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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Bozeman Sculpture Park — a work in progress

bozeman sculpture park

Three years is just enough time to know you’re doing the right thing, but not necessarily enough time to get it right. The Bozeman Sculpture Park is one the best ideas to hit this town in a while. As with all new things, there are kinks—especially when the idea combines three entities: the public, sculptures owned by artists, and the City. An arrangement like that could topple in the most optimistic of scenarios.

The sticking point for the sculpture Park is insurance. And why not; insurance is the stickiest of manmade wickets. Everybody needs it, because of our litigious society and exorbitant costs of, well, everything, yet nobody can afford it. For surety of auto, health or home, there’s the ever-present quandary of a high deductible and minimal coverage—which is just what happened with the Bozeman Sculpture Park.

Okay. Let’s back up. In order to get the Bozeman Sculpture Park going in the first place, the original board worked with the Bozeman City Attorney’s office to insure the artwork in the park, land leased to the library by the City. The strange beast that was formed is called a “Bailment Agreement,” which is commonly used by truckers to insure cargo (or in this case art) from point A to point B. A bailment agreement was employed because the BSP did not own the artwork and neither did the City or the Bozeman Public Library. This agreement was originally intended to be replaced (in theory) at some undefined point by something better, but so far the latest mousetrap awaits invention.

Bozeman Sculpture ParkThe agreement, according to City Attorney Greg Sullivan, only covers property damage and it has a $5,000 deductible. The City has its own liability coverage, which exists under a separate policy and does not include the sculptures in the park, since the City does not own them. And the idea of the City buying the sculptures for like $25 was already raised and shot down.

On July 31st, all the artists who have their work in the BSP were sent a certified letter from the library telling them, as of September 1st, their work was no longer insured. At all.

However, a new agreement was reached on August 30th that basically extends the original agreement. The new agreement is good for one year, and each artist has been given the option to sign it—or remove their work from the park.

The new bailment agreement states, “The Library shall accept no responsibility or coverage for damage to the Art caused by vandalism nor for damage to the Art caused [by] wear and tear or by weather, sunlight, temperature, humidity, rain, wind, snow, ice, or any other natural occurrence, including wear or damage caused by sprinklers or other routine grounds maintenance.”

It also states, “The Owner recognizes the Library’s provision of property damage coverage for the Art does not provide personal liability coverage for the Owner [which is the artist] for such purposes as would normally be covered by the Owner’s own professional or commercial general liability or typical errors and omissions coverage.”

In all likelihood, artists who carry insurance for their sculptures are working artists, and not graduate students, or part-time artists, or even a lot of full-time artists because as stated earlier, insurance is expensive and most artists don’t carry it.

Chaucer Silverson, the president of the BSP board, is aware that the new stipulations will narrow the field of artists showing their work in the sculpture park. He also thinks that the work of only those artists who can afford their own insurance has the possibility to elevate the level of the work shown in the park because these artists may be further along in the careers.

Another thought is that the artists are paid for putting their work in the sculpture park. If they wanted to take some of the money and obtain insurance for that piece of art, it would certainly be an option—one with an undetermined funding source.

Artist Jennifer Pulchinski, who’s barbed-wire sculpture has been in the park for two years, just took it down this week. She thinks Bozeman needs a sculpture park, but as an artist she also believes that good insurance—insurance that covers both the sculpture and the artist—should be provided. “I understand the situation,” Pulchinski says, adding, “I also think that artists putting their work in the park should think about the materials they use.”

Again, Pulchinski works with barbed wire, so damage to her work isn’t a big concern. However, if someone got caught up in it, damage from her work could open up liability issues.

At this point in the story, the Bozeman Sculpture Park is a great idea, that’s found a good home… that needs some attention.

“The vision is for constant improvement, for the artists, the library, and essentially public art,” Silverson says. “If anyone has any input for the Bozeman Sculpture Park, now is the time.” -TBM


Lots of different issues can be gleaned from Bozeman's public art kerfuffle.  What's the most striking element to you?

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