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Our View: History for history's sake

Given the vocal opposition to the Public Arts Commission's choice of a work to be installed on the Gateway Island, it makes sense for the commission to pause, meet with the City Council and the public and clear the air before submitting the piece for approval. What doesn't make sense is to scrap the project entirely or start over.

Public art is always a controversial matter, especially when public money is involved. No two people will view a work of art in the same way, or agree on whether it represents the community appropriately.

Our biggest problem with the objections raised so far is the idea that no work of modern art can possibly be suitable because downtown is a historic district. History for history's sake, one might say.

Opponents have attacked the process of selecting "Gather" — the Public Art Commission's choice — criticized the size of the piece and questioned its placement where it will be seen from passing cars. A contemporary work of art, they argue, detracts from Ashland's historic character.

Yes, downtown Ashland is historic. It is also a functioning city center in the year 2015.

Historic preservation is valuable, but it is not enough. Times — and art — change. Today's contemporary art will be tomorrow's historic art, just as today's historic works were contemporary in their day.

Ashland needs to look forward, not back. Rejecting art created with Ashland in mind because it is "modern" doesn't sound like the act of a progressive community.