UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

July/August 2003

Delphi Question: Priarie dog display

Delphi Question #502 (received 20 June): What is with the prairie dog in the foyer of the Mesa Lab? I find it highly offensive. I suppose that most people find totems and cigar store Indians cute and whimsical, but I thought we left that in the 20th century. What’s next? A lawn jockey? I suggest asking NCAR to join right-thinking people who have been fighting this type of stereotyping. See www.bluecorncomics.com/woodenna.htm.

Reply (26 June): The two prairie dogs in the lobby of the Mesa Lab are part of an “art in public places” event sponsored by KGNU community radio. NCAR’s Community Art Program is responsible for the display. The Prairie Dog Project began in 2002; it is singular to Boulder County. The project is a celebration of art and artists with a focus on our local environment via the prairie dog. Over 100 larger-than-life, resin prairie dogs were distributed to local artists. The project’s jury-selected pieces are currently on display in public places throughout Boulder and will remain on display through August. A culminating art auction, not in our facility, will benefit KGNU and local nonprofits involved in art and art education.

The Prairie Dog Project artists’ creations are decorative art—ornamental, embellished, and fanciful pieces that attempt to communicate the diversity and richness of Boulder County life. Wendy Leeds is the artist who created the prairie dog decorated with feathers and Native American designs. Artworks, an artist cooperative, created the other dog that has cloth swatches all over it. Neither one was intended to be representational or stereotypical, like the cigar store Indians. Both pieces are examples of playful and thought-provoking public art. The “wooden Indian” treatise that you cite has been great material for academics. The flip side is it represents another foray into the sanitation and censorship of our art and iconographic language.

NCAR’s Community Art Program selects artwork for display in the Mesa Laboratory for the enjoyment of both staff and visitors. Selection is based on established criteria, including aesthetics, subject matter, and quality of presentation. At this time, “right-thinking” and “politically correct” are not part of the criteria. An excellent description of the way in which artwork is determined for exhibition at NCAR and a discussion from Human Resources on the general issue of appropriateness of artwork, photographs, and other materials displayed in the workplace can be found in the April 1992 issue of Staff Notes (to read the 1992 Delphi questions and answers about artwork, click here).

—Linda Carbone, coordinator, Community Art Program

Editor’s note: With art rotating through the Mesa Lab on a regular basis, the prairie dog in question is no longer on display.


Also in this issue...

Taking charge of GLOBE

Ann-Elizabeth's iggies

A SOARS summer

One hail of a storm

Fire Season

Tackling the MS150

NCAR names two new senior scientists

Short takes


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