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
Answered on June 26, 2003
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
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.