Artworks displayed on city utility poles will remain until Sept. 20, officials say

July 24, 1996|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

About 300 works of art displayed on utility poles in Baltimore will remain until Sept. 20, city arts officials said yesterday.

The artworks -- which, a city official said last week, violated municipal ordinances -- resemble official street signs and bear messages such as "Clean Your House," "Free Thinking Zone" and "Blowing Plastic Bags."

They are located throughout the city.

The signs actually are an art exhibit sponsored by Baltimore's Festival of the Arts Inc., the nonprofit organization that sponsors Artscape, the city's annual arts festival held last weekend.

Last week, city Department of Public Works spokesman Kurt Kocher denounced the signs and called them an illegal prank, unaware that his agency had installed the signs -- most of them created by local artists.

Kocher acknowledged yesterday that he was unaware the signs were part of an art exhibit approved a year ago by the city's signing committee, a group of municipal bureaucrats who oversee street signs.

"This was an error on my part," Kocher said. "It was actually a cooperative effort with the Department of Public Works."

Jane Vallery-Davis, director of development and public relations for Baltimore Festival of the Arts Inc., said the exhibit copied one in Chicago.

"The concept was public art," Vallery-Davis said. "We feel it is important to keep art in the forefront. I personally feel that with what is going on in Washington with cuts in the arts funding, it is more important than ever for people to understand that arts are big in everyday life."

The colorful signs, she said, are a way to connect whimsy and the daily lives of commuters and pedestrians.

But, she added, the signs have not been hits in certain locations and have been removed.

One such sign was located near the city's Streetcar Museum in Remington.

The image startled a resident who complained about it.

"It was a sign of a target with a bullet hole in it," Vallery-Davis said. "The man who called in did not find it offensive but he thought kids were taking target practice on it." She added, "He kind of chuckled when he found out what it was."

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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