The city used Community Development Block Grant money to purchase the bright red sculpture now placed the corner of 10th Street and Washington Ave, according to Kristin Niemiec, corridor specialist for the Racine County Economic Development Corporation.
The Uptown project received $50,000 in CDBG money in 2007, $100,000 in 2008 and $75,000 in 2009. The money was generally designated for marketing the Uptown Artist Relocation program, which was designed to attract artists to Racine.
The $40,000 figure is a stark contrast to the amount we reported following Monday's Redevelopment Authority meeting. At that meeting, I reported the sculpture was donated to the city, but apparently misunderstood. (One possibility is the sculpture didn't cost the RDA any money. Another is the sculpture was purchased with CDBG money, so it didn't come out of the city budget. In either case, the sculpture cost $40,000 and had already been purchased by the time the RDA reviewed placing it at
I wasn't alone. Alderman Greg Helding said he believed the city purchased the sculpture for around $6,000. When told it was $40,000, he said he was upset.
"I'm not happy to hear about this," Helding said. "I assumed marketing dollars were spent on marketing, and I'm going to ask that this be looked into."
That said, Helding said he was happy with the artwork and thought it looked "cool" along Washington Avenue. He just didn't know it cost so much money.
Niemiec said it was Becker's idea to purchase the sculpture, which was created by artist NicNoblique , who considered moving to Racine after Hurricane Ike displaced him from Galveston Island, Texas. Noblique told The Journal Times he backed out of moving to Racine after Becker was arrested in an Internet sex sting.
RacinePost heard a different story from city officials, who said Noblique backed out because he couldn't afford the building. Coincidentally, the $40,000 sale price for the sculpture is 10 percent of the cost of the $400,000 building Noblique had hoped to purchase at 1526 Washington Ave. A lending program for buying buildings in Uptown requires artists to make a 10 percent down payment to qualify for the loan. Noblique told the JT he also backed out of buying the building because the interior didn't have flooring, electricity or plumbing.
Let's chalk this up to the latest questionable move by our former mayor in hopes of igniting the Uptown artist district. Becker decided to spend $40,000 in CDBG money - money that could go for any of dozens of worthy programs in the city - on a sculpture created by an out-of-town artist with no connection to Racine. (That said, Noblique has an impressive resume and could have been a strong fit for Becker's Uptown vision.)
Sadly, if the former mayor wanted to spend $40,000 on public art for Uptown he certainly could have commissioned an artist to create a piece or held a contest and attracted designs and ideas from around the country. It could have actually galvanized interest in the district instead of serving as another symbol of Becker's reckless drive to "create Uptown."
p.s. Nice work by the JT on tracking down the actual cost of the sculpture. On a minor detail, the pedestal for the sculpture cost about $3,700, and work fixing curbs and landscaping the triangle-shaped park along Washington Ave., including the pedestal, cost a total of about $15,000.