September 12, 1990
By Yolanda Reynolds
Amid repeated protests that the Historic Ads Advisory committee was not following agreed upon procedures, the committee decided to place the statue in downtown San Jose. Exactly where and when is yet to be decided. The one other decision was that the Fallon statue does not belong in the north island of Plaza Park.
While pleased with the decision not to place the statue in Plaza Park, those opposing the decision to commit to a downtown site felt that this hasty decision precluded establishing a criteria and process for the selection of public art.
In the spirit of the City Council statement at the June 7 Council Meeting, community representatives, Kathy Napoli, Javier Salazar and Patricia Martinez Roach anticipated actual adherence to those instructions and that before any statues/public art was placed in the city a process and criteria would be developed.
HAAC was formed for the purpose of resolving Fallon statue controversy and a major part of their task, set out at the June 7, Council meeting stated… “by defining the public process through which art is selected and placed the public will have the ability to provide urgently needed input. If this public process would have existed during the time that the Fallon statue was being developed, in all likelihood the issues would have been identified and resolved during the public process.” Later on, Alvarado apologized to the community for the offensiveness of the proposed Fallon statue and the process whereby it was selected.
In an attempt to establish a process for the selection of public art of whatever nature (historic etc.) in a timely manner, Kathy Napoli submitted a request to the Chair of that committee that HACC develop the criteria and determine the process for the selection of historic/public art. Once the criteria and selection process for such artwork was determined, the committee then could determine the fate of the Fallon statue. There are many in the community who feel that the Fallon statue (historic? Sculpture?) should not be exempt from review.
Interestingly the proponents of the statue (whose most ardent supporter is Mayor McEnery) have claimed various rationales for the importance of this statue.
At first, some claimed that Thomas Fallon was the first Mayor of San Jose – he was not – , there were many alcaldes and about seven mayors before one term mayor, Thomas Fallon, came to office in 1859.
Then a claim was made that Fallon was the first to raise the American flag – he was not – a Mr. Stokes did that.
Then it was claimed that the statue helding the American flag and to oppose Fallon carrying the flag was un American, the Latino community promptly recounted the contribution the community has made in the defense of this country with the many sons, brothers, lovers, and relatives who have proudly served and sometimes died in defense of that flag around the world.
Then it was argued that the defeat of Mexico in the Mexican-American War was a historic-event. The Latino community pointed out the insensitivity of proposing a statue in the center of town, particularly Plaza Park (a park deeded to the citizens of City of San Jose by Spanish king, Carlos Segundo) a statue depicting the conquest of a people who now number almost 30% of this City’s population. Then it was argued that the statue is art. The Latino community then reminded the proponents of the statute that the statue was not reviewed by the Fine Arts Commission, a citizen’s committee whose task is to select public art.
At the last HACC meeting the rationale given for placing the statue in downtown San Jose is because it is too big to be placed anywhere else in town. The Redevelopment Agency staff is to prepare a list of possible sites for the Fallon statue for selection at the September 25, HAAC meeting.
Many in the audience at the September 5 HAAC meeting felt that the outcome entire meeting was orchestrated before hand with HAAC members Aaron Harris, Dennis Fong, Leonard McKay and Pietre Prodis pressing for the placement of the statue in downtown San Jose. The committee did decide that the Fallon statue will be placed in storage or not unveiled until the rest of the public art planned for the city has been selected and money appropriated for its purchase. (With the exception of the vote taken not to place the Fallon statue in Plaza Park, Martinez-Roach, Salazar and Napoli were the lone “nay” votes that entire evening.)
Other cities that are serious about public art develop a process and criteria for its selection. Generally that process involves 1.) identifying the funds for the art. 2.) identifying the site. 3.) conducting public hearings informing the neighborhood/s of the funds and their purpose. 4.) beginning the art selection process. A selection committee should include people representative of the demographics of the immediate neighborhood, members of the local arts commission and at least 1 or 2 recognized art experts, to decide: the purpose of the art; decide the appropriate medium; request proposals from artists recognized for their excellence in the chosen medium (ceramics, bronze, wood, steel, etc.) to be paid a fee for developing plans for art for the chosen location. 5.) the committee then selects one of those plans and the artist can then begin the work of sculpting or building a work of art. This process has several more steps.
A part of the final art selection process involves consulting with experts (that a committee would not normally have) who would advise on maintenance, safety, lighting, necessary permits etc.
Finally, artwork is approved and a dedication is held. Such a process would merit a great celebration and most lively result in public art that many in the community would understand and appreciate. It would be a learning experience for many reasons not only for discovering more about art but by demonstrating adherence to due process in a way that our children and the community an feel and know that our democratic society is intact.
The next HAAC meeting will take place September 25, San Jose City Hall, Council Chambers 7 pm.