Fisherman’s Statue Was Never Controversial!

April 10, 2015

Letter to the Editor of the Gloucester Daily Times:

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Today’s Editorial, City’s arts policy must define room for public input, leads off with the insinuation that every new work of public art is always met with some degree of negativity, followed by this statement: “Indeed, reports indicate that some local folks didn’t immediately warm even to sculptor Leonard Craske’s 1923 Man at the Wheel…” What reports are you citing here? Whatever the source, this is absolutely untrue.

Curiously, just the day before, I saw the same misstatement (on a local Facebook page)… only this time, it was a quote from none other than Bruce Tobey who, as noted in your editorial, is spearheading the drive to place the controversial David Black sculpture in Solomon Jacobs Park. As a former mayor of Gloucester, Mr. Tobey should have a firmer grasp of his city’s history, or at least check his facts before making false assertions. However, this is just another example, like the continually cancelled public hearings, of how our elected representatives have been dismissive of any input from concerned citizens.

The problem is not David Black, an artist of considerable talent, world renown and a graduate of Gloucester High School, although he moved away long ago. His gift to the city is quite generous and I’m sure sincere. High Seas, the sculpture in question, is a  large, wildly abstract piece. Whether you like it, or not, is obviously a matter of taste. Personally, I’m a fan. It is the placement of this colossal work in compact Solomon Jacobs Park that is the problem. Far from there being a unanimous consensus, this issue has resulted in considerable public outcry, especially on many highly active social media sites.  Mr. Tobey, Mr. McGeary, Ms. Cox and Mayor Romeo Theken are well aware of these numerous, impassioned, online voices. Now it remains to be seen how they will respond to them.

Just to clarify how wrong the aforementioned comparison is, Craske’s now iconic Fisherman’s Memorial Statue had a very clear purpose from conception to completion: to honor the brave local men who risked their lives and would continue to do so, by going to sea to provide Gloucester with its economic lifeblood, a thriving fishing industry. It was a most fitting tribute, applauded by all, for Gloucester’s Tercentenary Celebration in 1923, when the first model was unveiled. Empowered and inspired, Craske continued to work intimately with a committee of 60 including the Master Mariners. He even went on a fishing trip to the Grand Banks on the schooner Elizabeth Noonan to have as much authenticity in his finished work as possible. The exact positioning, wherein the fisherman faces out to sea, was also carefully considered. All these facts and much more can be easily accessed in the archives of the Cape Ann Museum, if facts are what you are interested in.

However, I’m afraid Mr. Tobey is no more interested in facts than he is in public scrutiny. Let me close with the words of the late author, historian and GDT columnist Joe Garland ~ “Beware those who would use Gloucester for their own ends.”

Bing McGilvray

Gloucester MA

6 thoughts on “Fisherman’s Statue Was Never Controversial!

  1. As a Survivor of a fisherman lost at sea in 1908, a Neighbor of the Grandson of the model of the Statue, and Sister of the primary researcher of the Cenotaph and 30+ year veteran of the seafood industry who has traveled to and met with Fishermen & Seafood Processors globally the statue to me has a Deity-like status. Upon meeting any fisherman, lumper or processor anywhere globally my go-to introduction statement is always, “Hello, I am Joanne and I am from Gloucester… I am a citizen of the US because of Fish. That is not what I think – it is what I know.

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  2. Mr. Bing, Mr. Bing!

    Thank you for pointing out the educated facts to the common rhetoric we keep hearing in such a disturbing and dismissive manner. Hopefully these City leaders will become more sensitive and accepting of our knowledge and opinions. Calls, postings and emails have been coming in for both reoccurring comments, other being;

    “… That said,”McGeary added, “this does not have to be a long process.” and then today “McGeary said he hopes the mayor’s policy-setting hearing — planned for May 14 — doesn’t result in a lengthy process or delays in accepting Black’s piece. And there’s no reason it should.”

    Fact checking: By who, why and how was there a National Grid contract written and BIG (Boating Infrastructure Grant) proposal application developed, which both contained the proposed Black Sculpture, before a public meeting was held? Why was this not so transparent or mentioned when the initial $30,000. was withdrawn for the sculpture?

    It seems more important to the community is to have a City wide meeting on plans for the Solomon Jacobs Park which seems to be a major new entryway from our harbor to City connecting the HarborWalk rather than the focus on the arts or the sculpture. We should be talking about the pros and cons of development and how to assist those businesses that have already been misplaced and programs that will be affected in the summer for residents and youth. This only seems like a diversion from a less than informed community who have been polarized and divided by such constant rhetoric less true than the facts.

    Fact checking is in order and if only the Committee for the Arts – Public Arts Policy pages and its history could talk. Time to stop overriding the City Committees and panels decisions and recommendations and allow them to complete the public process and submit a Public Arts Policy. In years past, the City administration had denied twice the GCFA’s request to create a qualified community panel with expertise to review and develop the Public Arts Policy. The arts community advised that a portion of the $50,000 HarborWalk public art money hire a consultant and firm to complete the plans elevating the process to a professional level and or to follow the Mt. Auburn suggested process for public art on the harborwalk. The CFTA public art policy has sat on past Mayor’s desks, it has been pressured to suffice as an in house manual, been reviewed, rewritten and research by other policies across the country. For any member of the City Council to believe the comments or make repeated rhetoric implying the Committee for the Arts has done less than what is expected of creating a public arts policy, shame.

    The Committee for the Arts needs to be recognized and applauded for the good work they have accomplished, be empowered with a paid position or higher office within the City, a master plan developed which includes a public arts policy and process of marketing our cultural assets and our artists as the workforce and engine of the creative economy. There should be no abuse of power to intersect their or our industry’s professional opinions and offerings so not to serve the will and consent of the greater community as collectively we mutually agree.

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  3. […] “Today’s Editorial, City’s arts policy must define room for public input, leads off with the insinuation that every new work of public art is always met with some degree of negativity, followed by this statement: “Indeed, reports indicate that some local folks didn’t immediately warm even to sculptor Leonard Craske’s 1923 Man at the Wheel…” What reports are you citing here? Whatever the source, this is absolutely untrue.” READ COMPLETE TEXT HERE: Fisherman’s Statue Was Never Controversial! […]

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  4. It is typical of the times that any American Icon must be destroyed, discredited or denigrated by the lunatic left. This is totally unacceptable and if allegations like these are to be made, they should be verified by accurate references and I have seen none. We have seen the dissolution of American traditional values and common decency, faith and morals all shot to hell these past 6 years in particular but the line is in the sand when it comes to political agendas looking to amend reality or the historical importance of the Craske sculpture; again as a matter of some politician’s personal preference for the work of a particular sculptor which may or may not be a contrast with the historical reality. Were I present in Gloucester at the time of the May 14th forum I would be in attendance and voice whatever my thoughts were provided the opportunity presented itself. I will, however, be in the Shenandoah Valley and then in Nashville for the 49th reunion of my Vietnam unit, the 199th light Infantry Brigade as that is a proud part of MY personal reality and history. And, neither will I allow THAT reality to be disrespected or denigrated without a fight, if necessary. It should not be under normal circumstances but, there is NOTHING normal about the time in which we live: more is the pity for generations yet to be who will inevitably be convinced that they are missing nothing of consequence by those who are themselves things of no consequence.

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