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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Re: Re: Re: “Georgetown Artists” Angry with SBC?

posted by on July 22 at 11:19 AM

It looks like the rock wall is coming down—but that’s not the end of the story.

Yesterday I reported the protest of an artist named Ronald Aeberhard, who said he represented 15 to 20 Georgetown artists against a project by fellow Seattle artists SuttonBeresCuller to turn an abandoned former gas station into a little city park. (More information about SBC’s “Mini Mart City Park” is here.)

SBC’s project is on a site that holds what Aeberhard calls a “landmark” for the neighborhood. He’s referring to a rock wall by Louie Moss that he says was built decades ago—images here.

Artists John Sutton, Ben Beres, and Zac Culler are traveling this month, but they sent a response back this morning through their Seattle dealer, Scott Lawrimore.

The property is privately owned; SBC has a two-year lease on it, Lawrimore said. In about nine months, the artists hope to open the “Mini Mart City Park.” For five months, they’ve been working with the Georgetown Community Council on the project, Lawrimore said. In order to turn the site to any use, the artists have to bring the former gas station building up to seismic code, which means taking down the rock wall, Lawrimore said. (An awning rests precariously on the wall, he said; Georgetown Community Council chair Holly Krejci said this yesterday as well.)

After the wall is down, the artists plan to incorporate elements from it in their design. They do not, however, plan to reinstall it as it was, he said.

Lawrimore said the artists are frustrated by Aeberhard’s complaint now since their ideas have been far from secret for the last few months.

“If this was such a landmark, then why was it covered in brambles and derelict for 10 years?” Lawrimore said. “These artists are bringing this site back to the community, and trying to do it respectfully.”

SBC’s project is funded by Creative Capital. The artists also are seeking support from corporations and the EPA to help fund the environmental cleanup, Lawrimore said.

Aeberhard spoke out at a Georgetown Community Council meeting last night. His sentiments were echoed by a few others but there was no tide of dissent, said Stranger reporter Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, who attended. Community council chair Holly Krejci described the event in an email afterward:

The community council monthly meeting served its purpose tonight. It allowed people to share info and concerns, to vent, and to learn more about an issue—this time, the rock wall.

As one member of the community noted, the bottom line is that the property is privately owned and we really don’t have much say as to what happens. Another noted that change is hard and sometimes sad. This is a sad change on the one hand, but a great one on the other.

I personally think that the project is just the kind of innovative art and cutting edge green space that I’d like for Georgetown to be known for.

As for me, I have mixed feelings about this. Artists working in publicly accessible spaces, even on private property, have some spiritual obligation to that “public”—and that’s a good thing. Otherwise, they may as well be working in private: The public aspect of their work is what makes it meaningful. This is particularly true for SBC, artists (and Stranger Genius Award winners) best known for a portable living room, a portable park, and a portable island.

In other words, wrangling with competing interests may be a pain in the ass for SBC, but it’s a very real part of their work. This particular rock wall is a symbol of the public’s sometimes fickle emotional investments, and I am glad SBC has to contend with it. However they decide to use elements of the wall, I expect them to take seriously the fact that it has some value—more and different value than a piece of disused land, or an old crappy building—to a number of people, however vocal they are or aren’t. It may not be art, but it is an artifact of a certain sort. An artifact in the hands of caring artists is far better off than in the hands of uncaring developers and maybe even strict preservationists who’d seek to remove it and place it in a more obscure location. If the artists do their job right, Moss’s rock wall may not live in the same form, but it will gain, not lose, meaning. At least that’s my hope.

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This is a copy of an email that I sent earlier this morning to SuttonBeresCuller:

I wanted to write to you in regard to the rock work and your project
at 6525 Ellis. When I spoke with you on the day that you were working
here, I understood (perhaps incorrectly on my part) that you were
going to restore the building. Later I learned that you have plans
to remove the rock.

I don't know if you are aware that the Slog at The Stranger ran some
items about it yesterday. An incorrect email was published and,
after I was contacted, the quotes attributed to me made it sound as
if I am angry and confrontational. That is not the case.
It is more sadness and concern about losing this part of Georgetown
that has stood for so long. Although, as I understand it, there are
some other pieces done by Louie Moss still standing, including the
house on Flora and a piece in South Park, some are already gone.

Several people came to me to ask questions about your project, not
knowing what was planned. I spoke with folks in the neighborhood,
including a brief chat at The Georgetown Community meeting last
night, and a majority feel that this rock work has a place here in
Georgetown. Some of these people knew Louie and remembered Mr.
Perovich having it constructed. In some ways the depth of feelings
surprised me. It is very well liked. There is no objection by anyone,
including myself, to your project. There is just hope that this rock
work can be preserved as it stands and incorporated as part of your

I know that it may not be possible to save this work of Louie's.

Posted by ronald aeberhard | July 22, 2008 11:42 AM

If Georgetown could not save the Cold Storage Building from coming down what makes them think this pile of rocks can be saved. It is ugly tear it down and use the rocks as drainage for the lush green spaces to replace yep you guessed it the ugly wall.
I think Slog should not post about this again but continue to just update this post so it can get lost in the thread.

Posted by Between a rock and an ugly wall | July 22, 2008 11:52 AM

I would say that this is a story that refuses to die, but actually it's a story that's barely able to breathe...

Posted by michael strangeways | July 22, 2008 12:02 PM

@1: Ronald: What does:

"An incorrect email was published and,
after I was contacted, the quotes attributed to me made it sound as
if I am angry and confrontational."

Did you not send that email? Were the quotes inaccurate? You're using language to distance yourself from what you said, trying to blame the reporter instead of explaining why you said what you did.

And who are these other artists who back you? Where do you get the notion that "a majority" back your position?

I have no particular attitude about the work, but I do about folks who claim to have a legion when they don't.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman | July 22, 2008 12:03 PM

Thank god you finally got around to re-re-re-re-re-reprinting the words "Scott Lawrimore."

I was beginning to Lawrimore jones heavily and reach for my art world methadone. Please stop toying with me like this, Jen.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 22, 2008 12:07 PM

Jen, I found your comment on atrtistic obligation (following for reference) thought provoking but troubling. "Artists working in publicly accessible spaces, even on private property, have some spiritual obligation to that “public”—and that’s a good thing. Otherwise, they may as well be working in private: The public aspect of their work is what makes it meaningful."

A work funded by the public, for a public space can certainly be rejected for not meeting specified goals of intent, but that would be a contractual, rather than spirtual obligation. For example, if a group commissioned an equestrian statue and got something quite different the contract would be broken. I have always thought that artists have an obligation to be honestly intent on communicating but that message does not always have to be pleasing. Richard Sera's Leaning Wall comes to mind: the placement of that piece caused great outcry because it was perceived as being inconvenient to movement. Was Sera spiritually wrong? I have always thought that the very inconvenience and the annoyance it cause was an intrinsic part of the work.

I would enjoy hearing from you on why you hold this opinion.

Posted by inkweary | July 22, 2008 12:19 PM

This series of slog posts were terrible. Instead of stirring up a bunch of half-truths and misquotes, jen graves (if she did care so dearly about the wall), ought to have researched the situation properly and written an article. Instead we got a bunch of weirdos (myself included) blogging.

Posted by putting the BLAH in blogging | July 22, 2008 12:19 PM

Is that vacuum cleaner repair guy still down there? I like his yard better than that rock wall, but only a little.

Posted by Dougsf | July 22, 2008 1:33 PM


Posted by Time For The Glue-Factory | July 22, 2008 1:54 PM

Hi everybody.

First of all, Glenn Fleishman is absolutely right. Ronald, you can try to make the messenger the bad guy, but the better option for you might be to admit that you've softened a little in your position since yesterday morning. There's no sin in that. There is sin, however, in broadly claiming I acted irresponsibly and misrepresented you. I'll thank you to take that up with me personally if you feel that way, as you do have my phone number and email.

Second, you make a great point, inkweary. I also believe that artists have no spiritual obligation to please the public—simply to take its presence into account when making work, if the work is, in fact, publicly oriented. The artists decide from there what the public's presence will mean to them; they're simply obligated not to ignore it or pretend it doesn't exist. Serra is a perfect case. His sculpture was fascinating because of its hostility: it intended to obfuscate and redirect, rather than to be clear and open and expected and easy. It's not terribly surprising, then, that it met the fate that it did—but it was not unsuccessful, nor was it disingenuous.

My point was simply that in this case, in creating a public amenity—a tiny little new park!—SBC would be disingenuous to ignore entirely, or complain too loudly, about public opinion that happens to be inconvenient to their intentions. Does that make more sense?

And thirdly, I'm sorry to all of you who are complaining about these posts. I'm trying a new experiment where you get to see a story unfold on the blog. If you have suggestions as to how to make it work better, I'd like to hear them.

Posted by Jen Graves | July 22, 2008 2:04 PM

For starters you can make them more interesting. Actually I kinda like the Save the great Georgetown wall but I do not know if you can keep the story on one post. Post an updated link or even move the post upward as it develops. This way the story is in one place as are the comments. But after the first post everything else should go behind a link or cut what ever the kids are calling it these days.

Posted by Between a rock and an ugly wall | July 22, 2008 2:51 PM

Jen, thanks for the clarification of your opinion. BTW: I like the way the SLOG came back to the story as it developed, it continues dialogue in context to new events or information.

Posted by inkweary | July 22, 2008 3:33 PM

@10, Jen I can handle a developing story and do not feel you need to have everything perfectly locked down on round 1.

That said, I do agree keeping the story updated in one post might be helpful for readers trying to keep a narrative grip on the unfolding drama. Maybe put the newest bit in the visible spectrum and push the older stuff behind the link/cut/canyon/cataract/ abyss/Mariana Trench.

Carry on.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 22, 2008 3:46 PM

Hey you guys: I like your idea of trying to keep it in one post. Because I am not particularly tech-savvy, I have no idea how to do such a thing, but I will find out. Please forgive me if it takes a couple of tries, or if I screw it up.

Posted by Jen Graves | July 22, 2008 4:20 PM

I talked with Jen on the phone.

She did not misquote me.

In my email to the artists I just wanted them to know that I am not angry and don't want this ramped up to "confrontation". If there was an implication of bad reporting, I apologize.

In regard to the emails - there was some confusion at the time about how to send everything and an unedited, incomplete one was sent by mistake (not even including the photos). No one saw the mistake until it appeared on the Slog and so we sent the complete one which included the photos. I guess that the lesson is do not let several people near a computer at the same time.

Posted by ronald aeberhard | July 22, 2008 4:53 PM

I amend my previous post to use "since" instead of "if" there was an implication of bad reporting, I apologize.

I need to use the "preview" option.

Posted by ronald aeberhard | July 22, 2008 4:59 PM

It's just sad that an artist that lived, worked and bought his supplies locally isn't supported. The pieces of rock mean nothing individually, it's how they were put together. Putting the rock inside and saying oh this guy did something with them isn't a compromies. It's a copout. As for the place being run down, it's privately owned. Who is going to trespass to clean up something. It was sad that it was aloud to get rundown by the owner in the first place. OH well, please support LOCAL art by tearing it down.

Posted by gtown red | July 26, 2008 3:48 PM

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