Only journalist on Arts Commission votes against Sid Hartman statue

To no one’s surprise, Sid Hartman’s metallic likeness is one step closer to poking its microphone at Minneapolitans for decades to come; on Wednesday, the city’s Arts Commission recommended approval of an encroachment permit for a piece of Target Center sidewalk.

Sid outside Target Center (via Nick Legeros)
Sid outside Target Center (via Nick Legeros)

(Would that we could review the real Sid’s encroachment permit!)

Only one member objected, and here’s the ironic part: Tim Gihring is the commission’s only journalist.

Gihring, a senior editor and arts editor at Minnesota Monthly magazine, is a former Commission chair who is now its secretary. Whether Sid deserves to be bronzed isn’t something the commission can consider; in this summary of his Wednesday statement, Gihring cited public participation and commercialism for his disapproval, with a wry note about his profession:

I pointed out that — although it’s not the sole consideration — among the commission’s criteria for approving public art is community involvement, so that the people who will live with this work, on the public sidewalk, have an opportunity to say if they support the project or not. And we were told that, to anyone’s knowledge, community input had not been sought. And that sealed it for me, whether residents had been asked if they want Sid representing their community, perhaps indefinitely.

I also stated that the logos of WCCO Radio and the Star Tribune, who commissioned the statue, are clearly visible on the statue, even if they don’t qualify as advertising. And I asked rhetorically whether CBS and the Star Tribune would have commissioned the statue if they didn’t think their logos were going to be clearly visible.

Afterwards, I had a good chat with the artist, Nicholas Legeros, who I think is a tremendous sculptor and I think people will love pretending to be interviewed by Sid. And I mentioned the irony that I, of all people, a journalist, should object to memorializing a fellow journalist. In 30 years, I joked, it may be as much a memorial to journalism as to Sid.

The final step is up to the city’s Public Works Department. By rule, the commission will review the “Sid permit” in five years, but that will almost certainly be a formality.

Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Andy Gifford on 08/19/2010 - 08:56 am.

    “I also stated that the logos of WCCO Radio and the Star Tribune, who commissioned the statue, are clearly visible on the statue, even if they don’t qualify as advertising. And I asked rhetorically whether CBS and the Star Tribune would have commissioned the statue if they didn’t think their logos were going to be clearly visible.”

    I wonder if Mr.Gihring has any problem with “Nick at Nite” brandishing their logo on the Mary Tyler Moore statue on 7th & Nicollet.

    Oh wait…CBS and Nickelodeon and owned by the same company, Viacom. Hmmm.

  2. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 08/19/2010 - 10:07 am.

    Sid’s obeisance to power is a perfect symbol of “journalism” in the Twin Cities.

  3. Submitted by Gregory Scott on 08/19/2010 - 10:56 am.

    True, Gihring was the only commissioner to formally vote “nay.” But he wasn’t the only dissenter.

    Two other commissioners echoed Gihring’s concerns about advertising. And the final vote involved two abstentions.

    Just saying Gihring wasn’t totally out-on-a-limb with this one.

  4. Submitted by Jason DeRusha on 08/19/2010 - 11:03 am.

    Tim told me in my Good Question segement the other night that he would oppose the Mary Tyler Moore statue’s advertising: http://wcco.com/goodquestion/statue.sid.hartman.2.1865400.html

  5. Submitted by Gregory Scott on 08/19/2010 - 11:29 am.

    Also at issue here is the city’s lack of a well-articulated “vision” for memorial statues.

    Apparently, the city gets lots of Sid-like requests, and there’s no big-picture strategy for how to create a thoughtful roster of bronzed forefathers Downtown. Instead, the arts commission is stuck reacting to each proposal as it comes.

    I’ve got an article cooking about it. So while we’re promoting our own websites, keep an eye on downtownjournal.com

  6. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 08/19/2010 - 11:49 am.

    Some of you will whine about anything. For all his foibles, Sid is a good guy, who has contributed a lot to this community. It’s a bit silly to go looking for something to bellyache about. Personally, I’m not a fan of public celebrity art, but if Mary Tyler Moore warrants a statue, Sid certainly does.

  7. Submitted by Hal Davis on 08/19/2010 - 03:32 pm.

    So what does it take to be “kicked off the freshman rugby team for irresponsible brutality and dirty play”?

    Not the gentlest of games.

    And did it carry over into his newspaper/ broadcast career?

  8. Submitted by Bruce Adomeit on 08/19/2010 - 05:57 pm.

    Sid’s statue shows him with a folded Strib under his arm. That’s accuracy, not product placement. He’s worked at the Strib and its predecessor newspapers for 65 (!) years, for heaven’s sake. Product placement would be to show him carrying a Pioneer Press sports section, opened to Shooter’s column.

  9. Submitted by Andrew Kearney on 08/19/2010 - 07:21 pm.

    I am not much of a sports fan but Sid is one of Minnesota’s iconic figures and fully deserving of this recognition. I don’t agree with his stance on using public funds to finance stadiums but you have to admire his passion on the subject and as you can see above many have changed their minds about this. Sid is recognized nationally for his expertise and the logevity of his career is remarkable. You can teel his colleagues on air and in print love the guy and he is universally known in Minnesota. C’mon critics get a life.

    PS Was there something in the water at the recent journalists convention? Peikman schlepping about Mark Dayton and Gihring complaining about Sid.

  10. Submitted by Jason DeRusha on 08/19/2010 - 10:51 pm.

    The statue is really fun. Like MTM, people are going to love it.

    In a hyper-partisan era when you’ll never get consensus to build a statue of someone like Paul Wellstone… we’re left with icons like Sid. Which isn’t all bad, frankly.

    All the public is doing is allowing the thing to sit on the sidewalk. It’s not like we’re paying for it.

  11. Submitted by Tim Gihring on 08/20/2010 - 01:00 am.

    Let’s clarify: This wasn’t a one-man issue or a crusade against Sid, far from it. One fact that hasn’t been reported yet from the meeting is that when a motion to approve was called for by the chair, no commissioners made a motion; a statement was made and another call for a motion went out; after no one moved again, I finally called for a vote; had I not, we likely would not be discussing this today. This hesitation is unprecedented in the four years I’ve been on the Commission. Also: Nobody at the Commmission meeting said anything about Sid’s worthiness, including myself–not that they couldn’t or shouldn’t have, but the city currently lacks a clear vision for memorials (not that Sid is dead either, we think, another consideration that could’ve, should’ve, but wasn’t raised)– and Gregory’s Downtownjournal.com story today does a fine job of explaining the city’s admitted lack of policy in this area. (The depressing argument that if MTM gets a statue, then Sid should certainly get one, why not, only underscores the need for a memorial policy.) Nor does it matter how fun some people find the statue, even as others call for the commission’s heads as a result; or in the case of the Fonz statue in Milwaukee, move out of the neighborhood in protest. As outlined in David’s story above: I don’t care if we’re talking about Sid or Siddartha or Abe Lincoln, at a minimum the sculpture objectively did not meet several criteria for the evaluative process that does exist, including community input; it was created by companies that asked the sculptor to incorporate their own logos (see DT Journal again) then asked the city, after the fact (not the usual process for creating public art) for permission to place it in a public area. The logos are unnecessary for context–we understand it’s a newspaper without the Strib logo, we understand it’s a mic without the WCCO label, and as stated at the meeting, several folks felt this amounted to advertising in a public place and that it should be placed in front of their own companies or lobbies as a sign. One could argue Sid’s worthiness–what is certain is that no one in the community was given the opportunity. I made this statement for the record at the meeting in the awkward pause while no one moved to vote: There is a bust in the newsroom of WCCO of Dave Moore, certainly an even more widely beloved figure in his time–and I think that’s the perfect place for Dave and I think a newsroom, in this case, is the perfect place for Sid.

  12. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 08/20/2010 - 03:13 pm.

    Gihring: You’ve managed to come across as both an art elitist and bureaucrat.

  13. Submitted by Tim Gihring on 08/20/2010 - 06:08 pm.

    Considering the job description, that may be the perfect compliment.

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