Vision Thing

Vision Thing

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) invited Washingtonians to a public meeting last Wednesday to provide input for a master plan for outdoor sculpture and murals, a Public Art Program “vision.”

We are neither ophthalmologists nor optometrists, but the event clearly indicates the DC government’s urgent need for Public Art vision correction due to:

Shortsightedness: The “public meeting” ran from from 5 PM to 7 PM, before many working people could get there. Other government agencies start public meetings at  6:30 PM or 7 PM (just look at the DC Government calendar). Want to go through the motions and avoid the hassle of having lots of citizens at your “public” meeting? Hold it earlier.

Distance Vision: The plan for site-specific art in DC’s streets and neighborhoods is actually being drafted by consultants from St. Louis and Philadelphia.

Fuzziness: The meeting’s maps, posters, slides, charts, and chats all featured the phrase “Creative Economy,” but none of the consultants or DC Government employees present would define the term.

Transparency: Selected “open house” guests attended “closed house” meetings before and after the open meeting.

Double Vision, Lack of Focus, Disorientation: The Environment and Tourism are not within the purview of DCCAH, but were prominent topics of the meeting, duplicating efforts of other DC agencies and DC-funded nonprofits. DCCAH is the only public Arts agency serving the District of Columbia; no other agency picks up the slack if it abandons that mission for others.

Intermittent Blindness: A written agenda, descriptions of (or references to) Art in Public Places guidelines or Best Practices and other documents were not visible.

Take the Vision Test.  See for yourself. Here is the “questionnaire,” the only document distributed to the few people at this pro forma “public” event:

1. Does the proposed Vision Statement reflect aspirations that your community would share?

Public art in Washington D.C. will enrich the places that form the fabric of everyday life, engage with ideas and places that are the foundation of the city’s future, and strengthen the cultural health of the community.”

2. There are posters around the room which describe three proposed areas of focus for DC Creates! Please take a look at these and let us know what you think.

a. Do the proposed program directions for D.C. Creates! touch on important issues that can have an impact on the city?

b. Are there other topics or issues that should be considered?

3. Where are the great community gathering places in your neighborhood? Please mark them on the City map with a sticky flag.

4. What is your favorite public art project in DC? Why?

5. What is your favorite public art project from a place other than DC? Why?

6. Use your imagination and describe an artwork that you would like to see in your community – or anywhere in the District. Describe the place where it could be located.

7. Would you like to be involved in public art in DC? Check all that apply.
– I’m and artist and I would be interested in learning more about opportunities.
_I’d be interested in serving on an artist selection panel.
_I’d be interested in being included on the list serve.
_I’d be interested in following your blog

———-[end of “questionnaire”]———–

This is how “public input” was solicited for the public arts program from the few members of the public actually involved.

During their DC visit, the out-of-town consultants held most of their meetings with “stakeholders,” a neutral-sounding term for “vested interests.” Perhaps they even got a few minutes to look around town and see the territory represented by the maps they work from.

The outcome of this “Vision Quest” will be a report prepared by the consultants, due in the spring. That’s also when some of the same consultants will deliver a gift to the wealthy Lerner family from DC taxpayers, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of  site-specific  artwork for Nationals Park.


Image, “Vision Thing,” by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

One Response to “Vision Thing”

  1. Anne Bouie Says:

    GREAT analysis!!!!!!!!! Keep cranking it out!

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