City Buys Whale Tail

Greenbrier residents really love the ArtInPlace sculpture at the corner of Dairy and 250, the 28-foot-wide wooden whale tail, so it’s not surprising that they got pretty upset when its sculptor was entertaining an offer to move to move the work to a Vienna botanical garden. Seth Rosen reports in today’s Progress that the whale tale isn’t going anywhere — the city has bought it. They’ll lease it for $3,000/year for the next five years, so long as the sculpture holds up.

26 thoughts on “City Buys Whale Tail”

  1. Waldo, why, oh why couldn’t the title of this thread be
    “City pays for 15k for tail”

    I think this is an excellent use of my taxes dollar-it makes me smile

  2. I meant to say
    “City councilors admit to paying 15k for tail during midnight tryst”

  3. support the arts, i say. 15K is nothing in the big world for a piece of public art. it’s something fun and lovely in the looming ugliness of kroger and best buy and kmart. i’m all for joining the civilized world by putting more money into art in place.

  4. The tail does not impress me, and I’m glad I don’t have to help city pay $15K for it, but it’s better than some of the other “art” that has been displayed. I’m sure the Greenbrier residents would be happy to pay a special assessment to cover its cost, since it “adds personality to the neighborhood.”

  5. My husband and I, Greenbrier residents, wonder who all these “Greenbrier” people are who “love the Whale Tail”. Our street, which it sits on, has mostly been neutral to it…….We all commented at a picnic lately that we were getting used to it, but hoped the city wouldn’t be paying thousands for it when CHS, especially the gym, needs severe updating in so many ways and they keep telling us there is no money. I am shocked at paying 15,000 for something that may not last even 5 years……………

  6. Yet another ridiculous fiscal decision by the city. Granted, its not a lot of money, but thats not the point. There are so many better uses for $15,000 of our tax dollars. Let those who like this sort of “art” fund it.
    As I mentioned on another thread,”whale-tail” is a slang term for an exposed thong, according to Wikipedia. Will people think we hhave R-rated art up on our city streets? Then again,that might attract some tourists who like seeing that sort of thing.

  7. Yes, it’s a sad “tale” of the City once again “whaling” on tax payers’ wallets in the name of something noble. Nice strategy by the artist. Threaten to move the piece to hasten a decision. I wonder how many doors you’d get slammed in your face if you went house-to-house in that neighborhood asking for $5 to keep the “whale”? It’s like that piece they had out on 5th street a few years ago that looked like Old Mother Hubbard’s Shoe House and the people didn’t want to get rid of that because the homeless folks were sleeping inside of it. Too much!

  8. A much better use of money than the silly “sister city” programs, which are just junket opportunities.

  9. I really like it, but I have sympathy for the argument that public funds shouldn’t be used on things like art.

    Anyone know what the present value of five $3,000 installments over five years is? That would be a more accurate reflection of what the city paid for the tail and should be well under $15K.

  10. I am shocked at paying 15,000 for something that may not last even 5 years…

    As the article makes clear, and as I’ve explained here, that’s the opposite of what the city has arranged.

  11. When you break down the cost of the tail it’s less the 8 cents a person per year. The arts are a very small part of the budget and helps the city appeal. As Waldo has pointed out the city only pays the full 15k if the tail lasts for 5 years. It could be less.

    Considering the famous 20k christmas tree this seems like a bargain. Art in place while not my favorite program is one of the many things a city can do without but I’m glad they don’t. But I am much happier tax dollars go to art then the sister city program UberXY mentioned. The city also generates lots of taxes dollars from the arts (music performances, art galleries, UVa arts, Live Arts, and Festivals). When you look at it that way the arts probaly more than pay for themselves in terms of revenue generated. Not all tourist dollars are generated by visitors to Monticello.

  12. I rather like the whale tail. There’s lots of city spending that has pissed me off over the years (like the $8M bus stop) but I’m actually ok with this.

  13. I think the Whale Tale is one of the best ArtinPlace pieces, which too often seem to tend toward gnarled metal.

  14. my point was that it won’t last……and even if it lasts, lets say, 6 years……..$15,000 is money that I feel should be spent in more lasting ways in a city with as many needs as ours.

  15. Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter’s, and like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own.

    But how easy and how hopeless to teach these fine things! Of erections, how few are domed like St. Peter’s! of creatures, how few as vast as the whale!

    Moby-Dick or The Whale, ch LXVIII

  16. Waldo, isn’t the $20K Christmas tree an urban legend, or at least a widely and wildly misremembered incident? I seem to remember you patiently explaining what really happened on some other thread, years ago…

  17. I think I can accurately describe the important details of the infamous Xmas tree:

    The city contracted with some company to provide a decorated Xmas tree for $20K; it was a rental, not a purchase. There was a hue and cry about the absurd excess. Some vandals destroyed it, so the city’s insurance company reimbursed the city the $20K, at which point the city wisely accepted a donated tree from a local.

    The only common misperception that I’m aware of is that the city was actually out any money in the end. However, that’s only “thanks” to the vandals whose actions resulted in the insurance payout.

  18. I can’t say I adore it, but the whale tail is the only piece of “Art in Place” that doesn’t make me wince or cringe every time I drive by it. (although I agree with the common sentiment that it looked better under construction than it does as a finished peice — something about painting the wood black really made it less appealing, I think). SO; keep the whale tail, take down the rest of the “Art in Place” sculptures, I say.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally in favor of public funding for the arts — I’m just disappointed that public art is so often the lowest-common denominator of the art world. Art is intended to provoke thought, insight, and a strong aesthetic reaction in the viewer — public art is often intended to do the opposite. These sculptures are boring enough on their own (they’d be laughed at in a gallery), but to see them pitifully displayed on ugly grass medians throughout the sprawling, suburban neighborhoods of Charlottesville is an outright embarassment.

    These sculptures are, for the most part, a haphazard collection of shapes and materials, built specifically to avoid having any sort of cultural or artistic meaning (for fear of causing controversy), and as purely formal objects they show a remarkable lack of the basics of composition or construction. The figurative ones are even worse — like the paper-mache suit spilling it’s metal coffee, near McEntire park on 250, which in my mind is the sculptural equivalent of an “I Hate Mondays” Garfield mug.

    The more I think about all the other lame, unsightly monstrosities around town, the more I like the whale tail. All in all, I’m glad it’s staying, and I’m happy to pay 8 cents a year for it to do so.

  19. When folks classify something as “art” in quotation marks, be it a public sculpture, a poem or a child’s finger painting, I usually feel that that person doesn’t appreciate the fantastic capability of all humans to create and produce amazing things that can affect and enhance the lives of others. Its a wonderful benefit of being human, to create art. That makes me feel pretty sad that some people categorically oppose art they don’t get, because the arts contribute our lives in many ways that might be lost on those who dismiss it as a waste of funds. Art appreciation doesn’t mean you love everything, it means you recognize the value of creating things and the human interaction created by them.

    Maybe the Whale Tail isn’t your favorite. Perhaps you feel that you don’t get any benefit from art, or you have a narrow definition of what what belongs in museums, etc. Perhaps you feel anxiety or inadequacy when viewing someones work that you don’t understand or represents enormous effort and careful thought and planning. That’s an opportunity to learn and interact!

    I am very proud of our city for investing in the arts and enriching our lives in Charlottesville. Congratulations, Tom Givens!

  20. sorry, James, I didn’t see your post when I wrote.

    “Art is intended to provoke thought, insight, and a strong aesthetic reaction in the viewer — public art is often intended to do the opposite. These sculptures are boring enough on their own (they’d be laughed at in a gallery)…”

    Aesthetics and value judgments don’t always go hand in hand. And, doesn’t context count for a lot? Case in point, Maya Lin’s Viet Nam War Memorial?

  21. While I too have been aghast at some of the council spending idiocy over the years, I too like the whale tail.

  22. 1. I am not going to talk about who I am or what I do on this blog. However, I will say I am familiar with art and Art in Place is just not that great of stuff, really. Hey if I do graffiti on a public wall would you like that? Public property and tax dollars spent without any real public input is why the Demos are losing me.
    2. I suggest to you that if the city stopped spending money on aesthetics we would have true needs met. We might have shelters for the homeless, more affordable housing, sidewalks that people with disabilities could use, police that want to work here, better schools, less racial and class tensions, and who knows how much substance abuse/addiction treatment we could offer we know this city needs that.
    However, the city that I made #1 growing up in continues to appease a small portion of the population that made it #17th.
    Unreal Charlottesville you are so out of touch.
    That’s what’s up!

  23. Hey if I do graffiti on a public wall would you like that?

    Well I’ve seen some ugly graffiti murals in Charlottesville, but I’ve seen some pretty great ones, too, and I’d say the percentage of great pieces I’ve seen on the free wall in Belmont is pretty significantly greater than the percentage of great Art In Place sculptures I’ve seen off the 250 bypass. What’s more, graffiti on free walls is of absolutely no cost to the taxpayer.

    However, the city that I made #1 growing up in

    Well since you’re the one who’s personally responsible, I guess we have you to thank for the skyrocketing cost of housing and the unnavigable traffic overload?

    I agree that the public’s money would be well spent on better care for the homeless, better schools, substance treatment etc. However, I think public arts funding should not be overlooked. I just think we should just spend it on better art.

  24. Haha good one you caught me I meant help make typo there.

    yes better art for sure.

  25. I think the whale tail is an amusing bypass diversion. Various county (perhaps city?) high schools are considering donations of playing fields for their sports, the cost of which in each instance is of order $1M. I would prefer that the city just announce the opportunity to gift the sculpture to the city. If a donor came forward, we’d all be fine (perhaps less some upkeep costs); if not, next sculpture please. The $15K could then go to some further use.

Comments are closed.