A newly formed Public Art Committee will present seven Board nominees to the Chestertown Town Council during the July 20th meeting.
The Committee, mandated by the 2014 Public Arts Master Plan, was created to promote and implement the installation of artwork in public places owned by the Town. The Committee will serve the Town in an effort to fulfill the mission of the Public Art Master Plan.
The Public Art Master Plan was adopted as part of the Chestertown Comprehensive Plan in 2014. “Funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant and the Town of Chestertown, in partnership with RiverArts, the Master Plan creates a vision for public arts, primarily in the waterfront and downtown area, guided by three themes: art, history, and environment.”
The master plan’s inaugural project was Artist David Hess’s Broad Reach, the contemporary children’s playscape installed in Wilmer Park to honor the artist and architect Alejandro “Alex” Castro for his many contributions to the Chestertown art scene.
At the same time, an impassioned drive to create a Black Lives Matter art mural on High Street, promoted by the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice, is underway. The SACRJ has requested to be on the August 3 Town Council meeting agenda to make their formal request for the street mural.
According to the co-chair of the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice Arlene Lee, art designs for the Black Lives Matter street mural are in the works.
Both the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice and Kent Cultural Alliance endorse the project the Black Lives Matter street mural project.
The idea of a street mural has been met with both support and disapproval. The idea was first officially introduced as a ”heads-up” by SACRJ member Maria Wood during the July 6 Chestertown Town Council.
Mayor Cerino, who said he supports Black Lives Matter, felt that placing a street mural in the historic district would be out of place and suggested that banners could be an alternative solution. He added that he was also concerned with the legal precedent, the mural might set, and if it would open the door for art contrary to the community’s values.
Both Councilwoman Meghan Efland and Councilman Tolliver favored the permit request. Councilman Herz also felt the project was essential but held reservations. Councilman Foster said that while he had concerns, he wanted more time to think about it.
City Manager Bill Ingersoll was in favor of the Town’s participation in the project.
The following Tuesday, local attorney Phil Hoon delivered a letter to Town Hall advising that he had been hired by “citizens and taxpayers” from the downtown community to articulate their concerns and oppose a permit for the mural project. He wrote that he was only concerned with the “letter of the law” and was not making an anti-BLM statement.
However, according to members of the SACRJ, there has been an outpouring of support from community members and businesses, including volunteers and financial contributions.
Now it is us up to the town government to engage in the process of just how to evaluate and manage public art and determine what serves the greater good of the community during these unprecedented times without losing the core message that the current project is an invitation to unify the racial apartheid that for centuries has left Black Kent Countians shunned, unwelcomed, and disenfranchised.
John Schratwieser wrote in a Letter to the Editor: ”Public art should not infringe on someone else’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; it should especially assert those rights for people who have historically and societally been hindered from achieving them.”