Blanding City Council considers art project

The Blanding City Council spent most of their September 22 meeting discussing a policy that would allow public art to be installed on city property.

The discussion came about because of a proposed art project that would be donated to the city.

The art piece would feature a stone base with metal wagon wheels and antler sheds on top.

Most of the material for the project has been donated and no financial contribution is asked of the city other than permission to install the piece on city property.

Upkeep on the project would be to replace the antlers over time. The sheds at similar art pieces in Jackson Hole and Afton, WY need to be replaced every 30-50 years, but the antlers may last longer in the dry Blanding air.

The art piece would be dedicated to three Blanding residents who died in a tragic car crash on July 1. They are Cameron Palmer, Kyle Bailey, and Parker Palmer.

While allowing a memorial to be installed seems innocuous, Blanding City Attorney Kendall Laws says that it could present some challenges to the city in the future.

“If you go to law school, your constitutional law class – about twenty-five percent of it – has to do with public art,” said Laws. “You have the Ten Commandments that go up and then the atheists or the satanists or some group that is the polar opposite in theory then wants to put something up.”

Laws explained that the city can place restrictions around the time, place and manner that projects go up, but they cannot restrict an art piece based on content.

“Where you get in trouble is if it is portrayed or they can prove that you are picking sides, or if you are picking one type of art or one side of a political issue versus another,” added Laws.

“So if you just don’t allow it then that’s fair across the board. Everybody is equally ticked off or annoyed or relieved because across the board it is fair. No one can say that is picking a side or giving preferential treatment to one viewpoint.”

Laws admitted to the council that as an attorney his job is to imagine the worst possible outcome no matter how unlikely it may seem.

In an effort to discourage controversial art and to encourage projects that are complementary to the area, the council instructed staff to add a provision to the art policy that would require that all art pieces uniformly reflect the natural beauty of the area and pay homage to historical civilizations.

The council instructed city staff to bring the policy back in a future meeting.

At the meeting, the city council also received an update from Economic Development Director Pratt Redd about the upcoming Fall Festival.

The fall event is planned for Saturday, October 10 at Centennial Park. The festival starts at noon and will include a pumpkin patch, pumpkin painting, pumpkin carving, a hotdog eating contest, kids games, corn pit, and more than 20 food vendors and craft booths.

Live music will begin at 5 p.m. with fireworks at 8 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the city, with contributions from San Juan Counseling and the San Juan County Prevention Action Collaboration (SJC-PAC).

The Fall Festival is being held after the traditional Fourth of July celebration was muted in Blanding earlier in the year due to COVID-19. The one-year event is also happening two Saturdays after the Dutch Oven Days was initially scheduled.

Dutch Oven Days is a new annual Blanding celebration that was also cancelled due to the coronavirus.

At the meeting, the council also held a public hearing regarding an annexation request and the city transportation plan.

The Blanding council approved the annexation of the property located on the east side of Blue Mountain Road and 800 East. The property is a little more than an acre.

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