Those familiar with the former federal office building in Wenatchee, Washington, who have actually noticed, are familiar with the strange earthen mounds situated at the Northwest of the property. They were constructed in 1981 by Artist Stan Dolega who received $19,000.00 (about $54,000.00 today) from the government to place the dirt, a concrete retaining wall, and sod.
Anecdotally, the work faced much criticism since its inception as being the archetype of government waste through mandatory spending on artwork. It was not popular with those in the community and faced considerable ridicule as to its lack of utility, and that could credibly be claimed that the government paid nearly twenty grand for a pile of dirt.
Now the city wants to remove the mounds to make room for additional parking but discovered that it cannot due to a covenant designed to protect a problematic artwork that simply will not go away.
It is often that people are concerned with the money diverted to art attached to public works projects sponsored by government. The basis providing art from legislation or policies can mandate one percent of project costs be dedicated to art deemed reflective of various ideals approved by officials.
But one particular project regarding a bridge in the Fremont Neighborhood of Seattle is puzzling as to any long term benefit to be experienced, or of any tangible substance.
The City of Seattle budged ten thousand dollars and placed a call for bids for an artist to write a work of poetry, essay, or oral history of a drawbridge.
On the 40th anniversary of the murder of two FBI agents, Washington State is honoring the art of the two agents’ killer. It is a shameful and dishonorable act that highlights the man who took the lives of two young law enforcement officers and an affront to their families who have for forty years endured resurrection of this killer in the news with little mention of the fallen officers.
Last Thursday I read of a Native American art exhibit being held at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries headquarters in Tumwater, Washington. Being a fan of Native American art I travelled to the agency to review the artwork. To my dismay in the main rotunda of the state agency’s offices I saw four paintings from Leonard Peltier along with cards reading how to contact Mr. Peltier’s gallery for purchases of his works. I am familiar with his art and these works are consistent with his style of painting.
Leonard Peltier is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for the 1975 murder of FBI Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams at the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Now, we have a situation where a government agency is promoting the art of this convicted cop killer, which is only certain to generate controversy in the Law Enforcement Community along with the families of those who have lost their loved ones. The State of Washington is sponsoring a murderer’s artwork and providing free advertisements toward its purchase. I view this as highly unethical and a strong conflict of interest. The State of Washington should not be in the business of helping convicted cop killers profit while in prison. It is an insult to the families of agents Coler and Williams and those who have served in the profession.
The great irony of this affair is that the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is the agency charged with paying benefits to police officers injured on the job and to also administer the Washington State Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund.