One of many controversies surrounding the new Marlins spaceballpark was the use of Public Art Trust funds to cover an item typically lumped into a park's construction budget. It's well and good, opponents said, to use public art funds to install Art, but it's another thing altogether to pay for the design, construction, and installation of the Marlins' new "home run entertainment feature."
They have a point. The Marlins' proposed Red Grooms work may be a wonderful addition to baseball and a great new tradition for the city, just like the Mets' rising apple in a hat and Chicago's fireworks-spewing scoreboard. But is it Art, or budgetary sleight of hand? And is it Public Art if one must buy a ticket to enjoy it?
It's...well, it's something, that's for sure. The artist's proposal was approved by Miami-Dade County’s Art in Public Places Trust on Tuesday, and what might turn out to be a fun, whimsical home run feature is hard to imagine plunked down in a gallery at MoMA: proposal plans (which are not fully articulated, and may be altered once Grooms begins working with contractors) show a tower rising from a circular pool of Groomsian waves; when the Marlins score a home run, the tower comes to life (video here): layers covered with Grooms' pop-art whimsy rise from the "sea" and travel upward, forming a display complete with blinking lights, flapping seagulls, lasers, and -- surprise! -- marlins that appear to jump in celebration.
It's like a pop-up book mated with a pin-ball game while watching cartoons.
How...Daytona Beach? The source of the 72-year-old Nashville-born artist's inspiration is four and a half hours north, where Grooms said he visited as a teenager and was struck by the pelicans, seagulls, and ocean.
"All that stuck with me," he said.
(Maybe we can stick Volusia County with some of the $2.5 million budget.)
Art or not, a springtime lawsuit from one of the Public Art Trust's trustees couldn't stop the feature (from the looks of it, a nuclear bomb won't even stop the feature). Fortunately, it isn't all Miami's getting: the Trust also approved a tile project by Venezuelan op artist Carlos Cruz-Diez along with a work in light by Miami's own Daniel Arsham.
Last but not least: a "commemorative marker" by Arsham's collaborative studio Snarkitecture, consisting of letters appearing to be from the old "Miami Orange Bowl" sign arranged as if they'd plunged from the stadium during demolition. That work, which will spell out new words like "game" and "won," will be interactive; baseball-goers will be able to climb and sit on the letters -- you know, in case installing a baseball stadium wasn't trodding on the ol' girl's corpse enough.
Janie Campbell is a Florida sports fan who loves public art. No, really. Her work has appeared in irreverent sports sites around the Internet.