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Give Us Our Stadium Art

When I read in January that the smart people had figured out a loophole that would allow for a public art showcase at the Nats' new ballpark, I happily anticipated the flowering of creativity this would yield. In terms of artistic styles, I was guessing the Lerners were into Minimalism. Or possibly Futurism. Or possibly Pointillism; you know, it doesn't look like much up close, but from a distance, with a few beers, and maybe some salty peanuts, you can get distracted enough to move on to the next room and look at the Impressionists.

This is what happens when you search for the Nats at

I was even happier when I read some of the qualities that would be used to select the winner of the "suspended public art installation project," including this: "4. Preference will be given to artists who reside in the District of Columbia when all else is equal." Equal? There is no "equal" in art. I mean, is some GM gonna sit down with the various artists and compare their OPS and ERA, then giving the tie to the runner and/or D.C. resident?

In any case, there's a snag in the plans. From yesterday's Examiner:

Plans to decorate the new Washington Nationals' new stadium with crafts, sculpture and bronze figures are in limbo after the D.C. Council eliminated money in next year's budget for a public arts project.

In the proposed fiscal 2008 capital improvement plan submitted by Mayor Adrian Fenty, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities was budgeted for $850,000 to spend on various stadium art-related projects -- sculptures, mosaics, murals, paving designs, custom benches and artistic gates among them.

The art was to be purchased with general obligation bonds, permanently owned by the commission and leased to the team at no cost, which put the works outside the strict $611 million stadium construction cap, or so advocates maintained. But in its deliberation of the budget, which passed May 15, the council zeroed out the money, effectively closing the door on publicly financed artwork.

No more art? Over before it even began, just like the UFC fight? Perhaps privately funded art, the Examiner suggests? Or perhaps a restoration of funds, a spokesman suggests? Luckily, sources close to the ownership have come up with a cost-effective solution: Popsicle Stick Crafts!

(Speaking of cheap-owner jokes, Ted Leonsis is again poking fun at us for poking fun of the Nats. "As of today, the Washington Nationals have the same amount of wins as the NY Yankees," he writes. "The last time I looked, the Yankees payroll was in excess of $200 million. I guess money doesn't always buy happiness." No arguments here, although if Ted has any interest in wagering on which team finishes with the better record, I might be able to oblige him.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  May 29, 2007; 10:14 AM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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