April 10, 2015
Letter to the Editor of the Gloucester Daily Times:
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.”