Turns out that the Plensa public art piece, as we speculated last week, is in fact a donation from Capitol Broadcasting Company, whose scion Jim Goodmon is a big Plensa fan whose attempt to give a $2.5 million work by the Spanish artist to Raleigh met with opposition from civic leaders. The $100,000-plus construction cost we looked at last week -- plus the cost to commission, design and install the work -- would be borne by CBC.
And what, precisely, is the work? A "sculpted disc" inscribed with a quotation from Shakespeare, and from which a "vertical light beam" would rise into the heavens:
The sculpture is proposed to be installed at the northwest corner of the DPAC plaza, near where the HVAC air handlers are installed.
The City would be able to operate the light on a schedule of its choosing, but with one key caveat: the 7,000 watt light would have to be operated at least during the nights of scheduled DPAC performances.
An operating schedule is important for at least one reason: the City of Durham would need to keep our friends over at RDU briefed about just when the artwork would be active, lest some triple-7 straight outta Heathrow try to land on the Downtown Loop:
The Federal Aviation Administration has been consulted and has provided an advisory that the Raleigh-Durham International Airport control tower should be notified when the light beam is turned on, either through a written schedule sent to the tower by email or fax, or through a telephone call to the tower 2 hours prior to the beam being turned on in the case of a variation from the written schedule.
Capitol Broadcasting would pick up all the installation and commissioning costs for the work, with the annual electrical bill expense for the installation -- a cost that could run as much as $3,400 per year -- being absorbed by the Durham Performing Arts Center's budget.
Meanwhile, the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the artwork would be paid by the City, a cost that is estimated to cost between $4,500 and $6,500 through most of the estimated 25 year life of the work.
One can only imagine how much fun it is to try to work a project like this through the layers of a local government bureaucracy (and, after all, who else could come up with sentences like these, from the memo to Council: "Given the unique nature of the artwork it is difficult to evaluate the potential liabilities that may be associated with its operation. Efforts have been made to reduce the potential risks associated with unadvised, proximate exposure to the intense beam of light intended to emanate from ground level such as requiring a barrier fence encircling the light source. Nonetheless, actual empirical risks associated with the operation of such an artwork are not known to the City.")
If there's any debate over the project, expect it to be around those ongoing costs, though it's hard to imagine Council looking a real gift horse -- or make that a gift light -- in its mouth. After all, it's a nice chance to get some big dollar public art on the cheap. And anyway, I wouldn't recommend staring down a 7,000 watt light, in any event.