By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Are there different ways to interpret the word no?
That was on display Tuesday night at the Keizer Public Arts Commission meeting when the topic of art sculptures along River Road was brought up.
Earlier this year, Keizer Public Works employees installed several sculptures along the busy thoroughfare. The one receiving the most attention was the large Boucher Jewelers ring, Creative Memories.
Former Mayor Lore Christopher, chair of KPAC, had championed the idea of having the ring in front of the jewelry store at 4965 River Road North.
Ultimately, however, city attorney Shannon Johnson decreed the ring could be interpreted as advertising for the business and thus in violation of city sign code ordinances. Thus, the ring sculpture built for this year’s Iris Festival Parade was placed in front of Sonic Drive-In at 3775 River Road N.
Christopher still didn’t agree with Johnson’s point of view and made it known on Tuesday. She brought it up as Nate Brown, director for Community Development, mentioned a location needing to be approved for the new Ric Smith American flag sculpture.
“I would like permission from KPAC to talk to the Bouchers about moving the ring,” Christopher said. “You had talked about taking down the sign; in its place would be the ring.”
Brown said that had been proposed at one point.
“But we never entertained or accepted that,” he said.
Christopher referenced a recent Keizertimes editorial on the subject.
“I want to talk to the Bouchers,” she reiterated. “I’ve had six people ask me why not move it. They argue how is it different than the bowling ball planters and sidewalk in front of the bowling alley, paid by the city?”
KPAC member Rick Day noted it would be a big undertaking to move the ring to Boucher, a sentiment echoed by Brown.
“I don’t think it should be moved,” Brown said. “It took the better part of a day, getting Public Works to shut down a lane and getting a volunteer to do the welding on the spot.”
Christopher argued the Blind Date statue in front of Copper Creek Mercantile is too small for the space, while the ring is too large for its spot in front of Sonic. She proposed talking to the Bouchers about taking down their current sign and replacing it with the ring.
“But they don’t want to remove any signage,” Brown said.
Christopher noted she had an ally in Keizertimes publisher Lyndon Zaitz and, like she did vigorously this summer, questioned what the big deal was with businesses having art as advertising.
“I want the opportunity to talk with them, as an outside person looking in,” she said. “Anyone who is willing to invest in art, I welcome it. It’s something we should look at as a community. It’s not unlike what Salem has done with bike racks. All I want to do is talk.”
Brown reminded the former mayor of the city’s stance.
“We got to where we are through a lengthy process,” he said. “We decided the ring could not go in front of Boucher. The city attorney is pretty strongly set that is not appropriate. We did address the issue and that’s why it got where it is. I want to underscore that it is not a minor undertaking to get things placed. You can’t just say we’re going to change our mind.”
Amy Ryan, the Keizer City Council liaison to KPAC, noted code enforcement issues are a touchy subject currently.
“There are some businesses on River Road that are very unhappy with us right now,” Ryan said. “There are a lot of signage issues right now. There’s a lot of uneasiness right now to make changes.”
Day said if he was the Bouchers he would “pay a huge amount” to the city in order to have the ring in front of the store and wondered if it would be such a bad thing to have “a monopoly piece in front of every business” along River Road. Beth Melendy pointed out that could lead to a huge bong in front of the medical marijuana place.
“True, that opens up a gigantic can of worms if you do that,” Day acknowledged.
When Christopher asked fellow KPAC members if anyone would have a problem with her contacting the Bouchers, she got mixed responses.
“They did not say no,” Christopher said of the Bouchers.
Brown, however, said the Bouchers didn’t want to take their sign down and replace it with the large ring.
“I’m telling you, that understanding is from the horse’s mouth,” Brown said. “They squashed it among themselves.”
“That’s different than I understood,” Christopher replied.
KPAC member Jill Hagen said it wouldn’t hurt for Christopher to talk with the Bouchers.
“Just try not to convince them one way or another,” Hagen said as chuckles could be heard.
Brown said the planters in front of Town & Country were mostly standard and are a far cry from an overt advertisement for the business.
“We did customize them a little bit, but that’s different than having a washing machine or a ginormous diamond in front of your business,” he said.
Despite the warnings from others, Christopher announced her intentions.
“So I’ll have a conversation with the Bouchers,” she said.