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By defeating public art article, Town Meeting missed a chance to creatively express our town’s pride, history and future

To the Editor and Readers of The Saugus Advocate,

 

I was in attendance to Saugus’s Town Hall on May 23rd, to hear Joe Vecchione, Planning member of Saugus, bring into motion the revision of Article 31 to permit the town to commission art murals and other types of public art on buildings and other outdoor public and private surfaces.

I had the opportunity to say a few words showing my support as both a resident of Saugus and Saugus Cultural Council member, with Saugus Cultural Council chair, Michael Sullivan. I emphasized that public art has the power to make a community stronger, feel connected and promote conversation. And local businesses too would profit from the installation of public art in town.

I closed my comments on the floor with a personal narrative explaining that I joined the Saugus Cultural Council because my six-year-old noticed that there was no public art in Saugus after our move to this community last year. I was very excited for Vecchione to bring forward this revision so that not only my son but residents of all ages can appreciate and see the value of including public art in our community.

As a preface, this was my first time in any Town Hall hearing, and expected this proposition to revise the bylaw to be easily accepted because of Vecchione’s due diligence to collaborate with members to hear their concerns and knowledge of the bylaw’s origins to reduce speculation.

What I heard after sharing my support was something I did not anticipate witnessing that Monday night. Fear was evoked from one member to another against revising Article 31. The elected Saugus members’ hypothetical concerns, from my view, showed that these members feared change, expression, and the future of a growing Saugus. There were some who understood the benefits of public art in Saugus and showed their confidence that the ZBA is trustworthy to review and vet all public art applicants. But devastatingly, the majority of present members voted against altering the signage bylaw, and voted against a vibrant and profitable future for the town of Saugus.

The opportunity to creatively express our town’s pride, history and future was averted tonight because of the fear of change. Many neighboring towns and cities have embraced public art as an instrument to bridge connections within a diverse community, and tonight Saugus has decided not to engage and build up an inclusive community. Progressive change is the key to having a sustainable community, and tonight the majority of elected members wanted to keep things as is to avoid advancing Saugus. Though their vote was an extremely frustrating result, I have full confidence that Saugus and its residents will one day have the support and reap the benefits from public art, and learn to both challenge and accept new ideals as these are keys to developing a sustainable community.

May 23, 2022

Still with full support,

Tori Darnell

Treasurer

Saugus Cultural Council

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