s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Water Street art project approved

X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

The Petaluma Public Art Committee began to extinguish the fiery debate over the controversial Water Street public art project with a 6-1 vote at City Hall last Thursday, allowing renowned artist Brian Goggin to begin forming the final concept before city council approval later this year.

The May 24 meeting was the first time the art committee was able to publicly weigh in on his proposal, “Fine Balance,” featuring five Victorian-era bath tubs perched above the promenade on 17-feet-high iron stilts.

Despite the contentious discussion in community meetings and on social media, most of the seven appointed committee members were overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal.

“I don’t get contemporary art — I’m very much a traditionalist in this way — but I love the whimsy and the silliness of it because it doesn’t have to make sense or be logical to me,” said committee member Margaret Geiss-Mooney. “I love that it’s something that we see multiple times a day in a completely unexpected situation and location. You’re going to do a double take.”

The lone dissenting vote came from vice chair Christopher Smith. He gave significant consideration to the public’s critical response to the proposal that began pouring in once the renderings were shared on the website Nextdoor last month.

Smith said he failed to see a connection between the piece and the project site that would garner appreciation, and suggested different locations he felt were better suited for it rather than one of the most visible spots in Petaluma.

However, he championed Goggin as the right artist for this project, and expressed gratitude for the lengths he went to research Petaluma and its history.

“I like ‘Fine Balance’ as a public art piece, but I don’t love it – yet,” Smith said. “Maybe that’s just at this stage ... Could the artist create an alternative for this site? I’m confident he could. But I wonder why we would ask him to do that? If we ask him to do that perhaps because we’re seeking consensus, that’s going to lead to another request after that, and another request after that where we drive this artist away ... or (end up with) no public art at all.”

The council chambers were overflowing with attendants, many admitting it was their first time getting involved in a municipal process. Resident Sara Sass pointed out “it’s been a good civics lesson” for citizens unfamiliar with the development of city projects.

Nearly 30 community members took advantage of the public comment period, and almost half of them were in favor of Goggin’s piece, coloring a contrast to the widespread opposition percolating online.

“I think we haven’t been able to hear all the voices because many of them have been silenced in certain ways,” said Joshua Barlas, who expressed disappointment in some of the vitriol that’s been directed at Goggin.

Local artist Mark Pauline believes the installation represents the “weird side” of the city, which lives in harmony with the traditional culture sewn into its fabric – a relationship that defines Petaluma, he said.

“I think something like this, it touches surrealism. A little bit of that would be great for Petaluma because there’s a lot of tradition here. It’s everywhere in Petaluma,” Pauline said. “But I think a little touch of surreal would be good for this community, and the fact that this project has caused so much controversy is indicative of how many people are going to be drawn to Petaluma to view this piece.”

Opponents cited various safety concerns and how it might obstruct an area that receives significant foot traffic and hosts events. Many, like Smith, thought it would be more appropriate somewhere else.

At times, the project appeared to be a vehicle for a different and much deeper discussion of changes happening to the city. Some characterized Goggin’s piece as a harbinger of a future many longtime residents are reluctant to embrace, filled with newness that contradicts long held notions about the charm of Petaluma.

“I realize that times move on and progress is inevitable, but we live in a very special place,” said Denise Glasser, owner of Salon Coiffe Maman. “Its history and its architecture, the small-town feeling are the backbone of this town. Bath tubs on a pole don’t represent that feeling.”

Multiple commenters referenced the 1976 “Running Fence” installation by the artist Christo that spanned nearly 25 miles through Sonoma and Marin counties. That project encountered fierce opposition during three years of planning and public meetings, but once it began construction, the community rallied around the project and it eventually became a source of pride.

Goggin went through a similar process with “Defenestration” in San Francisco, where he makes his home, and is optimistic that this piece will follow that arc as he embarks on the design process.

“I see this as a beginning of an adventure ... and having permission to move ahead fills me with exhilaration and joy,” Goggin said. “But that’s tempered with the understand that there’s a lot of challenges that are going to come up, and just to be sober-minded on how to address them because we’re dealing with public safety concerns and the way in which people use the space, making sure the piece complements the space rather than inhibiting people’s use of it.”

(Contact News Editor Yousef Baig at yousef.baig@arguscourier.com or 776-8461, and on Twitter @YousefBaig.)