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Turn on the camera

The City Council made the right call when it approved a request to activate a security camera to keep an eye on the “Velocity” sculpture in the Theater Corridor alley. The only question is why it took so long.

“Velocity,” the work of Napa, California-based artist Gordon Huether, evokes a ball bouncing down the steps connecting The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Thomas Theatre and city parking on Hargadine Street with East Main Street below. The terms of Heuther’s contract required that the work not touch the privately owned buildings on either side of the walkway, and emit light to illuminate the corridor at night.

The result was a 48-inch glowing ball at the end of a 126-foot aluminum tube. The $110,000 project was paid for with a small portion of the proceeds from the city’s tax on hotel and motel rooms, set aside for public art.

As always with works of public art, city residents’ reactions were mixed. Some liked “Velocity,” while others griped about wasting public money on art.

The piece obviously attracted enough attention to fall victim to vandalism on two occasions. One incident involved people hanging from the tail end of the piece, pulling the tube dangerously close to the ground. In the other incident, the ball was shattered.

The camera was installed from the beginning in anticipation of just such problems, but never activated. The Public Arts Commission asked that it be turned on. Just do it, and maybe Ashland can continue to have nice things.

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