"With any politician, there's a certain educational process you have to go through," says Moore. "With Johnson . . . I don't think he understands the economic-development importance of the arts, even though it's been hit home to him again and again."
Johnson argues that he does, too, understand the value of national column inches devoted to his arts commission. "Anytime you get national notoriety, there's a benefit in that it's just a pride builder for the community," he says. "There may be other economic impact, as well. It may be hard to gauge."
Goddard, continues artist Moore, "was at least willing to stick his neck out and take an unpopular approach to something. Johnson is a lot more cautious. He has more of a tendency to go which way the wind is blowing. Support for the arts needs to go beyond grandstanding for the national press over the fact that he may be running for governor or some other office."
Could the Squaw Peak Pots become a gubernatorial campaign issue once Johnson declares for the race that Goddard has already reentered?
"What I will credit Terry on is that Terry really did come up with the percent-for-the-arts program," says Johnson. "In that, I think he brought benefit to the community. "To me, it's kind of an issue of priority. With me, my highest priority is kids. But I like art. Terry's highest priority is art. I don't think it means he dislikes kids, but in terms of where I place my priorities on the council, my programs revolve around kids. My favorite programs in funding for the arts are the portions that go to schools, for the kids, the programs that get kids actively involved in the arts."
If the arts commission were to become a campaign issue, Goddard says he'd be "proud" of his affiliation with Phoenix's art-in-infrastructure achievements.
It's "an example of government doing its job with an extra bit of flair," he says. "A public building needs to have as many uses as you can possibly give it. To make it just an office building, or just a warehouse, or just a fire station, that misses the point. "A building with one purpose is a terrible waste."
Goddard is quick to add one other note. "I had zero to do with the pots," he says. "I'm not a big fan. When you consider what it did to the overall concept of a citizen-involved arts program, I don't think it was worth it."
The crystal ball
The near future of the public-art program, particularly the kind of artist-meets-engineer projects for which the commission continues to generate media plaudits, appears bright. A 300-foot pedestrian overpass on the Dreamy Draw--a design aided by artist Vicki Scuri that "has already won awards," according to Deborah Whitehurst--comes on-line just as soon as the Squaw Peak Parkway gets punched through to Shea Boulevard. That project dates to 1989. A canal-beautification pilot project for Mayor Johnson's neighborhood, the Sunnyslope area, is also proceeding. It got started a couple of years ago. A memorial to public servants who died in the line of duty, planned for the front plaza of the new City Hall, was approved by a selection panel made up of reps from the police and fire unions, among others.
The piece, which is partially funded by the police and fire unions, supposedly is the product of latter-day arts commission "community involvement" efforts, and could be viewed as a harbinger of the public-art future. Designed by downtown artist Otto Rigan, the memorial is currently nearing completion, and people who know what they're talking about say the memorial will not be hokey or cornball, but rather something more like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.--a wildly controversial work at the time of its debut that would've been bombed back into the Stone Age had its fate ridden on the first wave of public opinion.
If there ever was a chance for the panel-selection process to go wrong--stacked as this panel was with interested parties--it was here. "It's not a statue of a police officer or a firefighter," says Mayor Johnson, "though I think it will make the right type of statement for those officers and staff that we have lost in the line of duty."
Despite the lone hopeful note, there remains considerable concern, among artists, art lovers and arts commissioners past and present, for the long-term aesthetic health of local public art. Will the arts commission regress into producing "plop art" for whoever heads the local politburo at any particular moment?