The entire board of the Brookings Art Committee (PAC) abruptly submitted resignation letters last week, leaving the City Council scratching their collective heads.
“I read the resignation letters, and I was just shocked,” said council member Dave Gordon at a work session Monday afternoon.
“I can’t help but think that something took place,” said Mayor Ron Hedenskog. “Maybe their mission has gotten out of line.”
The five committee members include Pete Chasar, Timm Rolek, Sandy Bonny, Destiny Schwartz and Lea Ray.
PAC members this week said they don’t feel appreciated. The last straw, according to some, was the council’s decision not to allow the committee to replace municipal facility photos in council chambers with art made by members of the community.
The three council members at the work session – Hedenskog, Gordon and Kelly McClain – thought as much.
They said they thought the committee merely wanted to restore the only non-photographic image, a painting of the Chetco River bridge construction.
In an email to the Pilot, City Manager Gary Milliman wrote that when he heard the committee planned to replace the photos, he wasn’t sure that was the council’s intention.
He confirmed those concerns with Hedenskog and council member Jake Pieper.
“City Hall is for the city council to conduct business, and sometimes referring to photographs of the facilities is helpful in discussing projects involving those facilities,” Milliman wrote. “It is my understanding that not being able to include this area in their plan for the display of public art in city facilities was seen by the committee as an encroachment into their council-granted authority. The Public Art Committee has made significant contributions to the city and the community and I think this misunderstanding is unfortunate.”
That misunderstanding was the last for the five who quit.
“We put an awful long time putting together requested art changes for the city hall, and all of a sudden they changed their minds,” Ray said. “They said they wanted to get more aerial photo shots. The art committee isn’t paid. Who the hell’s going to pay for aerial shots?
“We were supposed to change all the old stuff; it’s all old, it’s dated, no one enjoys them,” she continued. “We went about town getting artists. … We feel used, and we don’t like that. We are supposed to be making these decisions. We put in all the hours. And now they want to do aerial shots? That’s why I quit.”
Providing displays of local art on a rotating basis would stretch city employee duties even further, as it would require submitting request for proposals, evaluating the art and displaying it, noted public works director Loree Pryce.
City Manager Gary Milliman said the art committee’s mission is to recommend art for public display, inventory city-owned art and its curation and plan the displays in other parts of city hall. Councilors also wondered if artwork selected by the committee would properly reflect upon the city.
For Chasar, having the proposal “shot down” was the last straw. He’s served on city committees for more than seven years, and said it’s time to move on to something different.
“When I was appointed last, I was wondering at that time whether I should commit the time and energy to another three years,” he said.