In a remarkable blend of form and function, Ashland’s newest public art installation does exactly what it was supposed to do while enhancing an otherwise drab corridor and stairway.
The new artwork evokes a ball bouncing down the stairs from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Thomas Theatre and city parking on Hargadine Street to East Main Street. The Theater Corridor runs between the buildings housing Starbucks and Earthly Goods.
Because the buildings flanking the corridor are privately owned, the work could not touch them. It also could not obstruct the stairway, and was required to emit light to illuminate the corridor at night.
The result is dramatic, yet simple. The light makes the corridor safer at night, while drawing people in who may not even have been aware that the corridor was there.
All of this for a budget of $110,000 strikes us as a bargain, but of course there are those who object to the expense and question the wisdom of taxpayer-funded art of any kind. And public art installations will never please everyone, because people’s tastes differ.
These projects always seem to come as a surprise to some in the community, despite a public process designed to encourage participation, and coverage in the newspaper. Comments on social media described “Velocity” as “another awkward, second-rate piece,” a “meaningless monstrosity” and “elitist.” because a local artist was not selected, despite a three-year process involving local artists and others.
We happen to like “Velocity,” and consider it money well spent.