Public Art Prompts Protests as Phoenix Faces Tight Budget

<p>Phoenix's public art program is widely touted as one of the best in the country. But a proposed floating sculpture has elicited criticism from an otherwise uninvolved public, mainly due to the fact that the city is facing a large budget deficit.</p>
March 18, 2008, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Phoenix's public-art program has made its mark across the city, adorning parks, canals, freeways and street corners. Many of the projects showcase cultural aspects of the Southwest. Some are hidden in plain sight, such as the pedestrian bridges crossing the Piestewa Freeway, their jagged silhouettes mirroring nearby mountains."

"Since the first art piece was installed 20 years ago in a McDowell Road freeway underpass, the city has spent more than $26 million on about 120 projects ranging from murals, sculptures and photographs to textiles, paintings and glass blocks."

"The average Phoenix resident probably doesn't give the city's public-art program much thought - until a controversy breaks out. That is what happened in December, when a public outcry rose up over a planned $2.4 million floating sculpture for a downtown park."

"There were jabs at the design, some saying it resembled a jellyfish. But at the heart of the debate was the city's proposed expenditure when facing its largest budget deficit."

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Published on Sunday, March 16, 2008 in The Arizona Republic
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