Town of Chestertown
PUBLIC ART COMMITTEE
September 10, 2020
The first meeting of the Chestertown Public Art Committee (PAC) was held via Zoom with the following in attendance: Members Fredy Granillo, Ingrid Hansen, David Hegland, Carla Massoni, Samuel Moore, Sam Shoge, Ben Tilghman, Gordon Wallace, Pam White, and ex-officio members John Schratwieser, executive director of the Kent Cultural Alliance, and Kay MacIntosh, manager of the Arts & Entertainment District.
The meeting started at 4:05 p.m.
As this was the inaugural meeting of the PAC, the meeting began with brief introductions of the members.
Ms. MacIntosh and others provided a brief review of the genesis of the PAC as a recommendation of the Town’s Public Arts Master Plan, which was funded through an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Historically, the Hebe fountain in Fountain Park could be considered the first public art installation in Chestertown. The second was the contemporary Broad Reach playscape installed in Wilmer Park. Ms. Massoni stressed the level of public meetings and engagement that led to the selection of Broad Reach.
The members reviewed the draft mission statement and guidelines for the PAC. The word “helpful” was added to #10 of the Duties and Responsibilities, to further stress that the committee would take a collaborative rather than a policing role with any installation of art on private property. It now reads:
- Serve as a helpful resource and/or partner with other government entities, private individuals and local organizations and institutions considering or planning the installation of a temporary or permanent work of public art on their own property within Town limits.
With that change the document was approved by a unanimous vote. It was agreed that the committee will be able to revise the document as its work progresses without an official action by the Mayor and Council.
There were questions raised about the level of public access and transparency required of committee deliberations and communications. Ms. MacIntosh indicated that once the committee established its meeting schedule, that would be posted on the Town website along with meeting minutes. Any member of the public who wishes to attend a meeting will need to email the A&E manager for the login information. For other Open Meeting questions, such as rules about intra-committee emails and conversations, Town Zoning Administrator Kees de Mooy can be a resource the committee can call on.
The following officers were nominated and elected:
Chair, Ben Tilghman
Vice Chair, Pam White
Secretary, David Hegland
It was decided that future meetings would be held on the second Tuesday of each month at 4:00 p.m.
Mr. Tilghman provided history on the upcoming gift of 22 outdoor sculptures from a couple with a home in St. Michael’s who are looking to downsize and want to donate their impressive collection to a Town where it can remain intact and accessible to the public. Mr. Tilghman had heard about their interest and began discussing Chestertown as a potential home. He said the couple were drawn to Chestertown because of the Public Art Master Plan, the Arts & Entertainment District, the potential for programming with Washington College, and the Town’s overall artistic and creative life. The quality of the collection is high; some of the artists have works in major museum collections. The timing of the gift has been interrupted by the pandemic and it now looks like the first installation could take place in fall 2021. The donors are looking to donate the works and to help with the costs of moving and re-installing them. They want the artists to participate in the transition as much as possible. One early PAC task will be to think about where each sculpture should be placed. Another is to apply for a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council to support the conservation and maintenance of the collection. The next round of applications is due November 15; it’s a great fit for this project. Chestertown landscape architect Miles Barnard is consulting on grading, footings, etc. for physical installation. The donors are open to having PAC members come to St. Michael’s to see the collection.
Mr. Hegland asked if this information on the gift is public and shareable. The donors are comfortable with announcing the gift, but the Committee was asked to not share the information widely until the Town could make the official announcement. Asked about the diversity of artists in the collection, Mr. Tilghman said half are American, a third women. Mr. Shoge asked if the Town was committed to accepting all the pieces and the consensus was, yes, and that the committee will need to find a suitable place for each piece. Mr. Shoge also asked about anticipated push-back from community members who might feel the pieces are too contemporary for historic Chestertown. Discussion ensued about such resistance and the Committee’s role in educating the community about the value of the artworks. Ms. Massoni said the donors like the idea of these sculptures being integrated throughout Town rather than grouped in one place. Mr. Tilghman said Washington College is open to accepting at least one of the artworks on its waterfront campus. Mr. Schratwieser stressed that the PAC has been empowered by the Mayor and Council to make decisions about the sculpture collection and its members should be enthusiastic advocates. Mr. Granillo asked about maintenance needs. Mr. Tilghman said they are all designed as outdoor works, including some wooden works that are naturally degrading. The MSAC grant can help with conservation assessments and local volunteers can help with routine cleaning and monitoring. Mr. Tilghman emphasized the PAC is meant to serve the interests of all of Chestertown and not just the A&E District. Mr. Hegland asked whether the art would be moved all at once or gradually. Answer: pieces will likely be moved gradually depending in part on artists’ availability. Mr. Schratwieser is excited about how the committee can involve the artists in public engagement with their sculptures.
The Committee briefly discussed what if anything it could do to support the Black Lives Matter murals being painted on High Street and College Avenue. It was agreed there was no need for assistance at this point but the PAC might help with maintenance and repairs as necessary once the murals are completed. Mr. Hegland asked if there was any talk of installing security cameras to monitor the murals. Mr. Wallace, who is integrally involved in designing the murals, said he would ask fellow organizers if the PAC could be helpful in investigating and/or installing cameras or helping in any other ways.
The committee acknowledged Mayor Cerino’s call for the PAC to accomplish one of his goals for the Town’s recently adopted 16-month Plan for Unity – to add a public sculpture referencing the role of the Port of Chestertown as an entry point for the slave trade and the work of enslaved Africans in building Chestertown. Mr. Wallace, Ms. White and Ms. Massoni agreed to serve on a subcommittee for the slavery sculpture project.
Mr. Tilghman invited other members to contact him if they are willing to serve on a subcommittee for the sculpture donation, which will include writing the MSAC grant application.
Various members acknowledged the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic poses to the desired community engagement for both of these major projects. Ms. MacIntosh suggested the PAC invite the State’s Public Art Program Director Leisel Fenner to join its next meeting to share her expertise and advice.
Mr. Shoge asked if Ms. MacIntosh could obtain a map showing parcels under the control of the Town, County, College, etc. to guide our options for placing the Woickes art. Mr. Schratwieser and Ms. Massoni suggested as a starting point the map created for the Public Art Master Plan.
The next meeting was set for Tuesday, October 13 at 4:00 p.m. via Zoom.