A public art saga ended Wednesday when the five-member Visual Arts Committee voted unanimously in favor of artist Michael Arcega’s proposal “Victorian Street Posts.”

As Mission Loc@l reported last week, the re-vote for the winning  Valencia Streetscape Improvement Project, which will widen the sidewalks between 15th and 19th streets on Valencia, came last Wednesday after the Arts Commission agreed it had mishandled the original vote in September. That vote gave the $52,000 project to Michael Arcega.

But last week, Arcega’s posts and Brian Goggin’s boat made of recycled bike parts tied.

About ten people spoke in favor of  Goggin’s Faro during Wednesday’s public comment.  Michael Arcega said he was unaware that the meeting was going to be public and so had no supporters there.

Jaime Aragon called Faro “a piece you can gawk at” and one that links the Mission’s older modes of transportation—such as boats—and its bike culture.

Jeremy Sugerman, a resident of Noe Valley, said Goggin’s piece “hearkens back to Valencia Street of old” and liked that it would be colorful by day and lit up by night.

But the lit-up-at-night part was what broke support for Faro. The sensor-activated LED lighting requires a computer system housed in a stainless steel box, and commissioners felt it might break down over time.

“While it’s a huge part of what makes the sculpture successful, it’s also a very expensive part,” committee member JD Beltran said.

But Goggin argued that he had the solution for the extra maintenance costs.

“I have received a firm bid from a group that committed to a very minimal budget,” said Goggin, placing a stack of documents in front of  the committee. He said the group committed to $3,000 for the light system and $400 for the design, which includes computer programming.

“They want to be part of a project that illustrates what solar technology can do,” he said, guaranteeing 25 years of maintenance-free life for the sculpture.

But commissioners were unconvinced. As most decisions these days, the vote came down to money.

“Twenty-five years is not realistic,” said Beltran. “If it falls through, we’re left with a partially completed piece.” She worried that in the future, extra maintenance costs for Faro would take money from other public art projects and staff resources.

“If money wasn’t a concern, I have a feeling we would vote for Faro,” said P.J. Johnston, president of the commission.

He added, a “work of art on Valencia is just as important as a work of art on Broadway. If money is what’s stopping us, I think he has earned the benefit of the doubt.”

But in the end, rather than uplift, the prospect of an extra expense made commissioners leery of the boat.

Among the agenda items briefly covered at the meeting was a change that could prevent sagas like this one and standardize the process of review for artists’ proposals before they are presented publicly.

Susan Pontious, program director of public art, said the streamlining would “prevent artists from using materials that are too expensive or unrealistic.”

As Goggin walked out of the conference room with his documents, a crowd of friends and fans encouraged him to install Faro on another street in the city.

“I’m happy for Michael,” said Goggin as he left the building. “I need some time to process this.”

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    1. Thank you–and will correct JD Beltran as well. Our apologies. Best, Lydia Chavez

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