June 10, 2011 in City

Hindu god sculpture draws critics in CdA

By The Spokesman-Review
Kathy Plonka photoBuy this photo

“Ganesha,” by Spokane metal artist Rick Davis, is part of “ArtCurrents,” the Coeur d’Alene public art display. Members of the Kootenai County Constitution Party are planning to picket the statue.
(Full-size photo)

Members of the Kootenai County Constitution Party are planning to protest today the dedication in Coeur d’Alene of a public artwork sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesha – a four-armed being with an elephant head.

A posting on the party’s website encourages Christians to protest the artwork, calling it an “abomination” approved by the “godless group of individuals” who manage the city’s public art program.

Though the protest is not a party function, it’s supported by many party members, who believe only Christianity provides a world view “consistent with the framing of our Republic,” said party Chairman Daniel Brannan.

“Many people in the party would tend to agree with opposing something like this,” said Brannan, who also opposes the sculpture. “It is representative of a false god, of a particular religion other than the one on which our country is so solidly founded.”

However, Gary Odom, field director for the Constitution Party’s national office in Pennsylvania, said a protest like that is “not something that has any great political value.” Generally speaking, he said, “I gotta think there’s a few more things more important than this. I can’t believe it’s something they felt was necessary.”

The Ganesha sculpture, created by Spokane metal artist Rick Davis, is one of 14 being dedicated today throughout downtown Coeur d’Alene as part of the city’s new “ArtCurrents,” a public art program. In ArtCurrents, which will reoccur annually, artists own the sculptures, which remain in place for a year and are offered for sale. The city receives 25 percent of the proceeds of any sales.

This year’s sculptures come from artists in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming, said Steve Anthony, the city’s staff liaison to its Arts Commission. Proposals were solicited from artists, and a citizens committee selected about half of the submissions. The artists received $500 stipends.

“The committee just looked at everything as art,” Anthony said. “Our intent was to do something positive and nice for the city.”

The sculptures depict everything from a giant stand-up bass to a woman playing with otters. There are elk, moose and deer. Other subjects include St. Francis of Assisi and a Native-American-themed “spirit bear,” which in some tribes represents harmony and peace, according to the program description.

“There are pieces of art that represent different cultures,” said Mayor Sandi Bloem. “I think that’s totally appropriate.” Bloem invited anyone who has concerns about the sculptures’ subject matter to attend the next Arts Commission meeting.

Brannan said government officials nationwide have been hypocritical about the separation of church and state when it comes to artwork. He said when Christians want to place public artwork depicting, for example, the Ten Commandments, those monuments regularly are turned away, but symbols of other religions are accepted.

He wasn’t speaking of Coeur d’Alene’s Arts Commission, he said, because he knows of no Christian-themed artwork that has been turned away.

The protest, he said, is a “matter of religious solidarity, not a political one.”

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