Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ganesha, remover of obstacles, please remove Kootenai Constitution Party from my sight

"Ganesha" by sculptor Rick Davis. Kathy Plonka photo. The Spokesman-Review
Today’s Wyoming Tribune-Eagle’s religion section features an article about a protest in Coeur d’Alene about a new public art display. I am always interested in protests against art displays because I work in the arts and it’s always intriguing to see what kind of art upsets which kind of people.

On Friday afternoon in Coeur d’Alene, the Kootenai County Constitution Party staged a protest at a statue entitled “Ganesha.” The statue, by Spokane metal artist Rick Davis, is one of 15 dedicated Friday as part of the city’s new “ArtCurrents” public art program

Artists own the sculptures, which remain in place for a year and are offered for sale. The city receives 25 percent of the proceeds of any sales. The sculptures are by artists in Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Montana and Nebraska. Proposals were solicited from artists, and a citizens committee selected about half of the submissions. The artists received $500 stipends.

The program is based on one that has been in place in Sheridan, Wyo., for eight years. The Sheridan program has been wildly successful, with a variety of sculptures on downtown street corners. They bring ambience to an already lively downtown. The project adds money to the city coffers. The art also draws people downtown and they stay longer to see the artwork.

Davis’s Coeur d’Alene statue is of Hinduism’s Lord Ganesha, an elephant-headed, human-bodied “god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and that is often invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking,” according to a June 11 ANI article.

Any project that involves both government and the arts should welcome a god who is a remover of obstacles. Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, was quoted in the ANI article: “What could be more auspicious for Coeur d'Alene than having a Ganesha statue in its downtown?”

Instead, the county’s Constitution Party sees it as an “abomination.”

The best coverage of this has been in the Irregular Times blog where 
jclifford asks this question:
Now, guess which statue from the 2011-2012 ArtCurrents Coeur D’Alene Public Art installation the group claims is unconstitutional. 
It’s not the statue of Rachel, a character from the Old Testament. 
It’s not the statue of St. Francis of Assisi, a figure of Christian devotion. 
No, the only religious statue that the Kootenai County Constitution Party rejects is the statue of Ganesha, a hindu deity. Isn’t that curious?
I join jclifford in finding it ironic that Rick Davis sculpted Ganesha and the statue of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the Catholicism’s major saints. The Prayer of St. Francis was one of the first I learned. My father, a major Catholic parent, coached my brother and me for hours and hours, drilling the prayer into our dense little heads. I am now writing this from memory:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace
Where there is doubt, let me sow faith
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
Ours is not to be consoled as to console
Something, something.
That’s all I recall. My memory is a sieve.
I could jog my brain cells if I was in downtown Coeur d’Alene, looking at the St. Francis statue. At the same time, if Constitution Party knuckleheads were on the scene, I might also pray to Ganesha to remove annoying human-like obstacles to my enjoyment of beautiful public art.
Here is the prayer in its current permutation (from
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

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