$610,000 for Courthouse Art? Better Be Good

So the Broward County Commission is going to discuss putting $610,000 worth of public art in the new courthouse that is being built against taxpayers' wishes.

You might think the Pulp, hard as it is on public officials and waste of taxpayers' money, might be averse to the expense on principle. Not so. As my former colleague Edmund Newton once wrote, "Public art is part of the glue that binds the community... sometimes it can deliver a jolt of cultural clarity."

South Florida needs more of it. Broward County requires that 2 percent of the cost of new public facilities go toward public art. Again, a well-founded policy.

The problem is that, as indicated by the photo above, too often the art commissioned is... both expensive and awful. Here again is Newton, who went on a public art odyssey in South Florida a few years ago:

"Taxes, though. There's the rub. We're paying for this glop. Big time. Millions of dollars of public money have gone into adorning our public buildings and parks with works that seem to have been produced by artists channeling the guy who invented the cinder block. There are cylindrical stairwells on the corners of the parking garage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport ($1.2 million), and the brand-new stone block assemblage in front of the Palm Beach County Courthouse ($350,000) is actually a security barrier to keep cars off the pavement. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport alone houses more than $3 million of so-called art..."

So it's the same story. Good ideas ruined by the government. Does that mean we give up? Hell no. And it's not always bad or ugly; sometimes it's actually good. Inside, some of the best and worst examples of public art I could find.

We start with one that I think delivers the jolt Newton was talking about. It's weird, it's fun, it wakes you up a little bit.    

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