Essentially Ashland: By Lance Pugh — I began going to the YMCA again, after many months of sitting and cranking out articles for far too many hours each day.
It began last Friday morning: An electrical storm of art ignited seven city ground sited transformer enclosures in and around the Railroad District, closing the loop between conception and execution of artwork, leaving us all with a more interesting visual landscape than the sea of green utility boxes that extend throughout our fair city.
Members of the City Public Arts Commission — Dana Bussell, Libby Edson, Jennifer Longshore, Melissa Markell, Annette Pugh, Ann Seltzer (city), Carol Voisin (council), David Wilkerson and Dudley Wynkoop — pushed ceaselessly for years to launch this effort.
In the final execution of the project Mike Morrison Jr. (city) helped with setting up tents, tarps, orange cones and other vital materials for use by the artists in a heat wave. Mike Meyers (Meyers Painting) jumped in for the prep work. Others who contributed were Miller Pant Company, the Ashland Elks, the Jackson County Cultural Coalition and The Party Place, though I am sure that many more put their shoulders to the task.
Though temperatures flamed past 100 degrees, the artists and their support crews pushed thoughts of self-comfort to one side and applied a lather of resolve and spirit and kept up work on this electrical transformation.
Getting to this point was not an easy task.
Much time has passed since Kevin Christman's outrageously inspirational angel had its wings clipped and denied a prominent position in front of Soundpeace, for reasons unnecessarily complex. Lloyd Haines installed unapproved art and was soundly lashed.
Add to this boiling brew the sign code task force cluster and what we got was a dingy bobbing in roiling seas of portentous possibilities securely anchored to a buoy of allegedly bruised egos. With the completion of the seven transformer boxes, the Public Arts Commission has risen from a swamp of regulations and city-driven contracts to brighten up the town with the fine work of six local artists. The Public Arts Commission worked tirelessly on an ordinance that would allow art to be placed in Ashland.
Many months passed with snail-like progress being made by any party until, at some point, reason played its hand and the Public Arts Commission got dealt a full house, resulting in what you see before yourself today "¦ city-wide inspiration. Ashland was not a harbinger of transformer transformation, as many other municipalities made such artwork a simple procedure. Instead of setting the standard, we managed to bring the proposal unfortunately to its knees, then after many meetings managed to set it free like a butterfly.
The very best way to view these pieces of artwork is on foot, as parking can be a problem and you will want to view all four sides and the top to get the full effect. I find them a delight to the eyes and mind and hope that this concept, under the guidance of the Public Arts Commission, will be expanded throughout the city. They are such a contrast to the factory green containers that diminish, not enhance, property values and visual allure. As a small town with a reputation for both performance art and a slew of art galleries, this project only invites additional investigation into what makes us tick.
To add vibrancy to our lives we now want clean air, a sustainable economy and lifestyle and a mind full of pleasant images to add vitality and creativity to our lives. It seems that, in these times of financial trouble, we crave pleasant distraction to make it though the day. It is time to take in this visual music and press for a lot more of it.
Lance@journalist.com was last seen e-mailing photos of our transformer art to friends around the globe, sharing the baby steps taken toward Ashland being know as an art destination.