The bare plaster walls of the Oakdale City Council chambers may soon be adorned with works featuring local artists.
Mayor Pat Paul and Councilman Michael Brennan are pushing forward the idea sparked by the City of Riverbank’s “Artist of the Month” exhibits in that city’s council chambers.
“I sat in a meeting there and saw what they were doing,” said Mayor Paul. “What a great way to promote local artists.”
The plan calls for multiple pieces of artwork to be displayed with the artist’s name listing contact information if anyone is interested in purchasing the work. Each month would feature someone different.
“It really brightens the place up,” said Brennan.
“Maybe Mike Brennan will bring out some of his pieces,” Paul suggested. “I have some of his work.”
Brennan is not only a councilman for the city, but also has an art degree from Chico State University and has a teaching certificate to teach art. He has been doing drawings, paintings, and graphic arts since his junior high school years.
“We artists that don’t make a living out of it just want to get our name out,” said Brennan, who downplayed the possibility of his own work being on display in the chambers. “We want to open it up to artists and students who want to put their artwork up.”
City Manager Steve Hallam supported the idea. He said the city would, however, have each artist sign a “Hold Harmless Agreement” relieving the city of any liability should something get damaged. Ultimately, Hallam would like to see a local arts council take over the responsibility of the display.
According to Paul, Oakdale painter David Rodrigues will be the first artist featured in April.
Rodrigues, 56, has been doing paintings with watercolors, acrylics, and ink for the last 15 years. He’s had his art displayed in galleries in Modesto and Sonora and has won awards for his paintings. He has also had his paintings featured in the Riverbank council chambers.
Over the years, Rodrigues said he has gravitated to doing paintings with a jazz music theme.
“That subject lends itself to bright color and movement,” Rodrigues said. “It’s abstracted and keeps me loose.”
Keeping the painting in an abstract form, according to Rodrigues, keeps him from laboring too much and becoming frustrated.
Rodrigues said he has several paintings in storage he’s going to have to choose from for the exhibit.
The proposal for artwork in the council chambers was not without controversy.
During the March 7 council meeting, Councilwoman Kathy Morgan questioned if standards would be in place for art, determining what was acceptable for display inside the chambers. Her concern was that the public, including children, would view the artwork.
Her comments brought strong responses from both Paul and Brennan.
“I don’t believe in censorship,” Paul said. “I don’t want to be the person to say what art is and what’s not.”
Morgan clarified that she was referring to something like nudity being on display.
Brennan cautioned her on prohibiting nudity as art with Paul referring to the sculpture of David.
“Maybe we found the reason we haven’t put art up,” joked Councilman Tom Dunlop.
Following the meeting both Paul and Brennan felt that people submitting and selecting would use good judgment, ultimately the works being judged on their merits and being reviewed prior to display.
Morgan emphasized that she thought the council artwork display was “a fantastic idea” but everyone had to remember that the art would be displayed in public venues.
Agreeing with Hallam, Morgan also said that the best way to choose the art would be to have a formed commission so that the council would be removed from the selection process.
When he heard of the discussion about propriety standards from the council meeting, Rodrigues added, “Even at an art show, it’s even up to discretion for what’s appropriate to display.”
Those interested in being considered for the council chambers art display should contact Mayor Pat Paul at 845-3571 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.