Dallas to Remove Public Art Rather Than Pay to Maintain It

Francis Bagley and Tom Orr, Wildlife Water Theater (2001), night view from earlier years.
Francis Bagley and Tom Orr, Wildlife Water Theater (2001), night view from earlier years. Commissioned by the City of Dallas Public Art Program to educate the public about local wild life, the work's 20 polycarbonate light poles no longer function. Without repair funds, the city may remove the piece. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Dallas’s public artworks are imperiled by the city’s refusal to invest in long-term repairs and upkeep, reports D Magazine. The city cut the public art maintenance budget in 2009, and is now planning to remove Wildlife Water Theater (2001), a popular environmental installation by Tom Orr and Francis Bagley. The piece, consisting of poles that jut out of White Rock Lake, providing a scenic perch for local wildlife, has fallen into a state of disrepair over the years. The solar-powered polycarbonate poles no longer light up, and many of the accompanying educational wildlife panels have faded to the point of illegibility.

Now, Dallas will only approve public artworks that require little to no maintenance work. This places considerable creative restrictions on future commissions, in addition to jeopardizing the continued existence of projects that require upkeep for their preservation.

According to an article from the Lakewood Advocate, restoring Wildlife Water Theater to its original state would cost $250,000. As reported by Dallas News, the city’s office of cultural affairs will hold public meetings on March 22 and 24 to get feedback about the artwork’s proposed de-accessioning.


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