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November 6, 2009 - 7:50pm

Something meaningful for the Oak Street Roundabout

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, roundabout, John Gardner, Oak Street.

roundabout.jpg

Work crews were planting plants in the middle of the Oak Street Roundabout today, which reminded me of a few conversations I've had around town recently -- what to put in the middle of the roundabout? Mere plants won't do.

There should be something important and meaningful there.

And in thinking about it -- it's Batavia, it's Oak Street -- what would be more meaningful and appropriate than a statue of John Gardner, and perhaps the word "LOVE"?

So there's a suggestion: Let's get a committee together, raise some money and make it a little shrine to Batavia's most famous literary figure.

Laura Russell Ricci
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I had no IDEA who he was until this article and I think its a FANTASTIC idea!! Count me in!!
Steve Ognibene
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My suggestion of what to put on the outside of the roundabout is more pavement. Take about 2 ft. of bricks out and more pavement is needed for us bus drivers and 18 wheeler trucks.
Peter O'Brien
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Nothing that will cost the taxpayers any money. If you want a statue, then raise the fund through donations. Government is not there is fund "art"
Mary E DelPlato
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How about a sign that reads: Good luck making this turn...maybe you should choose an alternative route...your tax dollars spent necessarily" LOL
Lorie Longhany
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So Peter, do you think that an organization like GOArt, which supports and encourages art in the community, should cease to exist because it is government funded? I don't know if you realize the positive impact art has on a community and how lucky we are here in Genesee County to have such an encouraging organization supporting artists. A healthy art community has multiple impacts, one being economic -- those art dollars recirculating back into the local economy. Think about the dollars that will be spent in Batavia over the next few days as a result of the Rotary show, Cinderella. A statue of John Gardner would pay tribute to our most acclaimed literary figure, have a visual appeal and give an artist a job. A project like Howard suggested could easily be a joint effort between volunteers and the proper agencies. I used to read the short story by John Gardner -- "Dragon, Dragon" to my students, who then created illustrations from the story and competed in a county wide poster contest. It was great fun and introduced me to the very talented work of Gardner.
Karen Miconi
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You mean theres no money left from this "pricey can of worms project"? The last thing we need is to spend more money on it.Im sure the recipiants of the "Millions of Dollars" it took to construct it will be having a VERY nice Christmas this year. Any way they could loan me some money?? ): The sign should read "Welcome to Batavia, Where the People are Powerless & Taxed To Death"
Doug Yeomans
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I've driven through this monstrosity a few times and I dislike it immensely. Roundabouts are a PITA to navigate and this one has an entirely too tight of a turning radius. Semi trucks have to just about plow through the middle of it. Who's idea was it to construct that thing anyway? Bad idea, Batavia, bad idea.
C D
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"it's Oak Street -- what would be more meaningful and appropriate...?" The first thing that came to mind was an Oak tree.
mark jackett
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the roundabout is [was] a dumb idea in the first place waste of money and second of all the round about location will be broke down and looking really nasty in a few years after semi trucks run it over a few times snow removal trucks hit it and in the summer months it will have overgrown weeds and the trees in the middle will really damage the concrete in 50 years
Howard B. Owens
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Peter, you didn't read my post very closely, did you? Also, now that the roundabout if fully functional, I applaud it. It's a much easier intersection to get through now.
Peter O'Brien
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Howard, The word committee sounds like government. And they say they raise cash but they mean taxes.
Peter O'Brien
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Lorie, Go to the Ridgeway/Lake ave intersection. That is what I am talking about. 3 twisted pieces of metal that were welded together and called art. Its not, its 3 pieces of twisted metal. Then go to Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport and look at some of the "art" in the tunnels between terminals. If the art is good it will sell on its own merits, not by government subsidy.
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Peter wrote: "The word committee sounds like government." How do I respond to that except to say, "that's ridiculous."
Chris Charvella
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Howard, you could use any of the following synonyms for ridiculous: absurd, antic, bizarre, comic, comical, contemptible, daffy, derisory, droll, fantastic, farcical, foolheaded, foolish, gelastic, goofy, grotesque, harebrained, hilarious, impossible, incredible, jerky, laughable, ludicrous, nonsensical, nutty, outrageous, preposterous, risible, sappy, silly, slaphappy, unbelievable, wacky. In case you were wondering, 'Committee' is not a synonym for 'Government.'
Thomas Mooney
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I like the roudabout , it is much easier to get off of S. Main . The flow of trafic hardly ever stops and with everyone making right turns there will be less accidents . The Middle section with the angeled curb and bricks was designed like that with the intention of ambulances , semi's , and plow trucks to be able to drive over it with ease . I have seen it done with many vehicles with no problem . There will always be bad drivers that won't be able to navigate it . But those are the drivers that would have probably pulled out in front of you with the old set up.
Lorie Longhany
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I agree, Thomas. Turning left on to Oak from South Main was a bear. I experienced roundabouts in Ireland and of all the driving obstacles there -- the roundabouts were the least of my problems. In fact -- I think that they're very convenient and work very well. Peter, art is subjective. What you might find sub standard or distasteful others might really like. I've been to Hartsfield on several occassions. Don't recall the art in the tunnels. I'll pay attention the next time I'm there.
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Posted by Peter O'Brien on November 7, 2009 - 10:47am Lorie, ...and called art. Its not, Art, by definition, is subjective. Are we all to bend to your opinion and remove whatever pieces of art you deem not up to your standards? What qualifications do you have, other than giving an opinion, that this is not "art"? There are pieces of art that I find fascinating, and others make me shake my head in disbelief. That said, I would never dream to be the end authority on what is considered 'art'.
C. M. Barons
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Right on, Peter! Government shouldn't fund art. War, corporate welfare and farm subsidies,yes; but no art. (Damn commie artists.) And you're also right about distinguishing good art from bad art. That modern stuff is no better than crayon scratches my 2-year-old niece cranks out. The traffic circle needs real art- let's put up a statue of Ronald Reagan counting sheep. We're all behind ya, buddy: the voice of anti-culture. Viva Harrison Bergeron!
George Richardson
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Anyone who ever read more than a few books by John Gardner of Batavia New York, would know that he is their very best Modern Day Hero and someone who is at least as deserving as General Upton, of a statue. War Heros are fine, but literary genius is hard to ignore. Put it together and I'll pony up a couple of hundred. Verdad!
George Richardson
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Austin claims "O'Henry", although he lived here for a short few years, in a ramshackle rent house, before being arrested for embezzlement from the bank where he worked. John was way cooler than that. Batavia is worthy.
Sean Valdes
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Howard, good idea! You can count us in on helping with the monument costs. Conservatives don't hate art. We just don't believe that art should be government funded outside of schools. I have been a partner of GO ART!'s for many years, and I support GO ART! with corporate donations, and I believe that artists and art is useful in society, but it is wrong that GO ART! and artists receive government funding.
Lorie Longhany
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Sean, you benefited from a government funded program that I was involved with. Remember? A show that was most definitely government funded that you did the catering for. Ooops.
Bea McManis
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How about tourism? Aren't there grants used to foster tourism in Genesee Co.? I can't imagine Sean being against tourism that would bring dollars to his place as well as the rest of LeRoy and Genesee Co.
Jerry Buckman
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How about removing one of those backward benches on Main St. and putting it in the middle of the roundabout? Then form a committee to initiate a new government study to figure out how to place the bench backwards in a roundabout. Hire an artist (government funded) to weld together 3 pieces of subjective, twisted metal art and place it next to the bench. Place a sign next to that with a phone number to the Genesee County Dept. of Tourism. Add big heaters during winter nonths to keep the snowbanks melted so all these things remain visible. Just having fun with you all...;>)
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Putting anything large there would hamper a drivers vision and also waste space for the mound of snow that will be piled there during the heavy snow falls this winter.
Sean Valdes
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Hi everyone, thanks for the responses. I do cater functions that are paid by grants. I also cater functions that are paid by the government. I also cater functions that are paid by non-profit organizations. I also cater functions for private companies, houses, churches, etc - feel free to give me call, we do good job. There - now we have full disclosure. I take any job I can get my hands on - I do have to pay my very high taxes. Bea, I thought we were talking arts not tourism? These are very different subjects. I am very involved in tourism with the chamber. I think there are significant problems with the I Love NY grants. (That's not the fault of our local folks, but some really bad rules at the state level.) If you're interested, let me know, I'd love to talk tourism with you.
John Roach
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I like the idea of the Oak tree. That would help replace the ones that had to be taken down. And, except for a bit of trimming now and then, it does not need to be taken care, painted or cleaned. On top of all that Al Gore will approve.
Charley Boyd
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I like Howard's original idea--LOVE--perfect for Gardner's hometown. Then again, a statue of Gardner is compelling, too. I bet the John Gardner Society would gladly help raise funds for either effort! --Charley Boyd
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Posted by Sean Valdes on November 8, 2009 - 12:27pm Hi everyone, thanks for the responses. I do cater functions that are paid by grants. I also cater functions that are paid by the government. I also cater functions that are paid by non-profit organizations. I also cater functions for private companies, houses, churches, etc - feel free to give me call, we do good job. There - now we have full disclosure. I take any job I can get my hands on - I do have to pay my very high taxes. So the artists who receive grants aren't entitled, but you are entitled to receive the rewards from those same grants? Interesting Maybe the artists need jobs to live as well. If you can turn the other way and stick your hand out for those jobs that are paid from grant money, why shouldn't they? As far as tourism, in New York State. What is wrong with the rules regarding I Love New York? Do they insist that you not discriminate when it comes to patrons of your business? Tough rule to follow, isn't it?
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The nation that hesitates to fund the arts is a nation devoid. Even the most draconian dictatorships fund art (albeit self-serving). During the great Depression artists were kept employed along with the trades- note the architrave in Elba Central School's cafeteria. Being an artist is not a career choice. Some of our greatest painters, sculptors, musicians, poets and writers eked out existence; their work honored in retrospect. It would seem, but for endowments, that things are worse today. Art, orchestral music, theater, poetry and books are niche concerns, barely visible beyond film, internet, television, pop music and professional sports. While staying in Russia, the garden behind my apartment had a statue of Alexander Pushkin- tribute to the nation's poet. Some countries honor rather than ignore their artists.
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Hi Bea, Is there a way on this site we can move the tourism conversation away from the original topic - we're heading off topic. My problem with the NYS Tourism Grants is accountability. I think there are major holes in the state's recording system of how much money was actually brought in from the NYS grant exclusively. The Chamber does an amazing job of documenting who visits Genesee County, where they're from, where they've visited so far, how much they've spent, etc. etc. On the state level, I think they can take a lesson from our record keeping. Back to the grants - firstly, I rarely know from what account I'm being paid from. Client calls, books the party, tells me what they can spend, I design a menu, execute the job flawlessly, of course - and the check comes in a few weeks. Secondly, I think that artists should be paid for their work - they have a skill and they use it to put out a product that a consumer wants. Almost sounds like supply and demand, huh? Maybe free market principles can apply here?
C. M. Barons
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Establishing art as commercial is akin to confusing religion with Jim Bakker's Heritage USA. That artwork is sold is indicative of four coincidental realities: fatalistic practicality, the egotism of collectors, a monetary value system and cynical (parasitic) entrepenourship. The parasites and collectors have excluded all but the well-heeled. The poorman picks over mass-produced artlike substitutes. The market provides frame-ready, textured prints that (at a distance) appear to have real brush strokes. Beauty (art) is no longer dependent on the eye of the beholder. Few people learn to appreciate art, because art history is taught to fewer children. 40% of elementary schools have no art teacher. 50% of junior high students have no exposure to art education. Art is first, music second when the budget axe falls. Smugness aside, art is defined by the pages of Christmas catalogues and Walmart. I occasionally see local artists work in a bank lobby or college Library. The last time I saw a clothesline art exhibit and sale was 40 years ago. Do local writers and poets have a forum for reading? I bet John Gardner would chafe at the idea of being a perch for pigeons. He'd prefer being edified with an art center where authors and poets could be experienced in print and in person. ...Where artists could share their work and inspire budding talent. ...Where musicians could perform and expounders could expound... Sounds vaguely like GOArt. Aren't they government funded? I bet they wouldn't turn away contributions for a John Gardner literary center.
Bea McManis
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Posted by Sean Valdes on November 8, 2009 - 10:13pm Back to the grants - firstly, I rarely know from what account I'm being paid from. Client calls, books the party, tells me what they can spend, I design a menu, execute the job flawlessly, of course - and the check comes in a few weeks. Secondly, I think that artists should be paid for their work - they have a skill and they use it to put out a product that a consumer wants. Almost sounds like supply and demand, huh? Maybe free market principles can apply here? Unlike many businesses, an artist (musician, dancer, actor, sculptor, etc.) doesn't open the door to a 'shop' everyday and rely on a few hundred drop in customers to pay the bills. A dancer, for example, doesn't sit around the rehearsal hall waiting for drop in customers to come and watch a dance. Supply and demand? An actor doesn't stand on the stage waiting for drop in customers to come in and watch a performance. Supply and demand? Musicians don't sit in the orchestra pit waiting for drop in customers to come in and hear them play. Supply and demand? An artist or a sculptor may work at their craft on a daily basis, but the amount of drop in customers they have is no where close to what you have every day. Just like you, they take jobs that are offered. Like you, they do the job, perform or create and then are paid. They may or may not know that the funding came from grants. Why is that any different from what you do? Public and private patronage of the arts is not new. Where would the art world be if the Florintine artists in the High Renaissance period weren't hired to create the fountains and statues that still stand in many Italian cities? Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo; the Umbrian, Raffaello Sanzio; along with the great Venetian masters Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese all were subsidized from private and public funds.
Lorie Longhany
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The business of being an artist is not the same as other entrepreneurial endeavors, Sean. Very few can break into eking out even a modest living, yet for most artists there is a compulsion to keep the creative process going. It has nothing to do with a good business model. You've heard the phrase "starving artist" I can speak from experience on this. The time that it takes me to do a pen and ink drawing usually garners me far less than even minimum wage at the time that the commission is delivered. Yet, if I charge more for the product I most likely would not get the job because of the art market dynamics here. Does a weak art market mean that creative people in this region stop creating? No. Artist will create whether they're getting commensurate pay or not. I have benefited from community arts projects. Community art projects have public value, so if the public is enjoying the work maybe that same public doesn't mind public money helping to offset costs. If, for example, it's a sculpture or statue in memory of John Gardner in the roundabout -- that sculpture will have a profound public impact for years to come. The initial outlay of art dollars could have very positive long term benefits. It could spawn a yearly public ceremony where writers could come and give public oratory. Or it could spin off a scholarship fund for a would be writer. Think of Batavia without the Upton monument. It would be interesting to do a little research and find out if the Upton monument was commissioned with public dollars back in the day. Probably public and private, but I have no idea.
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Lorie, To say a statue of John Gardner would have a profound public impact is a stretch. First, while people might notice it, it would be in the Roundabout. They can’t stop and look, and even looking too long would be dangerous (“watch the road”). We have a statue of General Upson in the middle of the City of Batavia and I doubt you can say that it has a profound public impact. Gardner’s would have less. If you want a place where writers and such can come and read, you might want to consider putting a statue of Gardner in a park where they don’t get run over. I recommend the Genesee County DeWitt Park off Cedar Street. John Gardner might be the best known writer to have come from here, but most people have never heard of him. I am not against a statue, as long as it is raised by private money since it serves to make a limited group happy. Personally, I still think the idea of a tree, or trees, would be a much better idea and look
Charlie Mallow
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I agree with John, a roundabout is a terrible place to put a distracting statue. That sounds like something that belongs in a park.
Dave Olsen
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Hey, Howard, here's an idea; stop people at random in Batavia and ask them if they've ever heard of Emory Upton or John Gardner.
Daniel Jones
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As much as I love and support the arts, I would rather see an Oak tree. I do worry about the distraction of a statue at a busy roundabout.
Lorie Longhany
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Ever see the roundabout in Caledonia? It has a statue.
Howard B. Owens
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Dave, does it really matter? And if fewer people have heard of Gardner, doesn't that make a statue all the more practical and necessary? A tree would be no more nor less distracting than a statue, same with whatever random plants. Hell, empty cement can be distracting to the driver who keeps going by wondering -- what the hell? A Gardner monument on Oak makes perfect sense and is long over due.
Charlie Mallow
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The roundabout in Caledonia is in a very large space. Don’t hear me wrong either; I’m not against putting up statues of people who succeeded from our area. My only problem would be the location.
Lorie Longhany
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Actually the Caledonia circle is smaller than Oak St, from my visual observations. And I'm not saying a statue per say. I don't live in Batavia so my suggestion doesn't matter much anyway. I do think that we have to be mindful of preserving our rich local history.
John Roach
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Guess what, most people who go thru the circle in Caledona notice a statue, but could care less about it. It's just there. Like the one in Warsaw when they had that circle. Again, it's the location. Why not in a park where people could really see it? How about Austin Park?
Howard B. Owens
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Austin Park isn't on Oak Street. There's already a tribute to Gardner going in by the Pok-A-Dot. That's not the point. It's Oak Street. It's just an obvious location. It doesn't have to be a statute -- just some stone letters spelling out LOVE would be amusing. It's about embracing and celebrating our heritage, the things that give our local community distinction and notoriety and embracing and taking pride in the community, it's past, present and future. I can get people not caring, but for the suggestion to be controversial is just a little over the top. I'm really rather amused by it. It's such an obvious, simple thing.
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Anything in the center would be a distraction of any size. Maybe just a flagpole with the American flag and down near the bottom have a memorial of John Gardner with a small bench might be a nice touch. I just think they should post a speed zone when going around it because people are flying through there and an accident is waiting to happen.
Charlie Mallow
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Howard, the word “controversial” is a bit overstated isn’t it? People would debate paint drying on this site. If we already have a tribute to Gardner going in, why wouldn’t you want to celebrate another Batavian with a statue?
John Roach
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Steve has a great idea. I'd take the flag over a statue and maybe a dedication to veterans (yes, another one).
Lorie Longhany
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I just found this very cool piece of Caledonia history regarding the Soldiers monument that still stands tall in the center of the small traffic circle. Maybe people know more about their local history than you think, John. And if they don't maybe some kind of historic marker may be just what's needed to pique curiosity. http://www.cal-mum.com/monu_history.htm "The place were the monument should stand proved for a time to be a trying question, but finally the place selected met with approval of all concerned. After a canvas of some length for bids upon the work, the contract was awarded to J.M. Hamilton and Son of Batavia, New York for $1870.00 exclusive of grading and the building of coping. Entirely completed the monument cost slightly over $2000.00, a sum the expenditure of which will always remain a source of pride to those who were active in securing its outlay for such a patriotic purpose. That committee in charge, as well as the workmen, who toiled so skillfully, deserved great praise was the subject of universal comment by all."
Kelly Hansen
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I think it would be a great location for a branch office of 'The Batavian'. Considering all of the accidents that happen right nearby, we could REALLY be the first to know.

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