Local News

Public Opinion Varies On Proposed City Square Art Exhibit

Posted May 31, 2006

— Raleigh citizens are speaking out about a proposed public art project in Downtown Raleigh.

The Raleigh Arts Commission received more than a dozen public comments about a proposed light and water creation by world-renowned artist Jaume Plensa for a new city square in Downtown Raleigh.

"It's going to date itself and be outdated in no time," said downtown worker Charles Bancroft. "We need to have something more classical that outlasts time."

The proposal involves lights in the ground, overhead and a curtain of water. The $2 million project would be paid for by WRAL's parent company,

Capitol Broadcasting Co.


A few of the public comments submitted to the Arts Commission think the project would put Raleigh on the world map. But nearly a dozen say the Plensa piece is a very bad idea.

People write, "the project screams of commercialism." Others worry the upward lighting will contribute to light pollution" and "harm migratory birds."

The Raleigh Appearance Commission also does not support the project, calling it "alarmingly vague." Members say the goal of the new Fayetteville Street is to have an uninterrupted view from Memorial Auditorium to the state Capitol. They say this project will get in the way.

"It's easy to be against something," said Raleigh sculptor Thomas Sayre, who is the co-founder of Clearscapes, a local design firm that has been a part of public art in several cities.

Sayre hopes the city will back the daring design.

"We deserve new and different and risky stuff, not settling back to the safe, the tried, the true, the known," Sayre said. "That's not who's occupying Raleigh anymore."

The question remains: Will the community pull for Plensa? The city is working with the commission on further design refinement. The Raleigh Arts Commission hopes to make a recommendation to the City Council by the end of summer.


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