Pray for sanity
It was with great astonishment that I read that a marvelous statue of an angel, inspired by the fecund imagination of Kevin Christman, has been deemed inappropriate for installation in front of Soundpeace, which, amongst its large and diverse inventory, small angles are available for sale.
Yes, our myopic signage police, fresh from turning the underbelly of the Water Street viaduct from a lighted and enchanting stroll through colorful paintings back into a dark and dank home to pigeons and ongoing neglect by the city and the Oregon Department of Transportation, now wants to define art as advertisement. In our purported berg of enlightenment, a rigid and outdated ordinance is interpreted at the whim of an enforcement officer while we yearly spend enormously to convince the country that we are crowning cultural and artistic jewel of the Pacific Northwest.
With this in mind, I strolled through the downtown yesterday and came to some interesting conclusions using the same logic that our city seems to employ:
Christman's "Alchemy of Light" would similarly be disallowed near any place of worship, as angels of mercy are included in sermons as the tithing basket is passed.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival would be banned from public display of an angel, for, as we all recall:
"Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
"" William Shakespeare "Hamlet"
Using the same logic, no statue of Abraham Lincoln would be allowed in front of any bank, investment firms or the city utility department as his likeness appears on pennies and the fin, which these businesses depend upon, as well as every other business in town.
It would be forbidden to place a statue of a well dressed couple in front of Nimbus, for they sell tailored Italian clothing, shoes and accessories for the well-dressed. Perhaps a bronze statue of a sidewalk seated beggar with three precious puppies would sail through the process.
Bloomsbury Books would be denied a sculpture of any theme or character depicted in any book, novella, magazine or newspaper which they might sell, especially a dog being walked, for my dog, Spooky, appears on the back cover of my new book being sold there.
The Ashland sign code was originally adopted in the early 1970s, ostensibly as a means to breathe life into a downtown in which a quarter of the storefronts were abandoned. Signage then was largely unregulated, leaving Ashland with a hodgepodge of signage as inspirational and depressing as can be imagined. Plastic, internally illuminated signs were then prized attention grabbers along the Interstate and we got our share, however ill-conceived and executed.
Within the sign ordinance a special perch in Hades was reserved for the use of neon. It was then thought that multi-colored neon had no artistic merit or any other redeeming quality and was banned. We now look at the neon at the Varsity Theater and Omar's as our main connection to art-deco. The anti-neon contingent approached the ban on neon with a zeal now only reserved for those engaged in religion-based wars.
Another component of the ordinance was the restriction of the size and placement of approved signs. With some buildings having several visible sides and increasingly more tenants, it has been a challenge to enforce a law in times of obvious change.
Ironically in a town thought of allowing almost everything we have the most restrictive sign ordinance in Oregon and the will to enforce the 38-year-old "law" without factoring in the realities of modern life. We take great pride in thinking of ourselves as artistic, but have very little public art.
Public art is not permitted in Lithia Park. No murals, regardless of quality or appropriateness are allowed anywhere in the city.
It's a sign of Ashland's times.
Lance was last seen heading to the Vatican to do some touch ups in the Sistine Chapel. He feels it's time for you to brush up on our out-of-date ordinance. You may inspire him at email@example.com, but not in public. Heavens, no.