Ashland Artwork Sparks Debate – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Shown is an artist rendering of the sculpture “Crystallizing Our Calling: The Future of the Ancestor”, which is being discussed by Ashland officials. [Courtesy photo]

Every seat was taken at Tuesday’s Ashland City Council meeting, with some people clustered at the back of the room.

A woman held up a cardboard sign protesting the delay in approving a new public art installation titled ‘Crystallizing Our Call: Ancestor’s Future’.

A proposed sculpture that drew crowds is the work of several groups, including Black Alliance and Social Empowerment, also known as BASE, and Say Their Names Collective.

The proposed sculpture is intended to be a permanent art installation in the spirit of the “Say Their Names” t-shirt memorial at Ashland’s Railroad Park.

“Crystallizing Our Call” was unanimously approved on June 17 by the Public Arts Commission and also approved by the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission for a site at Ashland Creek Park. The final step is approval by the Ashland City Council.

A post Monday on the Say Their Names Memorial Facebook page encouraged supporters of “Crystallizing Our Call” to attend the board meeting and voice their support for the piece.

“I see art as the common ground between cultures,” said Ashland resident Tony Foster. “I can’t even explain in words how important this art installation is to everyone in this community.”

Some at Ashland are concerned about how the piece has progressed through the approval process.

Councilwoman Stefani Seffinger, the council’s arts commission liaison, former arts commission chair Andy Stallman and former arts commissioner Sandra Friend all emailed commission chairman Ken Engelund expressing their concern that the piece was approved without following the procedures and rules required of a public art installation in Ashland’s city code.

The artist, Micah BlackLight, said in his presentation to the arts commission that the piece would be funded by donations from the community. He asked the city to provide funding for installation and site preparation.

In an email, Stallman wrote that he interprets the code as allowing either donated donation or city-funded installation, but not a mixture of the two.

“Due to the fact that the public is already concerned and the process is not being followed, I suggest that you withdraw this project…until there is time to review the process and determine s ‘He was tracked,’ Seffinger said. e-mail to Engelund.

“Concerns that have been expressed to me have included questions about the application process, the exclusion of certain individuals, and management only considering BIPOC applicants,” Seffinger said.

According to the Say Their Names Memorial Facebook page and the BASE website, the proposed sculpture was led by community groups rather than the Public Arts Commission. The groups decided on the final selection jury for the piece and the artist would be members of the black community.

“I would definitely like to see these issues resolved before this comes to Council, as I want this to be a community-building project,” Seffinger wrote in his email.

Liza Ebony, who testified at the meeting via Zoom, identified herself as a member of the final selection panel for the play. She equated asking for diversity and the inclusion of white members on the selection committee with the inclusion of men in women’s reproductive rights issues.

Arts commissioner Cassie Preskenis wrote in an email to city officials that she lost sleep over the delay in approving the piece because she believes the project is stalled. not because he didn’t follow procedure, but because he upset white people.

“Here in Ashland, this inspiring black-led art project is receiving an unwelcome reception masked by institutional politics,” Preskenis said in his testimony.

She said the project properly went through the public approval process and, referring to comments on social media calling the artwork “dark”, she said this reaction highlights why the city of Ashland has need a piece of art commemorating 200 black lives.

She brought her three children to the meeting, and each submitted written statements in support of the play.

Second to last to speak on behalf of the play was BlackLight, who said, “I don’t come from a place of anger, although some people have chosen to go through this and let it pass through them. I don’t come from a place where I try to get anything done; what I’m trying to do is start the conversation.

“Some of these conversations will be really difficult; some of these conversations won’t be easy,” he said.

No date has been set for Council action on the piece, but the Arts Committee will discuss it at its August 19 meeting.

Contact Morgan Rothborne, Mail Tribune reporter, at [email protected] or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.