Adams Morgan Sculpture Selected – Bike Musician! For Reals This Time. Or Maybe Not, So What Exactly is the Role of the DC Commission on the Arts?


Back in June it was leaked to me that the Bike Musician sculpture had been selected for the Adams Morgan plaza at Columbia Road and 18th. At that time the Deirdre Thayer Ehlen, DC Creates Public Art Coordinator, denied that a sculpture had been selected. Well, now Greater Greater Washington confirms that the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities has indeed selected the Bike Musician. You can see what the other options were here. It’s funny, at the time, I disliked the Bike Musician. But to tell you the truth it has sorta grown on me. I guess it’s a bit hard to envision what it’ll look like life size. But I think a bit of quirkiness may turn out alright.

UPDATE:  Allright, lemons into lemonade as they say.  So what the hell is the purpose of the DC Commission on the Arts?  I mean if they vote on a project and then table it (see comments), what’s the point?  If the Vietnam Memorial selection operated this way, I doubt it ever would’ve been built.  Obviously this doesn’t hold the gravitas of the Vietnam Memorial, but tell me what is the point of the Arts Commission?  Should it still exist as is?  Should it be an elected position?  What should the public/community role be in selecting a neighborhood art project like this?

63 Comment

  • Paint that bicycle white!

  • Fugly.. Please don’t actually put this in

  • For real not.

    According to DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Executive Director Gloria Nauden the commission has decided to table the project after many in Adams Morgan had written not approving of the artwork “Bicycle Man”.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @Anon I don’t see in any of these links where it says the decision has been tabled. Can you post a direct link where it says that?

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @Anon City Desk reports:

    “Next Step: Rachel Dickerson, spokesman for DCCAH, told City Desk that due to large community input, both “pro and against,” DCCAH has submitted a revised version of the bicycle sculpture based on the recommendations of the Commission of Fine Arts Board. DCCAH has been meeting this week to discuss the sculpture, so check back Friday for more information on the finalized version.”

    To me that sounds like it’s still the Bike Musician but perhaps a revised version.

  • from the Adams Morgan Listserv:

    […] At this time we have decided to table this project. […]

    Gloria A. Nauden, Executive Director, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Oh Lord. I’m retiring. It was fun while it lasted.

  • I wouldn’t retire on something as silly as this bicycle sculpture. Your website still rules

  • I’d rather not have to try and explain that monstrosity to friends.

  • I don’t think it’s that bad. It could be a lot better, though. Say, replace the musician on a bicycle with a bloodthirsty clown who lives in the sewers on a unicycle, and the dog with one of those big booty club flyer women on a stripper pole. Also, more cowbell.

  • chalk up another horrible part of life associated with bikers.

    man I hate bikers.

  • What is there to think about? Time to built the sculpture. You are always going to have the naysayers.

  • It’s over, it’s done with. It’s not going to happen. Can we please just stop talking about it and move on?!

  • It’s awful. And he’s not even wearing a helmet, so when a car jumps the curb and plows into it, that nutcase “artist” will scatter 20 white bicycles around the area.

  • thats sad. And POP could you post the much better rendering of what this would have looked like that DCist had on its website instead of this poor rendering which is what caused most people with no vision to get up in arms. Sad that a bunch of arm chair art critics who have no idea what they are talking about got in the way of a cool public art peice. Id rather have a city full of good art, bad art, and everything in between than no art at all. Shame on all of you.

  • Yes there is a much better rendering that shows the true scale of the statue and that there were benches to be placed in the area as well. I agree the poor rendering associated with the piece that the Prince is showing above was the downfall of this project. People just couldnt see past it. These are no doubt the same tool bags who thought there would be 22 ghost bikes in dupont circle til the end of time instead of just enjoying it as a break from the norm. what are you people even doing residing here? the bland burgs of gaithers await you. please leave.

  • to answer your question POP the publics role should be zip zero nada in my book. especially with a lame public like this to contend with. Listen to the public on a decision like this and you will get exactly what we are getting. Nothing. That IS the point of the arts commision. The arts commision was exacttly right. they picked the most provacative peice and that is why joe shmo got so upset. It was just tooo jarring to their bland asthetic. But isnt that the point? I swear. people like this keep moving here and DC is gonna be a real bore in ten years time. But i guess they all have babies and move to the burbs eventualy? No matter.

  • A sculpture with a water feature would be nice

  • At least you don’t have giant metal monstrosities in your plaza. WTF!?

  • I’ve seen several other rendering of this sculpture and think all of them really do a good job of conveying the hideous and amateurish nature of this piece. There were several unofficial polls and the ‘Bicycle Musician’ one came in dead last in most of them. I’ve lived in Adams Morgan over 30 years and I simply don’t want something this ugly here. Apparently the plug was pulled on this because of a flood of complaints from other neighborhood residents.

  • Also just want to add that I’m all for public art and would have been happy with any of the other entries – but would have preferred to see a local artists at least get the first shot at it.

  • ontarioroader- I was born and raised here myself and would have loved to have seen this installed. I could have gone for the sunflowers too but certainly NOT that bank sculpture. But as said in other comments the point of the arts commision is to use their expertise to pick a peice. Not listen to a bunch of nimbys who’s idea of art is Dave Mathews Band. Now if we dont want to listen to the commision thats fine too. But lets fire them and put that money towards something. I sure am glad the Marilyn Monroe mural was painted so long ago. Granted that was a private mural but I can only imagine the fit that the new residents of that hood would have thrown if that had been pitched as a public art peice.

  • simply put. If every art peice that someone in the city didnt like was removed from DCs landscape there would be no art in city limits at all. Go ahead and install the Sculpture. great for those who like it. tough shit for those who don’t. Go find a peice you DO like and look at that. We are lucky. or WERE lucky. to have a city that invests in such things. Though with all the blow hards getting in the way im sure the city will think twice about bothering in the future. and what that means is that peices you might have not liked, but also pieces that you might have LOVED, may now never be.

  • Anon @10:20 is right…Adams Morgan can forget ever getting any more significant public art any time soon. It wasn’t so much that some people (as of Monday DCCAH had only gotten 23 opposition letters to the project) were opposed to the project, it’s that they were so hateful in writing about their opposition to it. The debate was really over the top and at times often very uncivil not only to the DCCAH, but also to their neighbors…

  • What is the point of the Arts Commission? Did you just fall off the turnip truck yesterday? That commission, like most, is where the friends of the mayor and councilmembers get to pretend to work for almost 10 hours a week while receiving great salaries and benefits and charging most food and living expenses to the city. Its one scam of many that comprises the kleptocracy of DC “governance”.

  • To add to Arts point. People often think that the veiws on the message boards and blogs like these and the Polls reflect those of the community when they DO NOT. They only reflect the opinions of those who choose to partake in those forums. Which as evidenced by the oppositions remarks are often the less tasteful members of the community to begin with. It the same problems that mount pleasant has had with their Vocal MINORITY stifling development when most actually welcome it. And the same issue cleveland park is having with its minority opposition to the Giant development. Its a real shame.

  • PoP: well, since the bad things come in threes, you can rest easy knowing that there will only be one more item that you will declare settled that will then be summarily changed on you. after that, you can get back to the pretty spotless record you had beforehand! 🙂

  • I’m sorry, but this is really bothering me.

    Please spell “piece” correctly. It is not spelled peice.


  • spell check nazis should not read blog comments. hell they shouldn’t read blogs. just don’t look.

  • Your spelling affects the strength of you argument because it is a reflection of your education.

  • and as always happens the nazi makes a typo. lol

  • there are actually a few very professional and sharp people working at the dccah, deirdre thayer ehlen included.

    the director gloria is the problem.
    too many good people have left the dccah because of her. she’s wasted money on foolish programs that one one has utilized. its a mess.

    this bike piece WASNT CHOSEN by the commission, it was chosen by the neighborhood at meetings.if you want to ascribe blame, do a little digging.

    so whats the point of the commission? yes, they bring public art ( funded not by citizens but by developers, btw) they also fund art groups ( dance place, the shakespeare theatre, fringe fstival, artomatic,wpa, all kinds of .orgs) they fund murals, arts development projects, and they fund individual artists. they coordinate the public arts and calls for entry process to try to make it fairly accessible to artists citywide, not just those in the know.

    also, it is completely distinct from the Fines Arts Commission, which isnt a dc office, but a fed office.

    a BIG problem with public art is the community process. everyone wants a say, everyone wants the power of veto, so the result is watered down boring art. the vietnam memorial? that wasnt hashed out at a townhall meeting.

    dccah also maintains a collection at city hall ( go visit it! its amazing and has some famous artists in it) there is also an art bank collection which furnishes art for city buildings. fenty only has plaques of his awards and photos of groundbreaking ceremonies and shit.

    and hell yes, we should vote on the dccah leadership. want to know why “dream” is now “LOVE”, ask gloria what happened to the money?

  • Another vote against it – it’s ugly, cartoonish, and amateurish. The high point of American civic art was definitely from 1865-1945. We seem incapable of creating or selecting such good public art today. Can anyone conceive of ANY process, with heavy public input or not, that would have resulted in something as beautiful and beloved as the Dupont Circle fountain being installed in the plaza at Columbia Heights instead of the weirdness that is being installed there now? Not only is public art ugly today, it is usually made of cheap materials that degrade quickly over time. Just look at the beat up, tired-looking lump of a sculpture in “Unity Park” in front of City Bikes as an example. Seriously, do we need to dig up the corpses of Daniel Chester French and Stanford White in order to come up with some decent public art?

  • Voting, elections, or politicizing art won’t make local art any better or less subjective.

    The results oriented private sector has always done a better job in the arts.

  • Mr T. exactly the response that makes me so frustrated. Because its actually your response that is amateurish (by definition. I mean this not as an insult). Where as the “Amateurish Artist” actually is a Professional in that this is what he does for a living. Not sure what you mean by “cartoonish” as clearly this is the point and very style the artist is going for. You see. Its great you are hard up for the classics but it isn’t that nobody can reproduce a David. Its that everyone can. And everyone has. and our city is literally littered with statues of this kind. Who needs more of that? There a million dead guys on horses in this town. Ill take the surreal dude on the bike. thanks

  • I think people are going to have to let go of the idea that public art = neoclassical sculpture. Art has changed a lot since 1776, and it will continue to evolve and change as long as there are artists who have individual visions of what art is.

    *sigh* It’s a pointless argument really, because there will always be people who’s knee-jerk reaction to any art they can’t immediately understand is to say it’s “ugly and amateurish.” Don’t you realize people said the same thing about artists like Manet, and scores of other artists? The same artists whose works are now widely held up as examples of “real art.”

    I’m not dreadfully fond of the cyclist sculpture either. But I do think the world will continue to turn if it’s put up.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I’m glad this sort of decision isn’t left up to the vocal minority.

  • I agree that I would prefer art to be more classic and to have more staying power.

  • while the time frame mr t suggests was indeed great, whats the point? i’d say as an artist, that it is just to be tasked to do greater work. not to abandon the pursuit.

    look at the sculpture parks of the NGA and of the hirshhorn. cool stuff. look at olympic sculpture park in seattle. cool stuff. these are modern public art pieces. there is still good stuff to be said and made and viewed.

    the private sector does encourages art, but that doesnt mean that cities cant engage also. there is cool stuff out there. cool stuff made recently. yeah, maybe not classic stuff like the dupont fountain, which i agree is drop dead amazing, but guess how much that would cost these days? and how prudish we are?

    so we as artists adapt, and change. hell, “public art” hasnt been a thing for that long. these older artists that created these piece many admire werent “public artists”. it was a whole different game back then. skill sets were different. stone carvers were cheap.

    does anyone thing that the fdr memorial is bad art? its public. and relatively recent.
    the arch is chinatown is cool.
    the lions outside the zoo
    the call boxes are cool.
    the sculpture exhibit at the botanic gardens is great
    the soon to be installed piece at the tower on the 14th street bridge will be cool.

    theres good stuff out there. the more diverse the better.

  • I agree that as humans and tastes evolve so should art. it should not stay the same.

  • classic, not classic. stone, digital, video, sound, stuff made of garbage or temporary public art like the painting on 8th street nw. fortunately we can have it all.

  • I agree with DCartdownlow. Ill say though that using his example to address Mr T.

    When the lions went up outside the zoo I just walked by and thought. “aren’t those the same lions on about 2000 bridges around armerica” whats the point. I would have rather had this artiest that did the bike sculpture do his rendition of Lions. to do the same thing over and over is just so uninspiring.

  • the purpose of the DCCAH is to grant money to artists and facilitate public art.

    This is how public art happens in this town:
    1) A call is issued (sometimes locally, sometimes nationally) for examples of PAST WORK (hold on, keep reading, Ok?) from artists who would like to be considered. This call is usually on the street a maximum of 5-6 weeks.
    2) A panel meets and reviews the past works
    Q) why only past works? don’t they accept proposals at this point?
    A) Because to really make a proposal that illustrates your ideas costs money. That would limit the pool of artists who are applying to the ones that can afford to float a couple of hundred dollars per proposal.
    Q) but what if it’s for a sculpture and I am a portrait painter?
    A) Well then maybe this project isn’t for you…

    3) Usually 5-10 semi finalists are chosen. Then those artists should be awarded a modest design fee and typically travel stipend as well if not local. These artists are given 6 weeks to create proposals based on the language of the call which has been developed in working with the community.
    Now, this is where everyone gets it wrong….
    First, there will always be someone in the community who feels disinfranchised or has heard that an artist that they personally don’t like has made it to the semi-final stage and will raise a big stink.

    As a public artist I am always interested in seeing what happens in this town, and attended, with interest, the Adams Morgan meetings (even though it was not my neighborhood)
    Of the three proposals, I thought the bicyclist was charming and seemed to have the most to give to the neighborhood with input from the area. The sphere was cool (a bit of a poor man’s Anesh Kappor) and the sunflower one was….hideous. And not a DC artist although he claims to be.
    This was a chance to have something interesting, but honestly, at this point, I hope the people of Adams Morgan get nothing. They deserve nothing.

  • Thank you public artist for being one of the few people to properly explain the process.

  • While a lot of great art is polarizing, controversial, and distinctive, not everything that is distinctive, polarizing, or controversial is great.

    I don’t see much artistry in literally loading onto a bicycle every object you associate with the neighborhood. I see a large cartoonish structure saying something not very interesting. It would fill some space on the wide sidewalk, but it doesn’t appear to create a space of its own. It just sits there, stating the obvious. A basket full of vegetables? Just turn around and you’ll see the farmer’s market. Bicycles, dogs, musicians? The sculpture adds nothing by restating what the neighborhood already presents.

    Anonymous, there’s lots of bad art in the suburbs, too.

  • Again, like the sculpture or not, it’s not coming, nor is any other public art to Adams Morgan…

  • i would like to see another contest to fill this spot with public art.

    and while i’m pretty conservative in terms of art and am all for concrete lions and bronze buffalo and ionic columns, Adams Morgan isn’t that kind of neighborhood. It needs some quirky art.

  • whatever happened to art that required the artist to have “talent” or “vision”.

    It seems like by the responses of art snobs anyone could make a piece of crap or crappy materials and claim that “it was the style they were going for”

    BTW.. the DC ist image still shows this sculpture to be a vomite inducing crap pile

  • bikerssuck- I think you need to change your Moniker. Now everybody recognizes you for the pathetic troll that you are and your attempted Flame wars don’t ignite.

  • If unoriginal kitsch like this effort were serious art then I would be a millionaire when my mother dies and leaves me her Elvis plates. There is a difference between something causing a strong reaction because it expresses a unique or interesting point of view and the predicable incredulous reaction this tired, boring lump prompts every time it’s carcass is magically resurrected and promoted for this blameless Adams Morgan corner. But I would say this in defense of the “artist”: I think he’s making great strides for a severely retarded person. I assume he must be severely retarded based on his infantile premise (guitars, dogs, and hipsters, oh my!) and immature technique of haphazardly copying the style of a hack children’s book illustrator to create just the kind of public “art” that would be at home at any tot-centered amusement park in central Florida. All this needs is a spray of blue-tinted water spewing from it’s mouth and it’d be ready for placement at any Disney park. Maybe we can look forward to naked ladies and rough-hewn Mongolian horsemen statutes when the artist’s library of kiddy storybooks is exhausted and he turns to tattered National Geographic magazines.

    Can’t. Wait.

  • @Anonymous 4:07 – Oh wow, you are calling bikers suck a pathetic troll who needs to change his/her moniker. What kind of sway do you have when you are calling yourself “Anonymous”? What is more troll than that??

    If you actually used a name I would know whether you are the same person or a few people. However, I see that most of the anonymous posts seem too similar to be coincidental.

    I was an art history major who concentrated on Modern/Postmodern/Contemporary art and I intern at the Hirshhorn. This piece may not be traditional to street or public art, but its still a tired subject matter and looks to be more tired use of medium. Using a kitsch theme with dogs, bikes, even musicians is centuries old! Putting them together shows no thought process as how ridiculous it would seem. I agree with the above comment that “While a lot of great art is polarizing, controversial, and distinctive, not everything that is distinctive, polarizing, or controversial is great.” (Thank you Mark!) This is one of those times.

    You can find bicycles, musicians, and dogs in Rococo art and even before that and after that! Is anyone else reminded of Jeff Koons a bit? The kitsch-y work that he did, IN THE ’80S?

  • What’s the difference between Modern – Postmodern – and Contemporary? Not being snide – just want to know.

  • To be honest, its just classifications of time periods that art historians/critics use to specify a grouping of art. Its kind of like having a Renaissance period and then a Mannerist period, then Rococo… etc.

    Modern art is usually early 20th century up through the end of the 60s (ish) and Postmodern is from the 70s through possibly the 80s or 90s. I won’t get deep into it because some critics and scholars don’t think that the classifications work as there is such a diversity of types of art during those time periods that there is no such thing as Modern or Postmodern. Postmodern for some show a shift away from whatever Modernism was (although again I will point out that there is no one Modern “style”). Contemporary art is artists who are working today or the recent past and usually are still doing work.

    Does that help? It even confuses me when critics and scholars won’t agree on exactly what they are!

  • DCArtsdownlow has it right. I’ve worked with the Commission. And currently they’re a bit of a mess, but I believe in their mission. I’ve served on grants panels for them.

    I also believe that as messed up as they currently are, they probably have better systems in place for judging/vetting public art than comments on a blog post.

    If you want to have your horizons broadened about what classifies as art – take a little trip to Baltimore to the Visionary Art Museum. Totally worth it.

  • In interior design it’s a little easier to peg these distinctions. Or, at least, it seems clearer to me.

    Modern is clean-lined. Some say it had its height of expression in the 1950s, though is still being produced today. Think Madmen and most of the stuff you see at Design Within Reach.

    Postmodern often mixes elements of many different periods. So you get a victorian tufted couch with metal industrial legs.

    Contemporary is like what you buy at Macys. It speaks directly to the time we live in now.

  • i agree with i agree with dcartsdownlow.

  • I’ve changed my mind — only a Miro or Calder sculpture is good enough for this corner.

  • grumpy,
    not a sam gilliam?
    or an eduardo rodriguez?

  • I think it’s actually cool that people got worked up over this, no matter which side they’re on. I think it’s even cooler that this thing won’t get built. Thank god. It just doesn’t cut it.

    I was one who sent an email to the commission begging them to reconsider. I don’t even live in Adams Morgan, but I go through there everyday and I consider it my center of gravity in DC. With all the nice changes to the streetscape around there, this sculpture (or any of them) would have been a serious mistake. Need to do better.

  • I’m a resident of Adams Morgan/Kalorama, and I absolutely HATE this godawful, ugly-a** monstronsity! Ten years from now, it’ll be hopelessly dated (and still ugly as sin). And why the eff isn’t that damned dog on a leash? That’s all we need. Public art reinforcing the rudeness/selfishness/irresponsibility/illegal behavior of some dog owners who let dogs walk the streets untethered.

    How about a tree or two? Benches? A fountain?

    What a misrable idea — and with seemingly absolutely NO thought whatsoever to foot traffic patterns or safety/practicality.

    Just stupid.

  • That’s “monstrosity.” Yeah, it’s HUGE and butt-ugly.

  • You should get those folks from Albus Cavus painting the large murals around town to work on this corner.

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