Bill Peduto was the lone mayoral candidate at today’s Downtown event demanding enforcement of the city and county’s percent-for-art laws.
The protest was highlighted by a couple dozen CAPA high school students mimicking the classic “eyeballs in tophats” costumes of cult band The Residents.
As a city councilor, Peduto has been a big booster of art and artists. But while he says he supports the law requiring that 1 percent of city-funded construction projects be set aside for public art, he hasn’t signed on to the months-old Percent 4 Art campaign. He says that’s because when politicians sign such pledges it shuts down conversation and suggests they’ll no longer listen to those with different viewpoints.
Also, Peduto argues, the city’s 1977 percent-for-art law — which has been largely ignored its entire existence — applies only to building construction projects or renovations of a certain size, and the city no longer builds many new buildings. Rather, Peduto says, public art “should be a component to everything we’re doing” — that is, any public project, not just buildings.
The redevelopment of Brookline Boulevard, for instance, should include provisions for sculpture or landscape architecture. “We’re going to be spending millions on Penn Avenue in Garfield,” he says. Why not include decorative benches or sculptures, or unique landscape features? he asks. Art “shouldn’t be added on, it should be an add-in,” he said.
The Percent 4 Art campaign began in February with an online petition posted by artists Carolyn Speranza and James Simon. The campaign also targets a similar but much newer county law, also unenforced.
Today's protest was held at Katz Plaza, famed for its fountain and Louise Bourgeois’s eyeball sculptures that double as seats. On a suggestion by labor organizer David Ninehouser, who’s working on Percent 4 Art, a couple dozen students from nearby CAPA dressed in evening wear and top hats and covered their faces with large eyeball masks mounted on sticks, mimicking the famous Residents pose. Some of the students held canes and executed a languid kick line.
During the event, a city Public Works truck was stopped in traffic on Penn Avenue and Peduto had a brief conversation from the sidewalk with the driver. “We’re going after the dancing-eyeball vote!” Peduto hollered.