Wausau’s new public bird art project has people squawking
This from the Oct. 28 Wausau Daily Herald, under the headline “Hwy. 52 median bill hits $112,000.”
“WAUSAU — A controversial plan to spruce up the city’s west-side entrance with bird sculptures and other improvements will come with $112,000 price tag when it concludes this week.
City leaders approved last month the project to beautify the Highway 52-Highway 51 interchange area by adding 18 decorative metal birds, trees, boulders, LED lighting and sprinklers.”
This is the kind of stuff that really gets the feathers flying around here. One Facebook discussion attracted over 250 comments. More than 1,050 people voted in an online newspaper poll, with the bird project getting a 69 percent negative vote, 23 percent giving it a thumbs up and 7 percent undecided. We haven’t had this much fun around here since the school holiday concert brouhaha a few weeks ago.
I’m not going to offer an opinion on the project or its Tax Increment Financing District funding, but I will say that one great quality of public art is that it tends to draw plenty of passion, one way or another. During the heated discussion over the past week, I tossed out that the Eiffel Tower was regarded as hideous by many Parisians back in the day. It was eventually only allowed to be constructed with the understanding that it would be temporary and it could be demolished after 20 years.
“We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection…of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years…we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.”
That’s fairly straightforward criticism, I would say. French author Guy de Maupassant had lunch in the tower’s restaurant every day, it is said, because it was the one place in Paris where the tower was not visible. But the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, so it should have been gone more than a century ago already. Instead, it remains as one of the world’s most recognizable icons. Of course, I’m not going to tell you that these birds are comparable to the Eiffel Tower, but it’s weird how something unique can tend to grow on people after a while. Like it or not, these birds have now come here to roost. Perhaps it would be just as well to wait a bit before having a bird or flipping too many over it.
Meet the (unfairly maligned) artsists: