Yvonne Domenge outdoor sculpture may be moved to Fort Worth

by Christina Patoski September 27, 2012

“Tabachin Ribbon” by Yvonne Domenge.
(Photograph by Jim Prinz)

Mexican artist Yvonne Domenge‘s 13-foot abstracted yellow sphere, “Tabachin Ribbon”, could be heading to Fort Worth in the next few weeks.  For the last year and a half, the carbon steel sculpture has been on temporary display at Chicago’s Millennium Park, along with three other outdoor sculptures by Domenge.  The artist requested that when the outdoor exhibit closes on October 21, 2012 the four sculptures be donated to other cities or museums.

Edward Uhlir, Executive Director of Millennium Park, Inc., traveled to Fort Worth this summer to speak at the 10th anniversary celebration of Fort Worth’s public art program.  During his stay, he suggested the arts commission apply for one of Domenge’s sculptures.

Named after a native Madagascar tree, “Tabachin Ribbon” is valued at $155,000.  Cost to transport, store and install the 6,000-pound sculpture in Fort Worth is estimated to be up to $60,000.

Downtown Fort Worth Inc.’s Urban Design Committee and the City of Fort Worth’s Downtown Design Review Board endorsed accepting the sculpture. After funds from next year’s Fort Worth’s public art budget were identified to cover the transport and installation costs of the sculpture, Millennium Park approved Fort Worth Public Art’s application.

If all goes well, “Tabachin Ribbon” will be installed in front of the city’s municipal courts building in downtown Fort Worth. The final hurdle is a thumbs-up vote for the expenditure from Fort Worth City Council which recently slashed its annual contribution to the Fort Worth Arts Council by 25% in order to alleviate the city’s shortfall budget.


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Ricardo Paniagua September 27, 2012 - 16:17

This is awesome! I would much rather be looking at this than that unsightly gray cartoon art in front of the modern.

Marshall K. Harris September 29, 2012 - 10:51

As I commented in the Fort Worth Start Telegram I am all for art initiatives and putting art in the public spaces but this is a blatant example of robbing from the poor to placate the rich. Fort Worth, in one breath says it needs to cut spending and find another sustainable revenue stream for the Arts in Fort Worth but magically finds 60K to acquire a real work of art from a real art city like Chicago. And the explanation for this is that the money comes from another revenue stream and not from the general arts support budget lines. It sounds like a shell game to me. This is acquiring art from outside source because other big cities do it and then we Fort Worth will be a big city like those other guys. But this attitude of having to go elsewhere like new York or Chicago or LA means that our local creative community struggles to make the art and be recognized as vibrant and relative and contributive to the world of art. How about using that magical 60K required to disassemble, crate, move, construct, reassemble and reinstall the “Tabachin Ribbon” and instead commission a work done by local artsist and then getting out of their way and letting them do something significant and contemporary? And I would think that someone could do that and not have to include a cowboy or long horn or drilling rig metaphor. We don’t do that because as I have been told we don’t believe we can produce quality art here in Fort Worth or maybe in Texas. And that is a crock of Bull Hockey. We can and should but we need to mature a little bit and not pretend to be a cultural center and instead really start becoming a cultural center. (My apologies to all of the artist and creatives and supporters who struggle with the challenges of creating work and getting shown and gaining momentum. Hopefully you won’t have to move to a different town to be be taken seriously.)

And if I am completely off my rocker please someone tell me so I can start behaving myself. I have been cautioned to not be so outspoken because of the political and economic ramifications of such blasphemy.

Ricardo Paniagua September 30, 2012 - 16:07

Yeah. Without a doubt. The main issue is that the commissioning agents here always want to have a say in what the artist makes. thats why i NEVER do anything with the cities here. extremely frustrating and to put this piece out front? insulting to the artists here.

Michelle Smith October 1, 2012 - 10:22

Bravo!!!!! and this is not just in Ft. Worth and not just in the visual arts. Why is it that if you are not from NY, Chicago or Los Angeles than you can not create art of any type be it visual or dance or music. By Texas cities continually bringing in artists and companies from other “Big Cities” and not cultivating what we have we are only cultivating that image that there is no art below the Mason Dixon Line – I for one know of incredible art living and growing in Ft. Wortha and Houston.

Ken O'Toole October 1, 2012 - 16:57

The problem runs as deep as the advice given from the arts council itself. This agency claims to want to support the local artist. Oddly enough when they put out a call for submissions to a “short list” of “local” artist to be considered for upcoming public arts projects they instead eliminated most of the local submissions received. As it ended up over 85% nominated for this “short list” were non-local artists; with nearly 60% from out of state.

Denton Dodge October 2, 2012 - 17:09

Yes, and from what I understand most of the disqualifications had nothing to do with the quality of the art, but rather factors like education and previous experience with public arts projects. Criteria that the council claimed would not be a factor in their choice.

Jenny Conn October 4, 2012 - 10:46

Of the 34 commissioned FWPA artworks, 13 artists live in Fort Worth- 38% of total commissions. Another 12 are Texas artists, all but 5 live in North Texas, so, 73% of all commissions have gone to Texas based artists. Those numbers do not include the local artists that were included in the selection processes but not selected, so overall, many more local artists have had opportunities. In addition, artists and/or art professionals are a part of each selection panel, along with representative members of the community, confirming that selections are not made in a void. Please contact FWPA to participate in the behind the scenes processes for better understanding.

Marshall K. Harris October 5, 2012 - 22:44

Question #1-Who or what committee decides to spend 60K on this work of art from an artist who is not from the area and what was the decision criteria for the go ahead to write the check?
Question #2- What is the yearly budgetary range for public art in Fort Worth and if 73% of that is being allocated to local public art endeavors, what specifically are those projects and where can they be found?
Maybe that is where there needs to be some evaluation for consideration.
Question #3- If this 60K is considered a Public Art Work and an investment by Fort Worth, what percentage of yearly public art allocations is this and in reflection of the recent 25% reduction in city funding how does this jive with current trends in public programs support?

Jenny Conn October 6, 2012 - 09:39

Answer #1 – The Fort Worth Art Commission (nine members appointed by the Mayor) makes recommendations to City Council – same as other Boards and Commissions but only Council votes to approve – or disapprove. see FWPA Master Plan for policy structure here: http://www.fwpublicart.org/UserFiles/File/Master_Plan_And_Appendicies.pdf

Answer #2 – Please reread the answer above. Of all commissioned artworks to date – or 34 artworks – 73% of the artists commissioned have been Texas based artists, correcting your assertion that the City does not support local artists, but rather looks outside the City to acquire art.

Most FWPA projects are tied to CFW Capitol Improvement projects, although there is also a Community ID program and mural program that brings art to neighborhoods without specific City projects. FWPA Workplans are posted on the FWPA website. 2012: http://fwpa.nu-design.com/UserFiles/File/FY%202012%20Work%20Plan%20MID-YEAR%20STATUS%20(3-31-12).pdf

Please review the Master Plan and support information on the website to understand the thorough evaluation process.

Answer #3 – The Art Commission recommended $60k to relocate and install a $150k sculpture created by an internationally recognized artist. Fort Worth was offered first choice of four sculptures created specifically for Millennium Park’s temporary art exhibition program. Of the $60k, less than half is expected to be spent on transit and installation. The remainder will support site alterations including lighting. All expenses will be paid by line item invoice.

Funds to commission, acquire and care for the City’s Art assets are not included in the General Fund and, therefore, are not included in the 25% reduction to the Arts.

Again, you can find comprehensive information on the FWPA website. Thanks for the opportunity to clear things up!

Jenny Conn October 6, 2012 - 14:27

I want to underscore that the sculpture is a gift from the artist to the City of Fort Worth.

Marshall K. Harris October 8, 2012 - 08:54

Thank you for restating the facts and figures that are available for arguments sake. But the common sense question remains of what magic wand does the City Council hold, advised by the Arts Commission, that changes one action which states that there are not funds and then in the next action finds funds to move a “Gift” by an internationally known artist. I understand that the money is not coming from the line item reduced by 25%. But as has been stated, “Funds to commission, acquire and care for the City’s Art assets are not included in the General Fund and, therefore, are not included in the 25% reduction to the Arts.” I’m wondering why a work can’t be commissioned from a local artist from that general fund as opposed to acquiring a work from a nationally known artist? Gift or otherwise it is still $$ that are to be spent to support public art and the decision by the Arts Council (9 members nominated by the Mayor) and the City Council that sends a message to the local creative community that artists work will be supported and your works commissioned and acquired if you are notably from somewhere else. All of the shell game examples won’t disguise the indication that local art isn’t worthy. But I’ll do diligence and look up the works commissioned and executed which comprise that 73% and the 34 art works. But I don’t consider a mural painted on some obscure wall in an out of the way neighborhood as support of significant public art. (No offense to any muralist. Ya gotta paint where they let ya.)

Marshall K. Harris October 8, 2012 - 09:06

And the link to the FWPA work plans doesn’t seem to be operative.

“FWPA Workplans are posted on the FWPA website. 2012: http://fwpa.nu-design.com/UserFiles/File/FY%202012%20Work%20Plan%20MID-YEAR%20STATUS%20(3-31-12)

Jenny Conn October 8, 2012 - 12:16

to see the list of artworks (with images and addresses) included in the FWPA collection go here: http://www.worthgoing.com/public_art/listing/

Marshall K. Harris October 14, 2012 - 20:25

What Public Art could and should be.

In response to the Star-Telegram editorial page piece on October 11, 2012 concerning Fort Worth’s new art acquisition “Tabachin Ribbon,” I offer some reflective thoughts to the city of Fort Worth and its citizens about the subject of public art.

I would propose that when it comes to public art, there are two categories that are present in the public domain. These are either decorative or transformative. The first form pertains to aesthetics in that it’s pretty or fills a void, illuminates a bland street, beautifies a blank wall or embellishes an esplanade. Meaning, it’s pedestrian and although it is art, it is merely and subjectively something to look at.

Then there is Transformative Public Art. This is work that not only makes a space more beautiful, connected or relevant to the community but also stops the public who traverse that space and has impact – makes them pause for a moment, contemplate the work and their part in the process and revel in how the work changes their perception of the world around them.

A first example of the latter, “Cloud Gate” by Anis Kapoor is found in the same Millennium Park in downtown Chicago where “Tabachin Ribbon” is coming from. Cloud Gate is an enormous polished-bubble-looking sculpture that reflects Chicago’s skyline, trees, lake and everyone in the park. As you gaze on the work from afar, you are stunned by its size and shininess; and when you stand up close, you realize that not only the world around you is reflected but SO ARE YOU. You become part of the sculpture. Hundreds of thousands of people visit this sculpture just to have their picture taken in front of it while reflected within it at the same time.

Also found in Chicago, The Crown Fountain by James Plensa consists of a very shallow reflecting pool with big graphics that flank either end. Pedestrians walk across the thin veil of water and accomplish the visual illusion that they are walking across a lake. Philadelphia has an extraordinary mural and mosaic program involving nearly every street corner, where community-based, building-scale paintings tell big stories about the area’s culture and interests. In one income-challenged area in North Philly and in coordination with the Hartranft Elementary School, a team of local artists were commissioned to design a mosaic mural. The school students would help create hundreds of clay pieces that were personalized, fired, glazed and then installed to form a beautiful community tree mosaic that covered a large exterior wall of the school. The roots of the tree represented community history and nature, and the branches and leaves, the community members and neighbors. A local arborist contributed several dozen trees for planting around the school, and something extraordinary happened: The community appreciated and embraced the process, as well as the completed work. Regular people not only created the art but also took pride and ownership in the work and the beautification of the neighborhood and school – transforming the community.

There are hundreds of works around the world that inspire wonder. The Xiying Rainbow Bridge, located in Penghu County of southeast China’s Taiwan, is one; and The Singing Ringing Tree by Burnley England’s Panopticon design and Tonkin Liu Ltd architecture is another. But none is more moving than the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington DC. This was a work commissioned through a 501 (C)(3) non-profit, juried through an extensive selection committee, coordinated through an architectural firm and created by a Yale undergraduate, Maya Ying Lin. Seeing the monument and its understated magnitude moves you to tears; the crushing silence and reverence that this work commands is sublime. Some would argue that this isn’t art. I would respond that it is what art should be.

My point is that public art can be just decorative, but great public art can and should be much more. It needn’t be some big yellow bobble that is unceremoniously plopped into a plaza like a cow patty in a pasture. Great public art is dynamic and coordinated, and in best situations, the result of a significant commitment to public development and proactive planning. Public art works into a plaza or park or new structure’s design; in so doing, it transforms both surroundings and the people in its realm. Too often, however, public art becomes an afterthought or an expenditure that marginalizes a work by an artist, resulting in something that merely sits there with no more connection to the community than the gravity that holds it to the surface of the earth.

We have some outstanding public artwork here in Fort Worth. We need more. I wonder why the Water Gardens or Jonathan Borofsky‘s Man With Briefcase or the Post Office building at the corner of W.7th and University consisting of mural and deformed steel posts twisted by Mother Nature are not on our Public Arts website? Why are light sculptures installed on a busy motor traffic thoroughfare when these would be better appreciated by pedestrians? I wonder if a sculpture park is being considered as part of the Trinity River Development project or why that couldn’t be something coordinated with the former power plant/projected aquarium?

In closing, I want to reflect on a recent experience I enjoyed while leaving the Fort Worth Modern. I always like passing Richard Serra’s Vortex because it makes me feel so small. On this day a young girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old was inside the sculpture performing a lovely ABC aria at the top of her little lungs, which was met with much laughter, appreciation and applause by her parents and many passers bye. She clapped and giggled at the reverberating sounds that echoed within the enormous metal structure. I don’t know if Serra intentionally designed the work to create the cacophony of echoes that occur within, but in my humble opinion this happy accident is the best part of the work. Who knows if this small giggly girl grows up to become an acoustical engineer, musician or artist all because she was transformed by this work of public art?

I urge citizens of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Arts Council and the Fort Worth City Council to evaluate future investments in Fort Worth/s Public Art Program and ask if what being considered is simply decorative or is it and should it be transformative?

Marshall K. Harris


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