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Former City of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's Blog


Poetry Cleanses

January 28, 2009 2:56 PM

I had the chance yesterday evening to stop by at the second annual Madison Arts Commission recognition event for all of the arts projects that were funded by the City last year. Thanks to Tom Carto and Overture for donating the space, to Karin Wolf for the great job she's done as director of the program and to Michael Bridgeman for his ten years of service and leadership on the Commission.

Madison has a small program for the arts, but it's amazing how many projects get done (We're lucky that artists work cheap). In my brief comments, I talked about how just one of the Commission's programs, ArtSpace, has a direct impact on the Mayor's Office. For those of you who have been to the fourth floor recently, you've probably noticed that we've got new art on the walls outside of our office and a new rotating exhibit in our conference room.

The watercolors of Madison scenes in the hallway are by Chuck Tupa and the studies of trees are by the photographer Kathryn Lederhause. The terrific pictures of Wisconsin scenes in the conference room are by John Kohl-Riggs. Feel free to stop by and check it all out.

I started the rotating art in the conference room a few years ago when I got tired of looking at the same old dusty posters. Since that time we've probably had something like a dozen different artists show their work there. It's a great way to give the artist exposure because hundreds of people come through that conference room in the months that their work is on display. It doesn't cost the taxpayers anything as the work is all on loan. Occasionally an artist even makes a sale to a conference room visitor who just has to have something they saw on the wall (I don't get a commission, but I should.).

There's no question that the artwork influences the feel of a space and that, in turn, has an influence on the attitudes of the people in the room. It might be a stretch to say that the artwork in the conference room changes the decisions that get made there, but let's just say that I've noticed that our mayoral fortunes do seem to be kind of linked. Summer before last we had some oil paintings that I liked, but which got mixed reviews from my visitors. One of those paintings looked like a combination between a bulls eye and a vortex. It was placed right behind my chair. As long at that painting was up nothing seemed to go right around here. The painting came down, things got better.

Coincidence? Probably. But, John Kennedy was right when he said that, "art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.
When power leads us toward arrogance, poetry reminds us of our limitations.
When power narrows the areas of our concern, poetry reminds us of the richness and diversity of our existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses."


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