life that you will experience in that community. It will tell you a great deal about the maturity and emotional health of the municipality as well. These are considerations you should never overlook. The ability to express oneself is the hallmark of civilization.

Crane

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On Being a Fish Out of Water

Not fitting in or being uncomfortable is what the expression “like a fish out of water” means. That’s a pity, because if you think about it, a fish out of water is experiencing the ultimate form of enlightenment. If you’ve been in water your entire life, you don’t really realize you’re in water, do you? I mean, on some level you must, but you don’t know what it’s truly like until you’ve jumped out of it.

I discovered that on a small scale recently when I moved from one rental place to another. I knew I had been unhappy where I was for some time, but I didn’t fully comprehend what a negative effect that place was having on me until I got out of there. It was definitely just what the doctor ordered. I’ve had that feeling when I’ve quit a toxic job or ended a toxic relationship, too.

Now that I no longer have a completely crazy landlady and her ex-convict son living on the other side of my living room wall, I can breathe. Now that I don’t have to step over his cigarette butts and deal with the god-awful stench of their overly hoarded garage, I feel much better. Now that my dogs don’t get fed whatever crap they have as leftovers when I’m not looking, and don’t have to wend their way among the ever-increasing debris in their back yard to do their business, they feel better, too. Now that I’m not being constantly watched to see when I come and go and with whom, and how often I use my air conditioner, I can relax and feel like an adult in my own home again.

By the standard definition, I guess you could say I was a fish out of water at the old place. But if you look at it as a form of enlightenment, then I am a fish out of water now, and it feels really good. I will never take a comfortable living situation for granted again. If that knowledge is what comes from jumping out of my comfort zone and exploring the possibilities that come with change, then this is one fish who hopes to do it on a regular basis.

fish